Department of Psychology
Faculty Page

Dr. Samuel Sears


Dr. Sears at the East Carolina Heart Institute
Dr. Sears provided a keynote lecture at the First Nordic Symposium on Psychological Aspects of ICD Treatment in Lund, Sweden on December 4, 2009. The conference was co-chaired by Dr. Carl Johan Hoijer (pictured).
Dr. Sears gives frequent speeches to ICD patient support groups, as seen here in Hickory, NC in December, 2009.
Dr. Sears with Dr. Kubo at the Japanese Society of Psychosomatic Cardiology in Tokyo, Japan in November, 2007

ECU Cardiac Psychology website:
The Cardiac Psychology Research Lab at East Carolina University has a web-site for patients, healthcare providers, researchers, and students who are interested in the care of ICD patients. The Cardiac Psychology lab website can be accessed by clicking here.

Samuel F. Sears, Jr., Ph.D.

Samuel F. Sears, Ph.D.
Professor, East Carolina University
Departments of Psychology and Cardiovascular Sciences
Director of Health Psychology

  • Nationally recognized expert in the psychological care and quality of life outcomes of implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) patients
  • Provides clinical services to cardiac and ICD patients in a fully integrated cardiac clinic at the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU
  • Among the most published authors in the world on ICD patient outcomes. Has published over 150 articles in the medicine literature on the psychological aspects of cardiology
  • Regularly appears in PBS TV series, Second Opinion, on topics related to cardiology, such as Long QT Syndrome, Artificial Hearts, and Stress Cardiomyopathy
  • Founded "ICD Coach" to produce mobile phone apps for cardiac and ICD patients and families
  • Dr. Sears was honored by the University of North Carolina system as the O. Max Gardner Award winner for 2013.This award is given to the faculty member deemed to have made "the greatest contribution to the welfare of the human race" and is considered the highest honor for a faculty member in the state. 

East Carolina University
Department of Psychology
104 Rawl Bldg
Greenville, North Carolina 27858-4353
Phone: 252.328.6118
Clinical referrals: 252.744.4400
Fax: 252.328.6283

Ph.D.              University of Florida, Gainesville, FL (1995)
                          Major: Clinical and Health Psychology
                          Minor: Medical Psychology
Residency        University of Mississippi 
                          Medical Center/Veterans Affairs (1994-95)
                          Medical Center Consortium, Jackson, MS
M.S.                University of Florida, Gainesville, FL  (1992)
                          Major: Clinical and Health Psychology
B.S.                University of Florida, Gainesville, FL (1990)
                          Major: Psychology



Dr. Sears is currently engaged in research projects at East Carolina University and at other prominent research institutions around the US and world including:

  • Patient Acceptance of Remote Monitoring of ICD Followup
  • Activity Assessment via ICD Accelerometers
  • The Psychological Impact of Atrial Fibrillation
  • Patient Strategies related to Wearable Cardioverter Defibrillators
  • Smartphone Use for ICD Patients
  • Measurement and Treatment of ICD Patient Shock Anxiety


Cardiac Psychology Meets Biotechnology to Understand Patient Activity

Dr. Sam Sears has been a clinical health psychologist for 22 years but only recently has his research been able to cover the full spectrum of his interests in cardiac patients.  Dr. Sears has been a prominent researcher in psychology and cardiac arrhythmias for many years.  The majority of Dr. Sears’s work has focused on understanding the psychological and emotional aspects of ICD patients.  However, his recent work examining the role of the accelerometer inside the ICD has allowed for the behavioral side of the patient experience to emerge.

Dr. Sears has collaborated with major medical device companies to examine accelerometer data as way of sampling patient behavior – 24 hours a day.  Dr. Sears’s work has established the base rates of ICD patient activity levels.  Specifically, these data indicate the average ICD patient is “moving” just over 3 hours a day.  His work has also recently demonstrated that ICD patients who experience ICD shocks or atrial fibrillation also show characteristic changes in behavior as these adverse experiences change patient activity levels.  Dr. Sears has followed this up with two pending publications that integrate the role of anxiety in activity change, as well as a focus on pediatric activity levels.  This East Carolina University research represents the full attainment of the value of psychology to address both the mind and behavior to improve health.   

Sears, S.F.,
Whited, A., Koehler, J, & Gunderson, B. (2015). Examination of the differential impacts of ATP vs. Shock on patient activity in the EMPIRIC Study, Europace, 17, 417-423.

 Chelu, M.G., Gunderson, B.D., Koehler, J. Ziegler, P.D., Sears, S.F. (2016). Patient activity decreases and mortality increases after the onset of persistent atrial fibrillation in patients with implantable cardioverter defibrillators. Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiac Electrophysiology, 2, 518-523.


Dr. Sears on National TV:  PBS

ECU Psychology Professor, Dr. Sam Sears, appears in the just released PBS show, Second Opinion, available online from PBS (November2016).  Dr. Sears provides psychological insights into the condition, Stress Cardiomyopathy or Takotsubo.  Dr. Sears has appeared on 7 seasons on the show.


Dr. Sears on National Editorial Boards in Psychology and Cardiology

Samuel F. Sears, Ph.D., East Carolina University Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Cardiovascular Sciences at East Carolina University was appointed to a second term as a consulting Editor for the journal, Health Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association.  Dr. Sears also serves as a Section Editor for the journal, Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology, published by Wiley.  Together, these editorial position highlight the unique impact of health psychologists in psychology and medicine research. Dr. Sears remains highly productive in his own research with over 150 articles in the medicine and psychology research literatures.


Dr. Sears’s Research in Key Medicine Journals

From Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Electrophysiology: Sept 2016:  Dr. Sam  Sears’s collaborative work using accelerometer data gleaned from ICD patients devices indicated that the onset of atrial fibrillation resulted in an avg. reduction of activity of 8%, 11%, 14%, and 17% each week after its onset.  This is the first quantitative assessment of the effects of atrial fibrillation on activity.

Chelu, M.G., Gunderson, B.D., Koehler, J. Ziegler, P.D., Sears, S.F. (2016). Patient activity decreases and mortality increases after the onset of persistent atrial fibrillation in patients with implantable cardioverter defibrillators. Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiac Electrophysiology, 2, 518-523.


Doctoral Student Research Collaboration Success

From Journal of Genetic Counseling:   2016 ECU Health Psychology Doctoral students, Ashley Rhodes and Lindsey Rosman, led a team of international experts in genetic counseling to discuss the psychological effects of positive genetic screens for cardiovascular problems.  Specifically, the reduction and focus on uncertainty were emphasized.  The role of future health psychologists was explored as well.  Ms. Rhodes and Ms. Rosman work collaboratively in the ECU Cardiac Psychology lab with ECU Professor, Dr. Samuel Sears.


Rhodes, A., Rosman, L., Cahill, J., Ingles, J., Murray, B., Tichnell, C., James, C.A., & Sears, S.F. (2016).  Minding the genes: A multidisciplinary approach towards genetic assessment of cardiovascular disease.  Journal of Genetic Counseling.


From Journal of Traumatic Stress   

2016 Dr. Jessica Ford, ECU Assistant Professor in Psychology and Dr. Sears examined the effects of cognitive-behavioral  treatment in implantable cardioverter defibrillator patients with high levels of Post Traumatic Stress in a recent article.  Collaborating with Dr. Jane Irvine, a Canadian psychologist, ECU doctoral student Lindsey Rosman, and ECU Psychology Professor Dr. Karl Wuensch, the research team demonstrated that PTSD symptoms were significantly reduced with 8 sessions of telephone based treatment vs. usual care.  This study was a secondary analysis of a large study with Canadian ICD patients. 

Ford, J., Rosman, L., Wuensch, K., Irvine, J., & Sears, S. (2016). Cognitive behavioral treatment of posttraumatic stress in patients with implantable cardioverter defibrillators: Results from a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 29, 388-392.