Gillings School Directory
James Thomas, PhD

James Thomas, PhD

Associate Professor
Department of Epidemiology
Director, MEASURE Evaluation Project
Carolina Population Center
  • 123 W. Franklin Street
  • Suite 330
  • Building C
  • Chapel Hill, NC 27516
  • USA

Dr. Thomas's work in public health spans more than 35 years and 25 countries. His principal interests are in the social epidemiology of HIV/AIDS along with public health ethics and human rights.

In addition to his many scholarly articles, he was an editor and author of a textbook on epidemiologic methods in the study of infectious diseases and principal author of the American Public Health Association’s Code of Ethics.

As director of the MEASURE Evaluation Project, Dr. Thomas is leading a global team that is advancing the capacity of developing countries to monitor their epidemics and evaluate their programs to control them. In his own research within MEASURE Evaluation, he is applying network analysis to improve local coordination of disease control efforts.

Honors and Awards

McGravran Award for Excellence in Teaching

2009, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health


2005, Parr Center for Ethics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Moister Fellow of Ethics

2002, University of North Carolina Institute for the Arts and Humanities

Teaching Interests

Public Health Ethics, 2000-2011
Social Epidemiology: Concepts and Measures, 2002-2013
Fundamentals of Epidemiology, 2006-2010
Perspectives in Epidemiology and Public Health, 2015-present

Research Activities

In the 1990s and early 2000s Dr. Thomas studied social forces underlying epidemic transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, primarily in North Carolina. Two topics of particular interest were the effects of high rates of incarceration on low income communities, and how network interactions among service providers affect disease control in a community. After 2010, he returned to his international roots, principally with the application of network analysis research to HIV control in developing countries.

Dr. Thomas see abuses against -- and the protection of -- public health as issues of social ethics. Thus, he has also researched how public health practitioners perceive and enact the ethical aspects of public health.

Service Activities

For three years, Dr. Thomas served as an ethics adviser to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In his current position as director of the USAID-funded MEASURE Evaluation Project, he participates in global meetings to set priorities and agendas for strengthening health information systems used to guide public health in developing countries.

Dr. Thomas founded and directed a non-profit organization called Africa Rising that enabled African community-based organizations (CBOs) to increase their capacity and impact through networking with other African CBOs. He also was co-founder of a non-profit that serves families affected by incarceration in Durham, North Carolina.

Practice Activities

Much of Dr. Thomas's research is intended to affect the practice of public health. When researching sexually transmitted diseases in rural North Carolina, his method was community-based and participatory, leading to a lay health adviser program to decrease STDs.

The organizational network analysis of HIV-related service providers in developing countries is often used by the local communities to improve their service coordination and disease control. Dr. Thomas's work in public health ethics includes the creation of a code of ethics that guides national and state public health organizations.

Key Publications


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