A photo of Michelle Ernst.

Michelle M. Ernst, PhD

  • Pediatric Psychologist, Clinical, Division of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology
  • Clinical Psychologist, MRKH Care Center
  • Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics
I take a collaborative approach when providing care to my patients, soliciting feedback as we work together to ensure we focus on what is most important. My goal is to nurture within patients and families the wisdom and skills to live a meaningful life.
Michelle M. Ernst, PhD



My clinical specialty is pediatric psychology — I focus on the health and well-being of children with medical conditions and their families. I provide services for patients with cardiac conditions (through the Heart & Mind Wellbeing Center), patients with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome (through the MRKH Care Center), and patients with pain or other physical symptoms that interfere with living one’s best life.

My inspiration to become a psychologist arose from life experiences. Both my parents had significant health issues while I was growing up, and I came to see the hospital as a place of care and safety. I initially chose a career in the arts in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I lived in New York City and saw how acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) deeply impacted people I cared about. I was inspired by the resilience required to negotiate a changing physical body. I chose pediatrics as I have always connected deeply with children, respectfully interacting with them as valued humans with valid concerns and interests.

I take a collaborative approach when providing care to my patients, soliciting feedback as we work together to ensure we focus on what is most important. My goal is to nurture within patients and families the wisdom and skills to live a meaningful life. I can sit quietly with patients in their most difficult moments and sincerely believe in the power of resilience and change.

As a full professor in the Department of Pediatrics, I bring my clinical expertise to collaborations in pediatric psychological research. In the cardiac population, I am involved in a grant exploring if providing a psychological intervention to support families impacted by a fetal diagnosis of congenital heart defect can improve outcomes for caregivers and their baby. My research in pediatric migraine explores ways to spread evidence-based pediatric psychological pain treatment to the most children with migraines. I have published peer-reviewed research papers and commentaries in a variety of medical and psychological journals, including, for example, Pediatrics.

My free time is spent with my husband, my adult children and friends. I enjoy gardening, baking, tennis, Mah-jongg, listening to music and doing yoga.

PhD: SUNY, Buffalo, NY, 2000.

Residency: O'Grady Residency in Psychology, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH.


Pediatric psychology; pain management; cardiac condition; dermatology conditions; differences of sexual development

Services and Specialties

Behavioral Medicine, Differences of Sex Development


Quality improvement; clinical effectiveness; pain management; differences of sexual development

Research Areas

Clinical Psychology

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Differences in Quality of Life in Children Across the Spectrum of Congenital Heart Disease. O'Connor, AM; Cassedy, A; Wray, J; Brown, KL; Cohen, M; Franklin, RC G; Gaynor, JW; MacGloin, H; Mahony, L; Mussatto, K; et al. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2023; 263:113701.

Behavioral and Emotional Outcomes in Children with Congenital Heart Disease: Effects of Disease Severity, Family Life Stress, Disease-Related Chronic Stress, and Psychosocial Adaptation. Cassedy, A; Wray, J; Qadir, AA; Ernst, MM; Brown, K; Franklin, R; Wernovsky, G; Marino, BS. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2023; 259:113450.

Information sharing in differences of sex development: The creation of a caregiver-support tool. Moyer, DN; Suorsa-Johnson, KI; Weidler, EM; Ernst, MM. Families, Systems, and Health. 2023; 41:256-264.

Psychosocial Aspects of Food Allergy: Resiliency, Challenges and Opportunities. Rubeiz, CJ; Ernst, MM. Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America. 2021; 41:177-188.

Disorders of Sex Development/Intersex: Gaps in Psychosocial Care for Children. Ernst, MM; Liao, L; Baratz, AB; Sandberg, DE. Pediatric Collections: LGBTQ+: Support and Care (Part 2: Health Concerns and Disparities). : American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP); American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP); 2021.

Emotional-Behavioral Outcomes, Risk and Resiliency Factors, and Psychosocial Interventions in Children with Heart Disease. Ernst, MM; Piazza-Waggoner, C; Marino, BS; Wray, J. Pediatric and Congenital Cardiology, Cardiac Surgery and Intensive Care. : Springer Nature; Springer Nature; 2021.

XY Gonadal Dysgenesis in a Phenotypic Female Identified by Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing. Kim, A; Abell, K; Johnson, J; Cizek, S; Breech, L; Ernst, MM; Hopkin, RJ; Kennedy, K; Stanek, J; Strine, AC; et al. Pediatrics. 2020; 146:e20193302.

Individualized care for patients with intersex (disorders/differences of sex development): Part 3. Bangalore Krishna, K; Kogan, BA; Ernst, MM; Romao, RL; Mohsin, F; Serrano-Gonzalez, M; Quintos, JB; Phornphutkul, C; Aguiar, L; Lee, PA. Journal of Pediatric Urology. 2020; 16:598-605.

Gender identity: A psychosocial primer for providing care to patients with a disorder/difference of sex development and their families [individualized care for patients with intersex (Disorders/differences of sex development): Part 2]. Ernst, MM; Kogan, BA; Lee, PA. Journal of Pediatric Urology. 2020; 16:606-611.

Pediatric Gender Identity: Consultation on Matters of Identity, Transgender Concerns, and Disorders/Differences of Sex Development. Brady, CE; Ernst, MM. Clinical Handbook of Psychological Consultation in Pediatric Medical Settings. : Springer Nature; Springer Nature; 2020.

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