Karen L. Weihs, MD

Professor of Psychiatry
Medical Director, Psychosocial Support & PsychoOncology Services, Arizona Cancer Center
Comprehensive Member, Arizona Cancer Center

Karen Weihs is Professor of Psychiatry and a Comprehensive Member of the Arizona Cancer Center. She is Medical Director of Psychosocial Support and PsychoOncology Services for the Arizona Cancer Center. Dr. Weihs has developed a model for cancer patients, mental health care including a collaborative team of oncologists, social workers and psychiatrists.

Dr. Weihs received her BA in Chemistry from the University of Northern Iowa, her MD from the University of Iowa and did her Family Medicine residency at York Hospital in York Pennsylvania, with her final year at Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington, New Jersey. During her last year of Family Medicine residency she also completed an externship in Family Therapy at the Ackerman Institute in New York, NY. Dr. Weihs was Instructor and Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at Brown University for four years, where her special interests included teaching interviewing to medical students and integrating family psychosocial assessment into family medical care.

Following her work as a family physician, Dr. Weihs did a residency in adult and child psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison. She applied for and was awarded a Scientist Development Award for Clinicians from the National Institutes of Mental Health while doing her psychiatry residency. She moved to the George Washington University, Department of Psychiatry, Center for Family Research, for her research training under the mentorship of David Reiss, M.D.

Dr. Weihs research focuses on family processes and emotion regulation as they affect both mental health and disease progression in patients with cancer and end stage renal disease. She has written and lectured widely on family influences on medical illness. Dr. Weihs is also an experienced psychopharmacology researcher, focusing on pharmacologic interventions for anxiety and depressive disorders in children, adolescents and adults. At the Center for Family Research she collaborated on prevention studies of children of depressed parents and children in families stressed by parental unemployment.

Her research includes a longitudinal study of marital quality in breast cancer patients, examining oxytocin as a mediator of the salutary effects of close personal relationship on disease progression. This was a five-year study funded by the Army Medical Research Program in Breast Cancer Research. She is also collaborating on animal model studies of oxytocin and social bonding with Denise Frank, PhD, an animal behavior research specialist at the Arizona Cancer Center.

She is also currently funded by the National Cancer Institute through a R01 grant to investigate emotion regulation and depression in breast cancer survivorship.

Dr. Weihs sees patients referred from the Arizona Cancer Center for clinical psychiatry care and supervises residents in consultation liaison psychiatry and brief, psychodynamic psychotherapy.

Research Areas: 

Depression and medical illness, close relationships and health outcomes, PsychoOncology

Selected Publications: 
  • Kimmel PL, Weihs K, Peterson RA. Survival in hemodialysis patients: the role of depression. J Am Soc Nephrol. 1993 Jul;4(1):12-27. Review. PubMed PMID: 8400064.
  • Hoyt DR, Conger RD, Valde JG, Weihs K. Psychological distress and help seeking in rural America. Am J Community Psychol. 1997 Aug;25(4):449-70. PubMed PMID: 9338954.
  • Frank JB, Weihs K, Minerva E, Lieberman DZ. Women's mental health in primary care. Depression, anxiety, somatization, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Med Clin North Am. 1998 Mar;82(2):359-89. Review. PubMed PMID: 9531930.
  • Weihs KL, Settle EC Jr, Batey SR, Houser TL, Donahue RM, Ascher JA. Bupropion sustained release versus paroxetine for the treatment of depression in the elderly. J Clin Psychiatry. 2000 Mar;61(3):196-202. PubMed PMID: 10817105.
  • Weihs KL, Enright TM, Simmens SJ, Reiss D. Negative affectivity, restriction of emotions, and site of metastases predict mortality in recurrent breast cancer. J Psychosom Res. 2000 Jul;49(1):59-68. PubMed PMID: 11053605.
  • Ginexi EM, Weihs K, Simmens SJ, Hoyt DR. Natural disaster and depression: a prospective investigation of reactions to the 1993 midwest floods. Am J Community Psychol. 2000 Aug;28(4):495-518. PubMed PMID: 10965388.
  • Schneider LS, Nelson JC, Clary CM, Newhouse P, Krishnan KR, Shiovitz T, Weihs K; Sertraline Elderly Depression Study Group. An 8-week multicenter, parallel-group, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of sertraline in elderly outpatients with major depression. Am J Psychiatry. 2003 Jul;160(7):1277-85. PubMed PMID: 12832242.
  • Liebowitz MR, DeMartinis NA, Weihs K, Londborg PD, Smith WT, Chung H, Fayyad R, Clary CM. Efficacy of sertraline in severe generalized social anxiety disorder: results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Clin Psychiatry. 2003 Jul;64(7):785-92. PubMed PMID: 12934979.
  • Weihs KL, Simmens SJ, Mizrahi J, Enright TM, Hunt ME, Siegel RS. Dependable social relationships predict overall survival in Stages II and III breast carcinoma patients. J Psychosom Res. 2005 Nov;59(5):299-306. PubMed PMID: 16253620.
  • Politi MC, Enright TM, Weihs KL. The effects of age and emotional acceptance on distress among breast cancer patients. Support Care Cancer. 2007 Jan;15(1):73-9. Epub 2006 Jul 1. PubMed PMID: 16816961.
  • Weihs KL, Enright TM, Simmens SJ. Close relationships and emotional processing predict decreased mortality in women with breast cancer: preliminary evidence. Psychosom Med. 2008 Jan;70(1):117-24. Epub 2007 Dec 24. PubMed PMID: 18158376.
  • Michael YL, Carlson NE, Chlebowski RT, Aickin M, Weihs KL, Ockene JK, Bowen DJ, Ritenbaugh C. Influence of stressors on breast cancer incidence in the Women's Health Initiative. Health Psychol. 2009 Mar;28(2):137-46. PubMed PMID: 19290705; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2657917.
  • Michael YL, Carlson NE, Bowen DJ, Ritenbaugh C, Chlebowski RT, Weihs KL, Ockene JK. Re: "Invited commentary: personality as a causal factor in cancer risk and mortality--time to retire a hypothesis?". Am J Epidemiol. 2011 Mar 15;173(6):716; author reply 716-7. Epub 2011 Feb 9. PubMed PMID: 21307351.
  • Howe GW, Hornberger AP, Weihs K, Moreno F, Neiderhiser JM. Higher-order structure in the trajectories of depression and anxiety following sudden involuntary unemployment. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 2011 Nov 21; published online. DOI:10.1037/a0026243
  • Weihs KL, Wert JM. A Primary Care Focus on the Treatment of Patients with Major Depressive Disorder. The American Journal of Medical Sciences. 2011 Oct;342(4); 324-330.
  • Robbins ML, Focella ES, Kasle S, Lopez AM, Weihs KL, Mehl MR. Brief Report: Naturalistically Observed Swearing, Emotional Support and Depressive Symptoms in Women Coping with Illness. Health Psychology. 2011 Nov;30(6): 789-792. DOI:10.1037/a0023431
  • Marshall, C.A., Weihs, K.L., Larkey, L.K., Badger, T.A.  Koerner, S.S., Curran, M.A., Pedroza, R., & Garcia, F. Like a Mexican wedding: The psychosocial intervention needs of  predominately Hispanic low-income female co-survivors of cancer. Journal of Family Nursing.  2011 Aug;17(3): 380-402. DOI: 10.1177/1074840711416119.
  • Marshall, C.A., Larkey, L.K., Curran, M.A., Weihs, K.L., Badger, T.A., Armin, J., & Garcia, F. Considerations of culture and social class for families facing cancer:  The need for a new model for health promotion and psychosocial intervention.  Families, Systems, & Health. 2011 Jun;29(2): 81‚94. DOI: 10.1037/a0023975
  • Marshall, C.A., Badger, T.A., Curran, M.A., Koerner, S.S., Larkey, L.K., Weihs, K.L., Verdugo, L., & Garcia, F.  Un Abrazo Para la Familia: Providing low-income Hispanics with education and skills in coping with cancer and caregiving. Psycho-Oncology.  2011 Dec; published online. DOI: 10.1002/pon.2108
  • Kogan  AV, Allen JJB, and Weihs KL (2012). Cardiac Vagal Control as a Prospective Predictor of Anxiety in Women Diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Biological Psychology, in press.