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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

An Interview with Steffany Moonaz

May 01, 2016 11:16AM
Earlier this year, Steffany Moonaz, Ph.D., RYT 500, won Maryland University of Integrative Health’s (MUIH) first annual Excellence in Research and Scholarship Award for her work on Sustainable Transformation: The Short and Long-Term Effects of a Yoga Intervention on Quality of Life for Persons with Arthritis. The award acknowledges an MUIH faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in research and/or scholarship. This individual will have contributed to the mission and values of the University with significant scholarly work in the area of Complementary and Integrative Health.    

MUIH sat down with Dr. Moonaz to discuss her research and the future of research at the University.

MUIH: Can you give a general overview of your research interests and goals?

SM: I am interested in investigating the effects of yoga practice for people with rheumatic diseases, which includes but is not limited to rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus and juvenile idiopathic arthritis (arthritis in children). Specifically within this, I am focused on something called patient-reported outcomes or PROs, which medicine is moving toward emphasizing more. There is a science to measuring PROs, and it includes the development and validation of instruments to be able to accurately measure aspects of the patient experience. I suspect that in the realm of integrative health practices, the patient experience is where we stand to have the greatest impact. Medicine is looking for cures for these chronic, irreversible conditions, but as integrative practitioners we can help people live differently with these conditions in the meantime. We can help to improve their quality of life on the whole; the way they feels and lives with the disease as it exists, and adapting to life with the disease as it changes.

MUIH: How much research has been done on this topic? Are you among a few or are you seeing growth within the field? SM: I'm one of the only people that has really focused on this. At the time that we started the randomized control trial at Johns Hopkins, there were maybe half a dozen other very small pilot projects. The rigor of the science was lacking, and that actually was true in yoga research broadly at the time. There was recently a bibliometric analysis that was led by Pamela Jeter, adjunct faculty at MUIH, and it shows the exponential growth in yoga research, and that's not just quantity but quality. The rigor has increased, and it's part of a movement toward more research in these areas in general. And there is so much more to be done. I and a team of yoga researchers around the world are working to develop yoga research reporting standards. The improvement in the way that we report our yoga research is going to help us to answer some of those more nuanced questions going forward.

MUIH: Do you see MUIH conducting further integrative health research to become a leader in the field? SM: I wouldn't be here if the answer was no. I'm a researcher and I took a chance by coming here and trying to build my body of work as a yoga researcher at an institution that historically has not emphasized research. As a university, that's a direction that we're moving. I hope and intend to be a key member in the development of a culture of research and research literacy among our student and faculty, as well as in the university’s research capacity and research evidence. I believe that is the direction that we're going as an institution and that I will help to continue moving that forward.

Maryland University of Integrative Health is an accredited graduate school with programs in Acupuncture, Health Coaching, herbal medicine, nutrition, health promotion and yoga therapy.


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