Dr. Wahbeh graduated from UC Berkeley where she studied Anthropology and pre-medicine. After college, her research career began as a research associate in public health where she helped conduct a community health assessment discovering that the greatest obstacle in access to care and services was lack of adequate information dissemination. She then worked as a research assistant and psychometrist at the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
Dr. Wahbeh’s growing interest in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), especially mind-body medicine, led her to pursue a doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine at the National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM, Portland, OR). In addition to extensive course and clinic education, Dr. Wahbeh has taken seminars in Emotional Release Therapy, RADAR homeopathy trainings, Drainage Homeopathy, leadership training from the ACC International Institute and Peak Potentials, and is a Reiki Master. After obtaining her doctorate, started a private practice in Portland, Oregon. Her general family private practice focused on energy medicine, mind/body medicine, homeopathy, clinical nutrition, and physical medicine. She also created a healthy weight-loss program called “Whole Body Radiance” incorporating workshops, classes, and a self-hypnosis CD. Dr. Wahbeh began her own personal meditation practice working with Leslie Temple-Thurston and Corelight. She completed a four year teacher training with Corelight in 2011. She has also studied Mindfulness Meditation and received training as a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction teacher from Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Research began calling Dr. Wahbeh when Helfgott Research Institute was created at NCNM. She was inspired to pursue clinical research especially because naturopathic clinician researchers were few in number in the CAM field. Dr. Wahbeh volunteered at the Helfgott Research Institute at the NCNM while in private practice until a full-time post-doctoral fellow position was available. As a post-doctoral research fellow at NCNM, Dr. Wahbeh worked on three main projects as co-investigator. The first was “Pilot studies of binaural beat technology on EEG, psychometric and physiologic parameters,” which developed methods for studying binaural beat technology (see Publications on Research page). The second project was the development of “The Naturopathic anti-inflammatory diet’s effect on mood and psychoneuroimmunological measures.” The third project was a collaboration with the Portland Veterans Administration Medical Center (PVAMC) to begin a Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) research program for combat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
To further develop her skills in mind-body medicine research and multi-system outcomes, Dr. Wahbeh completed a two year T32 post-doctoral research fellowship at Oregon Health & Science University. During this time, she conducted clinical research and a systematic review, published and submitted papers for publication, completed courses in the Master of Clinical Research (MCR) program, and received a career development award. Dr. Wahbeh’s primary T32 study was “Trait differences between veterans with and without PTSD.” The objectives of this cross-sectional study were to examine potential measures in 45 veterans with and without PTSD in order to choose optimal ones for future intervention trials and as bio/neuro-feedback parameters in mind-body interventions. For the MBCT study at PVAMC, she collected depression and PTSD symptom measures before and after the 8-week intervention in 32 combat veterans, the data from which helped Dr. Wahbeh with her career development award application.
During her T32 post-doctoral fellowship at OHSU, Dr. Wahbeh wrote three papers. One paper described study results on salivary cortisol awakening responses in mild Alzheimer’s disease patients, Alzheimer’s disease caregivers, and healthy senior non-caregivers. Another paper reported results from a systematic review on mind-body medicine and immune outcomes that: 1) characterized mind-body medicine studies that assessed immune outcomes, 2) evaluated the quality of mind-body medicine studies measuring immune system effects, and 3) systematically evaluated the evidence for mind-body interventions effect on immune system outcomes. The final publication during this time was a review article published in Neurology that rated 60 mind-body medicine studies by neurological condition for strength of evidence. Please see Publication on the Research page for links to these articles.
In September 2008, Dr. Wahbeh received the Bernard Osher/NCCAM CAM Practitioner Career Development Award. Through this grant award she is the principal investigator of “VET MIND: Mechanistic pathways of mindfulness meditation in post-traumatic stress disorder.” The primary objective of this study is to take two common components of meditation (mindfulness and slowed breathing) and elucidate the mechanism by which they elicit their effects on clinical outcomes in a randomized controlled trial with 100 combat veterans with PTSD. Through this award she also receives training in neuroscience, collecting and analyzing electrophysiological data, biostatistics, and mindfulness meditation. These efforts were reward with a Master in Clinical Research degree in March, 2009 from OHSU Human Investigations Program after having completed coursework in clinical research study design and methods and biostatistics.
Along with completing the five-year randomized controlled trial in combat veterans with PTSD, Dr. Wahbeh has contributed to science through numerous publications in the areas of synthesizing the evidence for complementary and alternative medicine, specifically mind-body medicine, the field of mindfulness meditation, physiological measures in people with posttraumatic stress disorder, the intersection of posttraumatic stress disorder and mindfulness meditation, and the evaluation and treatment of dementia caregivers.
Dr. Wahbeh has conducted multiple systematic reviews to help synthesize the evidence for complementary and alternative medicine, specifically mind-body medicine. She also contributed to the field of mindfulness meditation. Current group formats of mindfulness meditation programs are problematic especially for those who are adverse to group sharing and have transportation issues such as those in rural areas. She examined alternative delivery formats for mindfulness meditation in a clinical setting and also through a cross-sectional survey examining preferences of potential users. Additionally, she collaborated to create an objective adherence measure of mind-body interventions and quantitative signal processing to discriminate meditative states.
Dr. Wahbeh contributed to the examination of neuroendocrine and psychophysiological measures in people with posttraumatic stress disorder. She has published results on salivary cortisol, skin conductance, EEG and ECG measures in veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. Also, through a translational collaboration, examined behavioral, cognitive, and neuroendocrine alterations and their association to ApoE alleles in humans and in an animal model.
Dr. Wahbeh main body of work has been focused on the intersection of posttraumatic stress disorder and mindfulness meditation. She conducted a large randomized controlled trial evaluating the mechanism of mindfulness meditation in combat veterans with PTSD already mentioned. She also found decreased mindfulness in veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder in a cross-sectional study. Finally, she evaluated the most appropriate psychophysiological measures to use for mind-body research trials for people with posttraumatic stress disorder.
Dr. Wahbeh currently is an adjunct faculty member at the Oregon Health & Science University and National College of Natural Medicine. She is also a Visiting Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences. She has presented at multiple research conferences and given presentations about her work nationally and internationally.
Dr. Wahbeh enjoys gardening on her farm, hiking, dancing, meditating, and spending time with her family and friends.