Dr. Beach is Professor in the School of Communication at SDSU, Director of the Center for Communication Health & the Public Good, SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Public Health, Adjunct Professor, Department of Surgery, and Member of the Moores UCSD Cancer Center, University of California, San Diego. Recent awards include the 2018 Distinguished Scholar Award, National Communication Association; 2017 Distinguished Scholar Award, Western States Communication Association; Translational Entertainment and Education Award from George Mason University; SDSU’s President’s Leadership Fund and Dean’s Excellence Awards; and SDSU’s Faculty ‘Monty’ and Professor of the Year Awards for Outstanding Research & Teaching Contributions.
His research and teaching focus on the convergence of conversational and institutional interactions. He has pioneered diverse studies focusing on the social organization of verbal and embodied features of everyday talk and action. A particular concern with health and illness has given rise to long-term investigations of how family members talk through cancer on the telephone, medical interviewing in primary, preventive, and oncological care, and related illness dilemmas (e.g., bulimia, obesity, chest pain, cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis). Recent publications and projects focus on social activities such as how cancer patients and oncologists manage hopeful moments, justify wellness, and use ‘normal’ to characterize health and sickness in the clinic, communication throughout breast cancer care, and interactions during genetic counseling and family decision-making about health risks.
He is the author of more than 100 articles and chapters, as well as Conversations about Illness (1996) and A Natural History of Family Cancer (2009), which received two prestigious book awards from the National Communication Association: The 2010-2011 Outstanding Book Award (Health Communication Division) and the Outstanding Scholarship Award (Language & Social Interaction Division). He also edited the first Handbook of Patient-Provider Interactions (2013) – a compilation of over 50 seminal studies advancing understandings of communication during medical interviews and related clinical encounters.
External funding for Dr. Beach’s research has been awarded from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Cancer Institute (NCI), the American Cancer Society (ACS), and several philanthropic foundations in San Diego. His current work examines how patients make available and oncologists respond to hopes, fears, and uncertainties about cancer. He is also collaborating with theatre professionals in a production – When Cancer Calls… – funded by NCI and adapted from actual family phone calls examined in A Natural History of Family Cancer, documenting how family members communicate about and manage cancer on the telephone. A national documentary film, A Journey Through Breast Cancer, is also being produced on the importance of communication and social relationships (in clinics and homes) throughout cancer journeys.