Jennifer Elston Lafata, PhD

Adjunct Professor
Department of Health Policy and Management
Associate Director
UNC Institute for Healthcare Quality Improvement
Professor and Vice Chair
Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy, Eshelman School of Pharmacy
Co-lead, Cancer Care Quality Initiative
Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center


Jennifer Elston Lafata, PhD, is Associate Director, UNC Institute for Healthcare Quality Improvement, co-lead, UNC Cancer Care Quality Initiative, and professor and vice chair in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Her research seeks to improve cancer care quality via improved decision making and patient-physician communication. She has extensive experience conducting practice-integrated research and working with delivery organizations to develop, implement and evaluate interventions designed to improve cancer and other care delivery. She is currently evaluating an innovative, online decision support program that uses an electronic health record embedded patient portal to support and engage patients once they have a physician recommendation for colorectal cancer screening.

Before coming to UNC, Lafata was on faculty in the School of Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University where she served as co-leader for the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the NCI Designated Massey Cancer Center. Until 2009, she was with the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit Michigan where she served in leadership roles for almost 10 years, including serving as director of the Center for Health Services Research and chairperson for the HMO Research Network Governing Board.

She currently serves as co-leader for the NCI-sponsored Cancer Research Network’s Scholar Program, a 26-month intensive training program designed to facilitate practice integrated research among early stage scientists.

Lafata is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She received her doctorate in health services management and policy from the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Key Publications

Harnessing Information Technology to Inform Patients Facing Routine Decisions – Cancer Screening as a Test Case. Krist AH, SH Woolf, C Hochheimer, RT Sabo, P Kashiri, RM Jones, J Elston Lafata, RS Etz, S-P Tu (2017). Annals of Family Medicine., 15(3), 1-8.

The Contribution of body mass index to delay in diagnosis of colorectal cancer. Dyer K*, L Dumenci, LA Siminoff, M Thomson, J Elston Lafata. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2017.123. Epub 2017 May 2 (2017). British Journal of Cancer, 116(12), 1638-1642.

Primary care physicians’ support of shared decision making for different cancer screening decisions. Elston Lafata J, Brown RF. Pignone MP, Ratliff S, Shay LA. PMID: 27430237 Medical Decision Making, 37(1), 70-78.

Office-based Tools and Patient-Physician Communication Behaviors, Visit Length, and the Delivery of Preventive Health Services. Lafata JE, Shay LA*, Brown R, Street R. PMID: 6256283 (2016). Health Services Research, 51(2), 728-45.

Severe Hypoglycemia Requiring Medical Intervention in a Large Cohort of Adults with Diabetes Receiving Care in U.S. Integrated Health Care Delivery Systems: 2005-2011. Pathak RD, Schroeder EB, Seaquist ER, Zeng C, Lafata JE, Thomas A,Desai J, Waitzfelder B, Nichols GA, Lawrence JM, Karter AJ, Steiner JA, Segal J, O’Connor PJ, for the SUPREME-DM Study Group. doi: 10.2337/dc15-0858. Epub 2015 Dec 17. (2016). Diabetes Care, 39(3), 363-70.


  • MHSA, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Health Services Administration, 1987
  • MAE, Applied Economics, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, 1991
  • PhD, Health Services Organization and Policy, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, 1993