Current Research and Scholarly Interests
Dr. Kiernan’s research program focuses on two areas: (1) designing behavioral interventions to promote long-term weight-loss maintenance and lifestyle behavior change for high-risk subgroups; and (2) testing innovative methodological strategies to improve the design, delivery, and analysis of randomized trials.
Her intervention research challenges traditional approaches for the maintenance of health behaviors. Her NIH-funded weight-management intervention trials have: clearly distinguished between skills for weight loss versus skills for weight-loss maintenance; identified a novel set of ‘stability skills’ for long-term weight-loss maintenance that explicitly optimize satisfaction of engaging in lifestyle behaviors thereby promoting subsequent adherence once intervention staff contact is removed; and reversed the typical sequence of acquiring maintenance skills to provide an early mastery experience of the stability skills prior to losing weight.
Dr. Kiernan’s methodological research includes integrating motivational interviewing techniques into interactive orientation sessions held prior to randomization to enhance participant engagement within randomized trials as well as experimentally testing and optimizing low-cost, broad-reach strategies to improve recruitment and retention of ethnic minorities and high-risk subgroups.
Dr. Kiernan teaches academic courses, skills workshops, and invited lectures on research methods, grant writing, and scientific writing at the Stanford University School of Medicine and numerous academic institutions and conferences across the country, including programs to increase the racial/ethnic diversity of faculty investigators in science.