WHITTIER, CA. – (April 26, 2022) — Southern California University of Health Sciences (SCU) has appointed Steffany Moonaz, Ph.D., C-IAYT, as Associate Research Director.
In her new role, Dr. Moonaz will help lead the growth of research activity and engagement at SCU. This includes conducting research projects at SCU, collaborating on projects with other institutions, growing research infrastructure, and finding ways to engage SCU students and faculty in the research process.
“SCU is a leader among its peers in the acquisition of federal research funding, which allows for bigger, more rigorous, and better resourced projects,” said Dr. Moonaz. “Most small universities rely on small foundation grants or collaborations, but SCU is on the trajectory toward sustained independent federally funded research. I’m excited to be a part of that progress.”
Most recently, Dr. Moonaz served as the Research Director of Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH), which developed the nation’s first master’s degree in yoga therapy. While at MUIH, Dr. Moonaz founded their research department and developed a robust research program, including collaborations with National Institutes of Health, University of Maryland, National University of Natural Medicine, Oxford University, Veteran’s Affairs, Einstein Hospital, and more. Dr. Moonaz remains an Adjunct Professor at MUIH and continues to collaborate with faculty there.
“Dr. Moonaz brings significant academic and research leadership experience to SCU and has joined our growing University at a pivotal time, said Jim Whedon, DC, Director of Health Services Research at SCU. “Her appointment reflects our commitment to attract the best health education professionals to SCU to help shape our university to best support the next generation of talented healthcare professionals. Her experience on both the research and education fronts will have a tremendous impact on enhancing SCU’s stature as a leader in healthcare education, research, training, and clinical care.”
Dr. Moonaz’s research focus is on the use of yoga and mind-body practices for the management of arthritis and chronic pain. She is particularly interested in health equity and access challenges, and the relationship between chronic pain and substance use disorders. “Mind-body practices can serve as important adjunctive therapies for these challenges and remain underutilized for these indications due to stigma and other barriers,” said Dr. Moonaz.
She and colleagues were recently published in BMJ with their article, Development of the CLARIFY (CheckList stAndardising the Reporting of Interventions For Yoga) guidelines: a Delphi study, after finding that reporting guidelines that make research more applicable to clinical practice, policy, and future study have never existed to guide yoga research.
“It took a long time and lot of effort to establish reporting guidelines for yoga research, but I’m proud of that effort,” she said. “The next steps are to disseminate those guidelines and to measure their impact. I will continue this work at SCU along with my clinical trial work that remains ongoing. I’m currently working with a research team at Einstein Hospital to study the effects of yoga for methadone users with chronic low back pain.”
“We are honored that a researcher and academic leader of Dr. Moonaz’s national renown is joining our University community in this new and exciting role, and we’re thrilled about Dr. Moonaz’s vision for growing research,” said SCU President John Scaringe, DC, EdD.
“I earned my Ph.D. in public health, so I use a whole systems lens when looking at health and at healthcare. Yoga’s philosophy parallels the biopsychosocial-spiritual model in exploring the myriad of factors that, due to imbalance, contribute to human suffering. I am also a mixed methods researcher, which means that I look at the numbers and data, but also the narratives behind that data. The opioid epidemic is multifactorial and finding better ways to manage chronic pain is important but insufficient. Being able to look at a problem both scientifically and philosophically can lead to creative solutions.”
Dr. Moonaz earned her Ph.D. in public health from Johns Hopkins University, where she studied the effects of yoga for people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Since then, she has served as subject matter expert, consultant, and investigator for research on yoga and other integrative health practices. Her research has been funded by NIH, the Arthritis Foundation, American College of Rheumatology, and Johns Hopkins University and she has received numerous awards for her research and scholarship. She has co-authored more than 40 peer-reviewed publications. Many of her publications may be accessed at:
In addition to research, Dr. Moonaz trains yoga professionals in various contexts and is passionate about fostering evidence-informed practice in yoga therapy.
Dr. Moonaz has been on the board of the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health (ACIH) and active with their Research Working Group for several years. She recently joined their Executive Committee and helped to facilitate the ACIH merger with the Academy for Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM). She now serves as chair for the newly formed Traditional World Medicines-Emerging Professions AIHM Council. Dr. Moonaz is also actively involved with the International Association of Yoga Therapists and with the Accessible Yoga movement that aims to improve yoga safety, access, and equity.
Dr. Moonaz was recently honored at the MUIH Research Symposium where she received the Faculty Poster award, along with her undergraduate intern from Johns Hopkins, for their poster presentation: Development of a Flexible Yoga Therapy Protocol for Pairing with Acupuncture Therapy to Help Manage Chronic Pain.