Skip to Content

'
Robert J. Volk, PhD

Present Title & Affiliation

Primary Appointment

Professor, Department of Health Services Research, Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX

Dual/Joint/Adjunct Appointment

Adjunct Professor, Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research, The University of Texas School of Public Health, Houston, TX
Adjunct Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
Affiliate Member, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX

Bio Statement

Dr. Robert Volk is Professor and Deputy Director for Education in the Department of General Internal Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. A health services researcher, he served as co-principal investigator of the John M. Eisenberg Center for Clinical Decisions and Communications Science, an AHRQ-funded center for translation of complex scientific information into materials for consumers, clinicians and policymakers. He also served as Associate Director of the Houston Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics (CERTs), a research center funded by AHRQ and focusing on health communication, decision making, and adherence in therapeutics. Dr. Volk is a member of the Steering Committee for the International Patient Decision Aids Standards (IPDAS) Collaboration, which recently published a series of standards for developers and users of patient decision aids. These standards serve as a blue-print for developers of patient decision aids to ensure comprehensive, evidence-based principles are used consistently as new patient decision aids are created and existing aids are evaluated or updated. Dr. Volk’s research focuses on issues of decision making under conditions of uncertainty, particularly among patients with low health literacy. His work in decision making spans research on patients’ preferences and values to applied studies in patient decision support and decision aids for promoting informed choice.

Education & Training

Degree-Granting Education

1989 Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, PHD, Child Development and Family Studies
1985 The University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, MS, Child and Family Studies
1982 The University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, BS, Child and Family Studies

Selected Publications

Peer-Reviewed Original Research Articles

1. Hoffman KE, Niu J, Shen Y, Jiang J, Davis JW, Kim J, Kuban DA, Perkins GH, Shah JB, Smith GL, Volk RJ, Buchholz TA, Giordano SH, Smith BD. Physician variation in management of low-risk prostate cancer: a population-based cohort study. JAMA Intern Med 174(9):1450-9, 9/1/2014. PMID: 25023650.
2. Linder SK, Kallen MA, Mullen PD, Galliher JM, Swank PR, Chan EC, Volk RJ. Physician Behaviors to Promote Informed Decisions for Prostate Cancer Screening: a National Research Network Study. J Cancer Educ 29(2):345-9, 6/2014. PMID: 24488590.
3. Volk RJ, Linder SK, Leal VB, Rabius V, Cinciripini PM, Kamath GR, Munden RF, Bevers TB. Feasibility of a patient decision aid about lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography. Prev Med 62C:60-63, 5/2014. PMID: 24518006.
4. Volk RJ, McFall SL, Cantor SB, Byrd TL, Le YC, Kuban DA, Mullen PD. 'It's not like you just had a heart attack': decision-making about active surveillance by men with localized prostate cancer. Psychooncology 23(4):467-72, 4/2014. PMCID: PMC3983844.
5. McFall SL, Mullen PD, Byrd TL, Cantor SB, Le YC, Torres-Vigil I, Pettaway C, Volk RJ. Treatment decisions for localized prostate cancer: a concept mapping approach. Health Expect. e-Pub 2/9/2014. PMCID: PMC4128894.
6. Cantor SB, Deshmukh AA, Krahn MD, Volk RJ. Use of forecasted assessment of quality of life to validate time-trade-off utilities and a prostate cancer screening decision-analytic model. Health Expect. e-Pub 10/2013.
7. Joseph-Williams N, Newcombe R, Politi M, Durand MA, Sivell S, Stacey D, O'Connor A, Volk RJ, Edwards A, Bennett C, Pignone M, Thomson R, Elwyn G. Toward Minimum Standards for Certifying Patient Decision Aids: A Modified Delphi Consensus Process. Med Decis Making 34(6). e-Pub 8/20/2013. PMID: 23963501.
8. Hoffman R, Penson D, Volk RJ, Wolf AMD. Prostate-specific antigen screening in prostate cancer. Med Roundtable Gen Med Ed. e-Pub 6/2013.
9. Brown AE, Tonigan JS, Pavlik VN, Kosten TR, Volk RJ. Spirituality and Confidence to Resist Substance Use Among Celebrate Recovery Participants. J Relig Health 52(1):107-13, 3/2013. PMID: 21246280.
10. Blumenthal-Barby JS, Cantor SB, Russell HV, Naik AD, Volk RJ. Decision Aids: when 'nudging' patients to make a particular choice is more ethical than balanced, nondirective content. Health Aff (Millwood) 32(2):303-10, 2/2013. PMID: 23381523.
11. Smith QW, Street RL, Volk RJ, Fordis M. Differing levels of clinical evidence: exploring communication challenges in shared decision making. Introduction. Med Care Res Rev 70(1 Suppl):3S-13S, 2/2013. PMID: 23223330.
12. Volk RJ, Linder SK, Kallen MA, Galliher JM, Spano MS, Mullen PD, Spann SJ. Primary care physicians' use of an informed decision-making process for prostate cancer screening. Ann Fam Med 11(1):1-8, Jan-Feb, 1/2013. PMCID: PMC3596021.
13. Abhyankar P, Volk RJ, Blumenthal-Barby J, Bravo P, Buchholz A, Ozanne E, Vidal DC, Col N, Stalmeier P. Balancing the presentation of information and options in patient decision aids: an updated review. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak 13 Suppl 2:S6, 2013. PMCID: PMC4044010.
14. Hoffman AS, Volk RJ, Saarimaki A, Stirling C, Li LC, Härter M, Kamath GR, Llewellyn-Thomas H. Delivering patient decision aids on the Internet: definitions, theories, current evidence, and emerging research areas. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak 13 Suppl 2:S13, 2013. PMCID: PMC4043476.
15. Bekker HL, Winterbottom AE, Butow P, Dillard AJ, Feldman-Stewart D, Fowler FJ, Jibaja-Weiss ML, Shaffer VA, Volk RJ. Do personal stories make patient decision aids more effective? A critical review of theory and evidence. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak 13 Suppl 2:S9, 2013. PMCID: PMC4044102.
16. Volk RJ, Street R, Smith Q, Fordis M. Supporting informed decision making when clinical evidence and conventional wisdom collide: papers developed from the Eisenberg Center Conference Series 2012. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak 13 Suppl 3:S1, 2013. PMCID: PMC4028851.
17. Volk RJ, Llewellyn-Thomas H, Stacey D, Elwyn G. Ten years of the International Patient Decision Aid Standards Collaboration: Evolution of the core dimensions for assessing the quality of patient decision aids. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak 13 Suppl 2:S1, 2013. PMCID: PMC4044280.
18. Bisono GM, Simmons L, Volk RJ, Meyer D, Quinn TC, Rosenthal SL. Attitudes and decision making about neonatal male circumcision in a Hispanic population in new york city. Clin Pediatr (Phila) 51(10):956-963, 10/2012. PMCID: PMC3777274.
19. Rochon D, Eberth JM, Fraenkel L, Volk RJ, Whitney SN. Elderly patients’ experiences using Adaptive Conjoint Analysis software as a decision aid for osteoarthritis of the knee. Health Expect. e-Pub 9/20/2012. PMCID: PMC3883995.
20. de Achaval S, Fraenkel L, Volk RJ, Cox V, Suarez-Almazor ME. Impact of educational and patient decision aids on decisional conflict associated with total knee arthroplasty. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken) 64(2):229-37, 2/2012. PMCID: PMC3634330.
21. Linder SK, Swank PR, Vernon SW, Morgan RO, Mullen PD, Volk RJ. Is a prostate cancer screening anxiety measure invariant across two different samples of age-appropriate men? BMC Med Inform Decis Mak 8(12):52, 2012. PMCID: PMC3408324.
Other Articles
1. Hawk E, Bevers T, Volk R. Less may not mean more in lung cancer screenings. Houston Chronicle: Outlook, 9/2014.
2. Hawk E, Bevers T, Volk R. Medicare patients need access to cancer tests. Houston Chronicle: Outlook:B9, 9/2014.

Abstracts

1. Parker PA, Peterson SK , Bedrosian I, Crosby M, Cantor SB, Ying J, Shen Y, Volk RJ, Brewster AM. Psychosocial characteristics of women with sporadic unilateral breast cancer considering contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM). Ann Behav Med 47(s5, suppl 1):abstr A-002, 5/2014.
2. Blumenthal-Barby J, Volk RJ, Mullen P, Cantor SB, McFall S, Le YC, Swank P. Impact of framing on acceptability of active surveillance for localized prostate cancer. Med Decis Making 2014 34(2):E123, 2/2014.
3. Volk R, Cantor S, Linder S, Saraykar S, Hoffman K. “Just Bear with It”: Men’s experiences with side effects of short-term androgen deprivation therapy for intermediate-risk prostate cancer. Support Care Cancer 22(Suppl 1:S1-S238):S44, 2014.
4. Volk R, Mullen P, Le Y-C, Cantor S, Byrd T, McFall S, Blumenthal-Barby J, Swank P. Acceptability of normative messages about active surveillance for localized prostate cancer. 2013 International Shared Decision Making Conference:96, 6/2013.
5. Volk R, Linder S, Leal V, Rabius V, Cinciripini P, Kamath G, Munden R, Bevers T. Patients’ reactions to a decision aid about lung cancer screening with low-dose spiral computed tomography. 2013 International Shared Decision Making Conference:28, 6/2013.
6. Alden D, Jibaja-Weiss M, Volk R. SDM and patient decision aids in diverse patient populations: applying the latest innovations in cultural targeting and tailoring. 2013 International Shared Decision Making Conference:61, 6/2013.
7. Cantor SB, Deshmukh AA, Krahn MD, Volk RJ. Importance, anticipated burden, and function: validity of utilities for impotence and urinary incontinence. Value Health 16(5):A145, 5/2013.
8. Hoffman AS, Llewellyn-Thomas HA, Tosteson ANA, Tomek I, Volk RJ, O’Connor AM. Development of an internet-based patients’ decision aid for surgical versus nonsurgical management of knee osteoarthritis. Med Decis Making 2013 33(2):E6, 2/2013.
9. Hoffman KE, Niu J, Shen Y, Jiang J, Shah JB, Smith GL, Davis JW, Kim J, Volk R, Kuban DA, Giordano SH, Smith BD. Does the diagnosing urologist influence choice of initial active treatment vs. observation for older men with favorable prostate cancer?. J Clin Oncol 31(suppl 6; abstr 15), 2/2013.
10. Hoffman AS, Llewellyn-Thomas HA, Tosteson ANA, Tomek I, Volk RJ, O’Connor AM. The effect of implicit versus explicit deliberative guidance and the role of patients’ deliberative styles in interactive online patients’ decision aids. Med Decis Making 2013 33(2):E8, 2/2013.
11. Volk RJ, Linder SK, Leal VB, Rabius V, Cinciripini PM, Kamath GR, Munden RF, Bevers TB. Patients’ reactions to a decision aid about lung cancer screening with low-dose spiral computed tomography: An uncontrolled trial. J Clin Oncol 31(suppl; abstr):1564, 2013.

Manuals, Teaching Aids, Other Teaching Publications

1. “Taking Control: Non-surgical Treatment Options for Urinary Incontinence in Women” Patient Decision Aid (lead producer, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, released September 12, 2013) http://www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/index.cfm/tools-and-resources/patient-decision-aids/, 9/2013.
2. “Deciding about treatment choices for men with clinically localized prostate cancer.” Patient Decision Aid (consultant, adapted from AHRQ aid with American Cancer Society, released September 2012), 9/2012.
3. “Healthy Bones: A Decision Aid for Women After Menopause” Patient Decision Aid (lead producer, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, released September 30, 2012) http://www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/index.cfm/tools-and-resources/patient-decision-aids/, 9/2012.
4. “Colorectal Cancer Screening: A Story of Choices” and “La detección del cáncer colorectal: Una historia de decisiones” Patient Decision Aid (developer/producer, 2012 Telly Award Winner; 2013 Platinum Hermes Award Winner; funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute), 2012.
5. “Lung Cancer Screening: Is it right for me?” Patient Decision Aid (developer/producer, 2012 Telly Award Winner; produced for the Cancer Prevention Center, UTMDACC, being updated), 2012.
6. “Knowing Your Options: A Decision Aid for Men With Clinically Localized Prostate Cancer” Patient Decision Aid (lead producer, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, released September 9, 2011) http://www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/index.cfm/tools-and-resources/patient-decision-aids/, 9/2011.
7. “Testing for Prostate Cancer: Should I be tested? Is it the right choice for me?" Patient Decision Aid (consultant, produced by the American Cancer Society), 2010.

Grant & Contract Support

Title: Development of a Decision Aid Prototype for End-of-Life Conversations in Hospitalized Patients with Advanced Cancer
Funding Source: MD Anderson Institutional Research Grant
Role: Co-investigator/Mentor
Principal Investigator: Marina George, MD
Duration: 11/9/2014 - 10/30/2015
 
Title: Novel Psychological Intervention to Prevent Fertility-Related Distress
Funding Source: NCCN
Role: Co-Investigator/Mentor
Principal Investigator: Terri L. Woodard, MD
Duration: 9/1/2014 - 8/31/2016
 
Title: Decision Aids to Address Prostate Cancer Disparities in Minority Men (contract with Mayo Clinic)
Funding Source: NIMHD
Role: Principal Investigator-MDACC
Principal Investigator: Jon C. Tilburt, MD
Duration: 7/2/2014 - 6/30/2019
 
Title: Methods Training in Patient-Centered Cancer Outcomes Research
Funding Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
Role: Co-Investigator
Principal Investigator: Maria Suarez-Almazor, MD, PhD
Duration: 7/1/2014 - 6/30/2019
 
Title: Improving the Effectiveness of Routine Surveillance Following Lung Cancer Resection (contract with the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology)
Funding Source: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)
Role: Co-Investigator
Principal Investigator: Benjamin Kozower, MD
Duration: 7/1/2014 - 6/30/2017
 
Title: Ethically Responsible Choice Architecture in Medical Decision Making (contract with Baylor College of Medicine)
Funding Source: Greenwall Foundation
Role: Principal Investigator-MDACC
Principal Investigator: Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby, PhD
Duration: 7/1/2014 - 6/30/2016
 
Title: Promoting Informed Decisions about Lung Cancer Screening
Funding Source: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)
Role: Principal Investigator
Duration: 5/1/2014 - 4/30/2017
 
Title: Applying Methods of User-Centered Design to Achieve Patient-Centered Care (contract with University of Laval)
Funding Source: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)
Role: Principal Investigator-MDACC
Principal Investigator: Holly Witteman, PhD
Duration: 4/1/2014 - 3/31/2016
 
Title: Patient-Centered, Risk Adjusted Surveillance After Curative Resection of Colorectal Cancer (contract with the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology)
Funding Source: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)
Role: Co-Investigator
Principal Investigator: George Chang, MD
Duration: 3/1/2014 - 2/28/2017
 
Title: Challenging Choices: Developing a Decision Aid to Help Women with Cancer Make Good Decisions about Fertility Preservation
Funding Source: MD Anderson Duncan Family Institute Seed Funding Research Program
Role: Co-Investigator/Mentor
Principal Investigator: Terri L. Woodard, MD
Duration: 3/1/2014 - 2/29/2016
 
Title: Development and User Testing of a Decision Aid for Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) Placement (contract with Baylor College of Medicine)
Funding Source: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)
Role: Principal Investigator-MDACC
Principal Investigator: Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby, PhD
Duration: 2/1/2014 - 1/31/2017
 
Title: Contralateral Prophylactic Mastectomy and Breast Cancer: Clinical and Psychological Outcomes
Funding Source: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)
Role: Co-Investigator
Principal Investigator: Patricia Parker, PhD and Abenaa Brewster, MD
Duration: 10/1/2013 - 9/30/2016
 
Title: Interactive, Electronic Informed Consent with Integrated Decision Support for Complex Clinical Trials: Pilot Study and Preliminary Efficacy Assessment
Funding Source: MD Anderson Institutional Research Grant
Role: Co-Investigator
Principal Investigator: Sunil M. Patel, MD
Duration: 7/15/2013 - 7/14/2015
 
Title: Prostate Cancer Screening Education and Subsequent Patient-Directed Screening Strategies for the Primary Physician
Funding Source: Tex Us Too
Role: Co-Principal Investigator
Principal Investigator: John W. Davis, MD
Duration: 7/1/2013 - 6/30/2015
 
Title: Patient Care Outcome Research in the Elderly (contract with the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston)
Funding Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
Role: Principal Investigator-MDACC
Principal Investigator: James Goodwin, MD
Duration: 5/1/2013 - 4/30/2018
 
Title: Personalized Treatment Decisions for Men with Intermediate-risk Prostate Cancer
Funding Source: MD Anderson Institutional Research Grant
Role: Co-Investigator
Principal Investigator: Karen E. Hoffman, MD
Duration: 3/1/2013 - 2/28/2015

Last updated: 10/8/2014