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Hee Yun Lee

Professor; Director of Research
Ph.D., University of California-Los Angeles
M.S.W., University of California-Los Angeles
M.S.G., University of Southern California
M.A., Seoul National University
B.A., Seoul National University

School of Social Work
Rm 279 Peters Hall

1404 Gortner Ave.
Tel: 612/624-3689

Areas of Interest

Health behavior change intervention using mobile health technology; cancer prevention intervention RCT trials; translational health research; cancer screening disparity in underserved minority populations; social/cultural determinants of health; cancer survivorship and culturally tailored intervention strategies; health literacy and its link to health disparity; and global health.


Dr. Hee Yun Lee is a Professor and Director of Research at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. She is a behavioral health scientist and her major research areas are health behavior change intervention using mobile health (mHealth) technology. Combining mHealth technology and a community-based participatory research approach, she is developing and testing intervention programs to promote cancer screening behavior and to increase health and cancer literacy. Her integration of mHealth technology and existing health behavior theories into intervention strategies provides an opportunity to investigate mHealth’s potential to render positive behavior change in typically underserved and difficult-to-reach minority groups.

Dr. Lee is currently conducting multiple research projects. With funding from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, she investigates the effectiveness of a mobile application-based intervention that aims to increase mammogram in an immigrant group with limited English proficiency. Her other RCT trial focuses on developing and testing a mobile application assisted intervention to promote genetic counseling among ovarian cancer patients and survivors. This intervention research is supported by the U.S. Department of Defense. Recently, she completed a text message-based intervention study funded by the National Cancer Institute (R21) that aimed to increase Pap test and HPV vaccination in a minority group. The intervention outcomes revealed mHealth as a promising intervention tool to positively change cancer screening and prevention behavior. Her other line of research is global health. She has conducted numerous studies in the areas of cancer and health literacy in Korea. These studies investigated how health literacy is linked to health disparity among disadvantaged groups and results were used to inform intervention strategies to reduce health disparity in Korea.

Her research efforts to help reduce health disparity in vulnerable groups have received a number of recognitions. She was a recipient of the 2009 College of Education and Human Development Multicultural Recognition Award; was named the 2010-2011 Fesler-Lampert Chair in Aging Studies (Endowed Chair) at the Center on Aging, University of Minnesota School of Public Health; and received the 2011 Rising Star Faculty Award from the University of Minnesota Women’s Philanthropic Leadership Circle. Early in 2012, she was competitively selected as a NIH Clinical Translational Science Institute KL2 Scholar (3-year NIH career development award), and most recently, she received an Investigator-Initiated Research Award by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. She was also a recipient of the 2004 Hartford Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship and 2007 Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholar Award (Cohort 8). Her work has been widely published in social work, medical, and public health journals, and she has been invited to speak at many national and international conferences and universities.

Selected Publications

  1. Lee, H.Y., Kim, J.H., & Merghini, J. (In Press). Physical activity and self-rated health status among elderly cancer survivors: Results from the 2004 National Long-Term Care Survey. Oncology Nursing Forum.

  2. Lee, H.Y., Rhee, G., & Kim, N.G. (In Press). A mediation model of the association of cancer literacy with cancer screening behavior in Korean adults. Health and Social Care in the Community.

  3. Lee, H.Y., Koommeiner, J., Mchugh, J., Raveis, V., & Ahluwalia, J.  (In Press). Mobile phone text messaging intervention for promoting Human Papillomavirus Vaccination in an underserved immigrant group. American Journal of Health Behavior

  4. Lee, H.Y., Rhee, T.G., Kim, N.K., & Ahluwalia, J.S. (2015). Health literacy as a social determinant of health in Asian American immigrants: Findings from a population-based survey in California. Journal of General Internal Medicine. doi:10.1007/s11606-015-3217-6

  5. Lee, H.Y., Kwon, M., Vang, S., DeWolfe, J., Kim, N.K., Lee, D.K., & Yeung, M. (2015). Disparities in Human Papillomavirus Virus vaccine literacy and vaccine completion among Asian American Pacific Islander undergraduates: Implications for cancer health equity. Journal of American College Health, 63(5), 316-323. doi:10.1080/07448481.2015.1031237

  6. Lee, H.Y., & Vang, S. (2015). Cultural beliefs and clinical breast examination in Hmong American women: The crucial role of modesty. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 17(3), 746-755. doi: 10.1007/s10903-013-9890-9

  7. Lee, H.Y., Choi, J., & Lee, M. (2015). Health literacy in an underserved immigrant population: New implications toward achieving health equity. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 6(1), 97-105.

  8. Lee, H.Y., Yang, P.N., Lee, D.K., & Ghebre, R. (2015). Cervical cancer screening behavior among Hmong-American immigrant women. American Journal of Health Behavior, 39(3), 301-307.

  9. BrintzenhofeSzoc, K., Davis, C., Kaser, K., Lee, H.Y., Nedjat-Haiem, F., Oktay, J.S., Zabora, J., & Zebrack, B.J. (2015). Screening for Psychosocial Distress: A National Survey of Oncology Social Workers, Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, 33, 34-47.

  10. Lee, H.Y., Koopmeiners, J., Rhee, T.G., Raveis, V.H., & Ahluwalia, J.S. (2014). Mobile phone text messaging intervention for cervical cancer screening: Changes in knowledge and behavior pre-post intervention. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 16(8), e196. doi:10.2196/jmir.3576.

  11. Lee, H.Y., Stange, M.J. M, & Ahluwalia, J.S. (2014). Breast cancer screening behavior among Korean American immigrant women: Findings from Health Belief Model. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 1-8. doi: 1043659614526457 (IF=0.51)