Molly Easterlin

Molly Easterlin, MD, MS


MD  University of California San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, San Diego, CA
Residency – Pediatrics, UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles, CA 

Biography: Dr. Molly Easterlin, pediatrician, is interested in social and behavioral determinants of life-long health, long-term health implications of early exposures to adverse circumstances, as well as large scale clinical-outcomes research, quality of care, and healthcare systems research.  As a Scholar, she worked on understanding adverse childhood experiences, how behaviors and activities established at young ages affect long-term health in adulthood, and how adverse social circumstances can be overcome. 

Dr. Molly Easterlin completed her main research project entitled, “Association of Team Sports Participation with Long-Term Mental Health Outcomes among Individuals Exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences,” with her mentor team including Drs. Rebecca Dudovitz and Paul Chung.  This study examined whether sports participation during adolescence, in a team environment, promotes health in the context of prior adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Their hypotheses included: 1) the association between ACEs and poor long-term physical and mental health outcomes will be attenuated by adolescent participation in team sports; and 2) team sports may act on the relationship between ACEs and physical and mental health outcomes through direct physiologic alterations, promotion of “resilient” individual characteristics, and improved social support.  Dr. Easterlin used the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), which followed a nationally representative sample of adolescents in the U.S., from adolescence to adulthood, collecting social, environmental, behavioral, and biological data, providing a unique opportunity to examine how social environments and behaviors in adolescence are linked to health and achievement outcomes in young adulthood.  Dr. Easterlin’s work was published in JAMA Pediatrics and her results were featured in NPR and the New York Times. 

Dr. Easterlin also worked on a community based participatory research project with her partner, Cedars-Sinai Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Program.  The Cedars-Sinai Inflammatory Bowel Disease community consists of chronically ill children with IBD, their families, pediatric gastroenterologists, pediatric nurses, social workers, and clinic staff.  The Cedars-Sinai Pediatric IBD Infusion Center is the primary setting where this community will be engaged.  During their infusions patients are seen by a multidisciplinary team including the infusion nurse, the gastroenterologist, and the social worker.  Her mentors included Dr. Rebecca Dudovitz at UCLA, Dr. Brennan Spiegel at Cedars-Sinai Health Services Research, and Dr. Shervin Rabizadeh at the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and the Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program. Methods mentors also included Dr. Gery Ryan at RAND Corporation and Gregg Mancari at Cedars-Sinai.  This study entitled, “A Qualitative Study to Examine the Feasibility of using Virtual Reality to Control Pain and Anxiety in the Cedars-Sinai Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease Infusion Center” aimed to examine the feasibility of integrating a virtual reality intervention into the Cedars-Sinai Pediatric IBD Infusion Center.  A virtual reality intervention could ease patient pain and anxiety during infusions, help control parental anxiety, and make IV placement easier and more efficient for the nursing staff.  The study endeavored to identify sources of pain and anxiety and areas amenable to intervention to improve pain and anxiety during infusions.  Dr. Easterlin was awarded the 2018 CYSHCNet Emerging Investigator Guided Research Program award for $15,000 to support this work. 

Throughout the fellowship, Dr. Easterlin worked on several other projects.  She worked with Cedars-Sinai Pediatrics to develop the emergency department inpatient asthma pathway with their information technology group to assess and improve patient flow and efficient access to care.  She also collaborated with NCSP graduate and Cedars-Sinai physician Dr. Carl Berdahl on a project exploring primary care physicians’ experiences under the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).  The manuscript from this study was accepted for publication in 2019 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.  Dr. Easterlin additionally worked on a systematic literature review of interventions that have been effective at improving access to behavioral health services in children and adolescents in US with co-Scholar Dr. Kristen Choi.  The manuscript of this work, entitled “Intervention Models for Increasing Access to Behavioral Health Services Among Youth: A Systematic Review,” was published in the December 2018 edition of the Journal of Development & Behavioral Pediatrics.  Her second project with Dr. Choi and mentor Dr. Moira Szilagyi (UCLA), “Traumatogenic Potential of Federal Policy in the Lives of Children” was accepted for publication in the August 2019 edition of the Journal of Development & Behavioral Pediatrics. 

Following NCSP, Dr. Easterlin completed a fellowship in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center/Children’s Hospital Los Angelesand further developed her clinical and research skills while continuing to investigate how early life events and childhood adversity affect long-term health outcomes.  Currently, Dr. Easterlin is an Attending Neonatologist in the Division of Neonatology at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and an Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.