Yael Schenker, MD, MAS

  • Director, Palliative Research Center (PaRC)
  • Professor of Medicine with Tenure
  • Associate Director for Research Education, Training and Career Development, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

Dr. Schenker is Professor of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine, Section of Palliative Care and Medical Ethics at the University of Pittsburgh, where she also directs the Palliative Research Center (PaRC) and serves as Associate Director for Research Education, Training and Career Development at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. She is also a practicing palliative medicine physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Her research focuses on improving quality of life in serious illness, with a particular focus on palliative care delivery models. She has led large-scale trials evaluating palliative interventions in oncology and critical care settings, and she is widely sought-after as a mentor and collaborator. Her work has been funded by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Aging, the American Cancer Society, and multiple foundations.

In addition to palliative care research, she loves hiking, biking, national parks, and international travel. She lives in Highland Park with her husband, two kids, and a dog.

Education & Training

  • BA, Harvard University, 1995
  • MD, University of California, San Francisco, 2004
  • Internship, University of California, San Francisco, 2005
  • Residency, University of California, San Francisco, 2007
  • Fellowship in General Internal Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, 2010
  • MAS, Clinical Research, University of California, San Francisco, 2010

Representative Publications

Schenker Y, Althouse A, Rosenzweig RM, White DB, Chue E, Smith KJ, Resick JM, Belin S, Park SY, Smith TH, Bakitas M, Arnold RM. Effect of an oncology nurse-led primary palliative care intervention on patients with advanced cancer: The CONNECT cluster randomized clinical trial. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2011 Nov 1;181(11):1451-1460.

This cluster randomized trial found a primary palliative care intervention delivered by oncology nurses did not improve patient-reported outcomes at 3 months.

Schenker Y, Hamm M, Bulls HW, Merlin JS, Wasilko R, Dawdani A, Kenkre B, Belin S, Sabik LM. 'This is a different patient population': Opioid prescribing challenges for patients with cancer-related pain. JCO Oncology Practice, 2021 Jul;17(7):e1030-e1037.

This multisite qualitative interview study uncovered challenges to safe and effective opioid prescribing for cancer-related pain from the perspective of oncologists.

Kavalieratos D, Corbelli J, Zhang D, Dionne-Odom JN, Ernecoff NC, Hanmer J, Hoydich ZP, Ikejiani DZ, Klein-Fedyshin M, Zimmermann C, Morton SC, Arnold RM, Heller L, Schenker Y. Association between palliative care and patient and caregiver outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2016;316(20):2104-2114. 

In this meta-analysis, palliative care interventions were associated with improvements in patient quality of life and symptom burden. 

Schenker Y, Park SY, Jeong K, Pruskowski J, Kavalieratos D, Resick J, Abernethy A, Kutner J.  Associations between polypharmacy, symptom burden, and quality of life in patients with advanced, life-limiting illness.  Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2019.

This analysis found that among adults with advanced illness, taking more medications is associated with higher symptom burden and lower quality of life.

Click here for a more complete bibliography of Dr. Schenker's works.

Research Interests

  • Palliative care delivery models
  • Quality of life in advanced cancer
  • Opioid use in severe illness
  • Surrogate decision making and informed consent