Susan Kleppner Folkman (born 1938) is an American psychologist and Emerita Professor of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF). She is known for her work in cognitive psychology on stress and coping. Alongside Richard Lazarus, she introduced the idea of using cognitive appraisal in the transactional model of stress and coping. She was appointed as the first full-time director of UCSF's Osher Center for Integrative Medicine.
Early life and education
Susan Kleppner was born to parents Otto and Beatrice Kleppner in 1938. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in history from Brandeis University in 1959. She married David Folkman in 1958 and, after a hiatus of 12 years in which she raised their four children, decided to continue her education where she noticed that many women were coping well with the stress of re-entering school to start careers and others floundered. Folkman eventually earned her M.Ed. in clinical psychology in 1974 from the University of Missouri. She almost joined the PhD program at Washington University in St. Louis when her husband was offered a position in California and she accepted a placement at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB).
While studying for her PhD at UCB, she worked under Richard Lazarus studying stress and coping. In her doctoral thesis, she coined the terms "problem-focused coping" and "emotion-focused coping". Together with Lazarus she co-authored the 1984 book Stress, Appraisal and Coping, which worked through the theory of psychological stress using concepts of cognitive appraisal and coping. Folkman and Lazarus were the first to make the distinction between "problem-focused coping" and "emotion-focused coping" which could result in consequences for both physical and mental health. The authors described "emotion-focused coping" as dealing with stress by regulating one's emotions, and "problem-focused coping" as "directly changing the elements of the stressful situation". Folkman earned her PhD in educational psychology from UCB in 1979.
Folkman decided to stay and teach at UCB, where she met Thomas J. Coates, who interested her in studying people with HIV/AIDS. He convinced her to join the faculty at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) to begin a research program focusing on stress and HIV/AIDS. In 1994, she was appointed co-director of UCSF's Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS). Part of her research focused on caregiving between males during the AIDS epidemic. Two years later, she received an honorary doctorate from the Utrecht University for her contributions to stress theory. By 2001, she was appointed the first full-time director of UCSF's Osher Center for Integrative Medicine.
In 2006, Folkman was appointed chair of the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine and the North American Research Conference on Complementary and Integrative Medicine. A few years later, she was elected to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine's Advisory Council. In 2008, Margaret A. Chesney replaced Folkman as director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. Upon her retirement in 2013, Folkman was named a professor emerita in UCSF's Department of Medicine.
In 1984, Folkman and her husband David began a Judaica book fund at his alma mater Harvard University. She also sits on the Board of Directors for the Jim Joseph Foundation.