Scholar Bios

photo of Dr. Duker

Leah Stein Duker, PhD, OTR/L

Assistant Professor

Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
University of Southern California

Phone: 323-442-0371

Lead Mentor
S. Cermak EdD, OTR/L

Research Areas

Examining the efficacy and effectiveness of tailored environmental modification interventions to reduce distress during healthcare encounters; psychophysiology; electrodermal activity; sensory processing; autism; pediatric oncology; primary care


  • 2015 University of Southern California Rehabilitation Efficacy and Effectiveness Trials T32 Postdoctoral Fellowship in Training
  • 2014 University of Southern California Biomedical, and Translational Investigations Certificate
  • 2013 University of Southern California Occupational Science PhD
  • 2006 University of Southern California Occupational Therapy MA
  • 2004 Emory University Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology BS

Current Research Funding

No number (Stein-Duker) 07/2017 – 06/2018:  American Occupational Therapy Foundation Intervention Research and Planning Grant - “Environmental Barriers and Facilitators for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder during Primary Care Health Encounters”. The goal of this one-year grant is to identify environmental barriers and facilitators during primary care health encounters for adults with autism spectrum disorder.

K12 HD055929 (Ottenbacher) 9/25/2007-8/31/2022: National Institutes of Health Rehabilitation Research Career Development Program “Environmental Impact on Stress during Challenging Healthcare Procedures”. The goal of this program is to prepare Scholars, trained Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists, to initiate successful and independent careers as rehabilitation researchers. Role: Scholar (9/1/17-present)

U01 DE024978-01 (Cermak) 05/2015 – 04/2020: National Institutes of Health National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research – "Sensory Adapted Dental Environments to Enhance Oral Care for Children". The goal of this five-year grant is to examine the efficacy of a sensory adapted dental environment in reducing distress in children with autism spectrum disorder undergoing routine dental care. Role: Co-Investigator

Recent Publications

Hong, E.Y., Cermak, S.A., & Stein Duker, L.I. (in press). Occupational therapists’ role in creating a sensory friendly waiting room to enhance healthcare experiences. American Occupational Therapy Association, Sensory Integration Special Interest Section.

Stein Duker, L.I., Henwood, B.F., Bluthenthal, R.N., Juhlin, E., Polido, J.C., & Cermak, S.A. (2017). Parents’ perceptions of dental care challenges in male children with autism spectrum disorder: An initial qualitative exploration. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 39, 63-72.

Pfeiffer, B., & Stein Duker, L.I. (2016). The impact of the sensory environment on patient care for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. In E. Giarelli, & K. Fisher (Eds.), Integrated health care for people with autism spectrum disorder: Interdisciplinary planning and delivery of care (pp. 69-92). Illinois: Charles C. Thomas Publishers, LTD.

Cermak, S.A., Stein Duker, L.I., Williams, M.E., Dawson, M.E., Lane, C.J., & Polido, J.C. (2015). Sensory adapted dental environments to enhance oral care for children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45, 2876-2888.

Stein, L.I., Lane, C.J., Williams, M.E., Dawson, M.E., Polido, J.C., & Cermak, S.A. (2014). Physiological and behavioral stress and anxiety in children with autism spectrum disorders during routine oral care. BioMed Research International, 2014, Article ID 694876.

University of Florida website
University of Souther California website
University of Texas Medical Branch website


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