When Smita Banerjee, as a new graduate student at SC&I in 2002, saw a flyer for a lecture posted outside the SC&I graduate office, she had no idea the lecture would kickstart her research career.
Banerjee, who is now an associate attending behavioral scientist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, said the lecture was "captivating" and she described leaving Professor of Communication Kathryn Greene’s colloquium “buzzing with energy and motivation,” to learn more about the topic -- risk behaviors in adolescents. She then registered for a graduate course on health communication offered by Greene.
“Little did I realize the profound impact that one course would have on the rest of my career,” Banerjee noted.
Greene became her advisor and Banerjee went on to receive her Ph.D. in Health Communication in 2005.
Today she is the SC&I Alumni Association’s 2021 Distinguished Alumni Honoree, having been named this year’s recipient in April 2021.
“The skills I picked up during my days of research and apprenticeship at Rutgers continue to help me with my research and professional progress to this day. And for that I’ll always be obliged,” Banerjee said.
On April 29, 2021, SC&IAA hosted a virtual conversation with Banerjee. During the event, she discussed her career in cancer prevention and control. Banerjee’s research emphasizes the role of communication between healthcare providers and patients. She also specializes in message framing for cancer risk prevention.
At MSKCC, Banerjee is a faculty member of the Communication Skills Training Program and Research Laboratory (Comskil). The Comskil program trains healthcare professionals to communicate with cancer patients and their families in challenging situations through patient-centric methods.
Banerjee’s research also examines the role of persuasion in reducing behaviors that have been linked to cancer--for example, messages to decrease tanning bed use or tobacco control interventions. She has also researched media literacy, media effects, and adolescent risk-taking behaviors.
At the April event, after introducing Banerjee, SC&IAA Board President Katrina Zwaaf, SC&I Dean Jonathan Potter, SC&I Communication Department Chair and Professor Lea Stewart, Greene, and a virtual audience listened as she described how her time at SC&I influenced and prepared her for her career.
Banerjee outlined three specific lessons from her time at Rutgers which she continues to carry with her -- that research must be achievable in the planned timeline, to have a backup plan ready if the research remains unmet, and the ability to multitask research and teaching.
These lessons are particularly helpful to Banerjee’s current career, which includes writing research grants. Her research has been funded by multiple national and philanthropic organizations, such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Cancer Institute, and the Goldstein Foundation.
A few of the SC&I faculty members who impacted Banerjee’s work include Greene, Professor Itzhak Yanovitzky, Professor of Professional Practice Steven Miller, former faculty member Maureen Taylor, and the late Professor Robert Kubey.
“The skills I picked up during my days of research and apprenticeship at Rutgers continue to help me with my research and professional progress to this day. And for that, I’ll always be obliged,” Banerjee said.