Chapman School of Communication lecturer and Ph.D. candidate Amy Hellem (Ph.D. ’23) has completed a yearlong process of review to become a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO).
“To be selected, Amy submitted her entire body of research, found a sponsor who was already an AAO fellow, and gave an oral defense to the board,” said School of Communication Dean Andrew Moshier. “This is a very prestigious honor, and really remarkable for a Ph.D. candidate to have achieved.”
Hellem’s research is on effective health communication to improve outcomes for cataract patients. In the next phase of her project, she plans to work with surgery centers to identify ways to best align beliefs with behaviors. By applying “Nudge Theory,” she seeks to reframe messaging that nudges practitioners toward behaviors that reflect widely recognized best practices.
“In working with surgeons, I often start by asking, ‘What do you believe, and what do you want to happen?’” Hellem explains. “Then we look for reasons why it’s not happening. Nudging isn’t about radical changes. It’s tiny changes to the choice architecture.”
Hellem credits the support of School of Communication faculty mentors Sara LaBelle, Keith Weber and Michelle Miller-Day for helping her to achieve the fellowship.
“Sara has been my champion and lead advisor from day one,” Hellem says. “When my research felt out of place and uncool, she encouraged me to follow it and helped me see what made it cool.”