David Cella

David Cella, PhD, is currently a professor and chair of the Department of Medical Social Sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. He is also a cancer control program leader at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

After graduating from Northwestern University with a BS in psychology, he received a doctorate in clinical psychology from Loyola University of Chicago in 1984.  From 1981-1984, he completed his pre-doctoral internship and a pre-doctoral fellowship at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.  From 1984-1986, he completed a post-doctoral fellowship in psycho-oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where he conducted research on psychosocial aspects of cancer survivorship and on quality of life evaluation during cancer.  In 1987, he became a clinical assistant psychologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, at which point he moved to Chicago to direct psychosocial services and research in the cancer program at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center. 

From 1987-1997, Dr. Cella built a clinical service and research program with an emphasis on quality of life and outcome evaluation in cancer treatment research.  His move to Northwestern University and Evanston Northwestern Healthcare in 1997 brought the expansion of his research in quality of life of chronic illness into a broader study of outcomes in health care. He has developed and is continually refining the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy (FACIT) Measurement System for outcome evaluation in patients with chronic medical conditions.

Dr. Cella has several grants and contracts to study questions regarding quality of life measurement in clinical trials, cross-cultural equivalence of quality of life measurement, efficacy of psychosocial interventions in oncology, and medical outcomes research.  He is principal investigator of the statistical coordinating center for the NIH Roadmap Initiative to build a Patient Reported Outcome Measurement Information System (PROMIS). He is also principal investigator of a contract to develop item banks for the clinical trials supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. He has more than 300 publications in the area of quality of life measurement in clinical trials and clinical practice.

Content by David Cella


When it comes to chronic diseases like arthritis, heart disease, and cancer, “getting better” is unfortunately not always the same as “feeling better.” Doctors have clear, biological measures that determine whether a treatment is successful in battling an illness—tracking tumor size, detecting the presence of cancerous cells, or even just measuring cholesterol. But determining how a patient is feeling? That’s a different story.