The Center for Cardiovascular Behavioral Health (CBCH) was established by Thomas Pickering, MD, at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in 2003. In its early years, CBCH focused on behavioral aspects of hypertension. Under the leadership of Karina Davidson, PhD, the scope and reach of CBCH expanded to encompass a focus on depression and cardiovascular disease, and the creation of the Columbia Hypertension Center. In 2019, Donald Edmondson, PhD, MPH, became Director of the Center. Major developments since then include a growing web of partnerships with like-minded scientists in the Departments of Neurology and Emergency Medicine, the creation of the CBCH Implementation Science Lab, the Sleep, Physical Activity, and Health Lab, and the Columbia Roybal Center for developing and piloting innovative behavioral interventions. Over the years, CBCH has welcomed researchers and physicians who are diverse in background and interests (internists, cardiologists, psychologists, exercise physiologists, and quantitative scientists), extremely successful in both grant funding and scientific productivity, and (most importantly) authentically committed to the notion that research is among the most valuable activities available for improving people’s lives—and that it is most valuable when we all contribute.

Tribute to Dr. Pickering’s Research

Headshot of Thomas Pickering

Dr. Thomas G. Pickering, Founder of the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health. Or, if better shorter, founder of CBCH.

Before coming to Columbia, Dr. Pickering spent 24 years conducting research on behavioral aspects of hypertension and cardiovascular disease at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University Medical Center. There, in the Hypertension Center, he began a program of research that has grown in breadth and depth, and that continues today more strongly than ever. Although he participated in a great deal of physiological research, his research in behavioral determinants and consequences of hypertension formed the heart of the program.

Dr. Pickering was one of the earlier researchers to employ ambulatory techniques in blood pressure monitoring, and contributed to the knowledge that clinic blood pressure measures are prone to both unsystematic and systematic errors, and are hence less useful for the prediction of target organ damage than ambulatory measures. In the course of this research, he began to examine the nature of the errors more closely; for example, he was one of the first to identify the problem of "white coat hypertension", in which patients exhibit poor blood pressure control only in the physician's office, leading to a false diagnosis of hypertension and unnecessary prescription of medication. Dr. Pickering was the Principal Investigator on an NHLBl/NlH Program Project award that began in 1993 and that was approved for competitive renewals in 1998, 2003, and 2009. The Program Project has investigated several phenomena related to the behavioral causes and physiological consequences of hypertension, focusing on white coat hypertension, nocturnal blood pressure "dipping", race differences in sleep disturbance and target organ damage, and the effects of work-related stress on blood pressure and left ventricular hypertrophy (the latter study remains one of the only prospective demonstrations that environmental stress is associated with hypertension and LVH).

Today, CBCH continues to honor Dr. Pickering's legacy through its Hypertension Center and Active BP, our ambulatory blood pressure monitoring system.

Our Vision for the Future

  • To transform the field of behavioral medicine into a more precise, mechanistic, and personalized science
  • To be inspired by creative solutions, groundbreaking ideas, and the next generation of leaders
  • To upend the stereotype of the solitary scientific genius by succeeding as a true research team through incentives that ensure collective success
  • To place mentoring at the core of everything we do
  • To provide social value to our community through both our research products and the academic culture we create