Gillings School Directory

Katherine (Kat) Tumlinson, PhD

Dr. Katherine Tumlinson

Katherine (Kat) Tumlinson, PhD

Assistant Professor
Department of Maternal and Child Health
Faculty Fellow
Carolina Population Center
Doctoral Committee Chair
Department of Maternal and Child Health
  • 405A Rosenau Hall

Dr. Tumlinson is an Assistant Professor of Maternal and Child Health (MCH) and a Fellow of the Carolina Population Center (CPC). She is trained as an epidemiologist and demographer, with a portfolio of work at the intersection of population and global reproductive health. Dr. Tumlinson has served as PI on research studies conducted in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, undertaking cross-sectional and longitudinal primary data collection activities at both the household level and within healthcare facilities. Professionally, Dr. Tumlinson has worked as a family planning service provider and reproductive health educator and advocate, and these roles have provided critical context for the development of a highly relevant and applied research agenda.

Dr. Tumlinson’s current research program, funded by an NIH career development grant, investigates the relationship between the quality of family planning service delivery and contraceptive use dynamics in low-income countries. She is using large-scale demographic data from Kenya to estimate the association between quality of care and contraceptive continuation and to assess the reliability of the retrospective reproductive calendar. Dr. Tumlinson is also using longitudinal data from Western Kenya to examine the validity of reproductive calendar data. Additionally, Dr. Tumlinson is collecting extensive qualitative primary data to better understand the motivations of healthcare providers in low-income settings in order to develop appropriate, feasible, and sustainable interventions to increase the quality of service delivery and improve public health outcomes.

Across her research activities, Dr. Tumlinson employs complex quantitative methodologies, integrated qualitative techniques, and a cross-disciplinary approach. Throughout all stages of her work, Dr. Tumlinson regularly engages with relevant key stakeholders to ensure her research agenda is informed by in-country priorities and to ensure her results find audience with in-country reproductive health program managers and policy makers.

Honors and Awards

IBM Junior Faculty Development Award

2020, University of North Carolina

Online Quality Innovation Challenge

2018, David and Lucile Packard Foundation


2016-2018, Cambridge Reproductive Health Consultants

Berton H. Kaplan Award for best student publication, Dep't of Epidemiology

2015, UNC-CH

Epidemiology department nominee, UNC Distinguished Dissertation Award, Social Sciences

2015, UNC-CH

Student Travel Award, UNC Department of Epidemiology

2013, UNC-CH

Student Transportation Award, Graduate School

2013, UNC-CH

Harry A. Guess Scholarship, Gillings School of Global Public

2010, UNC-CH

New Investigators in Global Health Award

2008, Global Health Council

Michael and Linda Frieze Fellowship

2005, Brandeis University

PACEsetters Award for improving the lives of girls

2002, PACE Center for Girls

Representative Courses

MHCH 859: Theoretical Foundations of Maternal and Child Health

Research Activities

Principal Investigator, Provider imposed barriers to contraceptive uptake and continuation

Principal Investigator, Patient perspectives on addressing contraceptive discontinuation in low-income settings: Advancing patient-centered care through qualitative inquiry

Service Activities

2018-present  Global Health MPH Concentration subcommittee

Key Publications

Free access to a broad contraceptive method mix and women’s contraceptive choice: Evidence from sub-Saharan Africa. †Chang W & Tumlinson K. (2021). Studies in Family Planning, 52(1), 3-22.
View publication

“When it comes to time of removal, nothing is straightforward": A qualitative study of experiences with barriers to removal of long-acting reversible contraception in Western Kenya. †Britton L, Caitlin Williams, Dickens Onyango, Debborah Wambua Tumlinson K. (2021). Contraception, 22(3).
View publication

If the big fish are doing it then why not me down here?: A qualitative assessment of informal fee payments and healthcare provider motivation in Kenya. Tumlinson K, Gichane M, Curtis S.  (2020). Studies in Family Planning, 51(1), 33-50.

Reforming Medical Education Admission in Low- Income Countries: Who Gets Admitted and Why it Matters. Tumlinson K, Jaff D, Stilwell B, Leonard K.  (2019). BMC Human Resources for Health, 17(91).

Understanding absenteeism among health care providers in urban Kenya: A qualitative analysis. Tumlinson K, Gichane M, Curtis S, LeMasters K. (2019). BMC Health Services Research, 19(1).

Pregnancy Experiences of Women in Rural Romania: Understanding Ethnic and Socioeconomic Disparities. LeMasters K, Wallis AB, Chereches R, Gichanec M, Tehei C, Varga A, Tumlinson K.  (2019). Culture, Health and Sexuality, 21(3), 249-262.

Challenges to the Iraqi health system call for reform. Jaff D, Tumlinson K, Al-Hamadani A. (2018). Journal of Health Systems, 3(2), 9-12.

Letter to the Editor relating to the paper ‘Young Married Women’s Perceptions on the Meanings and Motivations for Their Husbands’ Opposition to their Modern Contraceptive Use in Malawi’ by Kaneka and Mturi. Katherine Tumlinson (2018). University of Oxford, 14(1), 1.

Association between skilled maternal healthcare and postpartum contraceptive use in Ethiopia. G Tessema, T Mekonnen, Z Mengesha, K Tumlinson (2018). BMC pregnancy and childbirth, 18(1), 172.

Pregnancy experiences of women in rural Romania: understanding ethnic and socioeconomic disparities. K LeMasters, A Baber Wallis, R Chereches, M Gichane, C Tehei, A Varga, K Tumlinson (2018). Culture, health & sexuality.


PhD, Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2014

MA, International Development, Brandeis University, 2007

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