Rehabilitation Research Career Development (RRCD) Program

photo of Dr. Duker

Leah Stein Duker, PhD, OTR/L

Assistant Professor
Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
University of Southern California

Research Areas

Tailored environmental modification interventions to reduce distress during healthcare encounters


Phone: 323-442-0371

Lead Mentor

S. Cermak EdD, OTR/L


  • 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

UG3 DE031222, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, PI Duker, 2022-2024, Sensory Adapted Dental Environments to Enhance Oral Care for Children with and without Dental Fear and Anxiety

Recent Publications

Stein Duker, L.I., *Grager, M., *Giffin, W., *Hikita, N., & Polido, J.C. (2022). The relationship between dental fear and anxiety, general anxiety/fear, sensory over-responsivity, and oral health behaviors and outcomes: A conceptual model. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19, 2380/1-20. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19042380

Stein Duker, L.I., *Martinez, M., Polido, J.C., & Cermak, S.A.. (2022). Oral care and sensory over-responsivity in children with Down syndrome. International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry. Epub ahead of print doi: 10.1111/ipd.12933

Stein Duker, L.I., Schmidt, A.R., *Pham, P.K., Ringold, S.M., & Nager, A.L. (2021). Use of audiobooks as an environmental distractor to decrease state anxiety in children waiting in the Pediatric Emergency Department: A pilot and feasibility study. Frontiers in Pediatrics, 8 Article 556805, 1-8.

*Como, D.H., Stein Duker, L.I., Polido, J.C., & Cermak, S.A. (2021). Oral health and autism spectrum disorders: A unique collaboration between Dentistry and Occupational Therapy. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18, 1-10.

Piller, A., Saa, M.P., Tremino, I., Koester, A.C., & Stein Duker, L.I. (2021). Using technology to enhance sensory-based interventions.. American Occupational Therapy Association, Sensory Integration Special Interest Section, 6(1), 2-4.

Williams, M.E., Stein Duker, L.I., Vigen, C.L.P., *Wylde, C., & Cermak, S.A. (2021). Brief Report: Caregiver confidence in reporting anxiety symptoms in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorder. Epub ahead of print doi: 10.1007/s10803-021-05210-6

Stein Duker, L.I., *Richter, M., Lane, C.J., Polido, J.C., & Cermak, S.A. (2020). Oral care experiences and challenges for children with Down syndrome: Reports from caregivers. Pediatric Dentistry, 15, 430-435.

*Floríndez, L.I., *Como, D., *Floríndez, D., & Stein Duker, L.I. (2020). Differing interpretations of health care encounters: Latinx cultural norms as compared to non-Latinx health care providers’ perceptions. PLoS One, 15, e02367, 1-16.

*Como, D.H., *Floríndez, L.I., *Tran, C., Cermak, S.A., & Stein Duker, L.I. (2020). Examining unconscious bias embedded in provider language regarding children with autism. Nursing and Health Sciences, 22, 197-204.

*Gomes, G.P.R., Rubin, S., Stein Duker, L.I., Benton, D., Kratky, A., Chen, S.Y.A., Jordan-Marsh, M., & Gotsis, M. (2020). Healing Spaces: Feasibility of a multisensory experience for older adults with advanced dementia and their caregivers. Proceedings of the 13th ACM International Conference on Pervasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (PETRA); Article No. 24, 174-182.