Sarah A. Birken, PhD

Adjunct Associate Professor
Department of Health Policy and Management


Sarah Birken, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Implementation Science at the Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Dr. Birken’s research focuses on translating evidence into practice. Specifically, Dr. Birken studies middle managers’ role in implementing evidence-based practices, the implementation of innovations in cancer care, and the selection and application of implementation theories. Dr. Birken’s research has been funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Cancer Research Network, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Birken serves as a National Institutes of Health Center for Scientific Review Early Career Reviewer, Co-chair of George Washington Cancer Institute’s PCORI-funded Generation and Translation of Evidence Survivorship Special Interest Group, and Core Faculty in the Dissemination and Implementation Science Methods Unit of the North Carolina Translational & Clinical Sciences Institute.

Dr. Birken has served as an expert speaker for organizations such as the National Cancer Survivorship Resource Center, the Veterans Affairs Center for Clinical Management Research, the Center for Disease Prevention and Control’s National Comprehensive Cancer Control Program Directors, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Survivorship Committee.

Dr. Birken is also committed to the advancement of women scholars. She has published on the topic in the Chronicle of Higher Education and serves on the Committee on the Status of Women as well as Women in Science Deserve Opportunities and Mentoring at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Birken also co-hosts AcaDames, a podcast about women in academia.

Dr. Birken received her MSPH and PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Health Policy and Management with Delta Omega honors and her BA from the University of California, Berkeley in Women’s Studies with Phi Beta Kappa honors. She received postdoctoral training at Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and was a research fellow in the National Institutes of Health-funded Mentored Training for Dissemination and Implementation in Research in Cancer and Training Institute for Dissemination and Implementation in Health programs.

Dr. Birken has won awards for distinguished scholarly achievement, such as the Doctoral Competitive Merit Scholarship and the Academy of Management’s Health Care Management Division’s Emerging Scholars Program and Best Paper Based on a Dissertation.

Sarach Birken in the Gillings News

Honors and Awards

Emerging Scholar
2016, Academy of Management Health Care Division

Fellow, Mentored Training for Dissemination and Implementation in Research in Cancer
June 2014 - June 2016, National Cancer Institute, St. Louis, MO.

Fellow, Training Institute for Dissemination and Implementation in Health
June 2011, National Cancer Institute, Chapel Hill, NC.

Winner, Health Care Management Division Best Paper Based on a Dissertation: Birken SA. Where the rubber meets the road: Middle managers’ role in innovation implementation in health care organizations.
2010, Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management. Montreal.

Research Activities

  • Implementation of evidence-based practices
  • Health care organization and delivery
  • Quality improvement
  • Cancer survivorship
  • Theory selection and application
  • Qualitative methods
  • Mixed methods
  • Survey research


  • BA, Women's Studies (Phi Beta Kappa), University of California, Berkeley, 2002
  • Health Policy and Management,, MSPH (Delta Omega, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2006
  • PhD, Health Policy and Management (Minor: Sociology/Organizational Behavior), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2011