Earp honored with symposium, ‘best party ever,’ for 40 years of research, leadership, service

May 21, 2013
Dr. Jo Anne Earp (right) enjoys hearing stories told by a symposium speaker. On the left is current health behavior chair, Dr. Leslie Lytle.

Dr. Jo Anne Earp (right) enjoys hearing stories told by a symposium speaker. On the left is current health behavior chair, Dr. Leslie Lytle.

Jo Anne Earp, ScD, longtime former chair and professor of health behavior at Gillings School of Global Public Health, is a social connector, someone who brings people together so they can get important work done. So when friends and colleagues at the Gillings School asked how she would like to acknowledge her coming retirement, it was no surprise that she wanted old and new friends to get together to reminisce, reflect on their past and current work – and to celebrate.

More than 200 people – former and current students, colleagues and friends – gathered at the School on April 12 and 13 to honor Earp’s long and successful career in public health, a career that included 1960s activism, educating and mentoring hundreds of students, researching and advocating for women’s health, civil rights, and greater health care quality, equity and access; and leading one of the finest departments of health behavior in the nation.
An afternoon symposium on April 12 brought together distinguished speakers that included School alumni and former faculty members. After welcoming remarks by Dean Barbara K. Rimer and current health behavior chair, Leslie Lytle, PhD, audience members were treated to three panel presentations:
  • From Disaster to Victory: Health Behavior Alumni Changing the World, Even in the Face of Obstacles, with: Kristie Long Foley, PhD, professor and associate director of medical humanities at Davidson College; Nicole Bates, DrPH, MPH, director of global advocacy and policy strategy, polio eradication, vaccines and child health, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Ingrid Morris, MPH, director of product support at N.C. Prevention Partners; Gina Upchurch, MPH, founding executive director, Senior PharmAssist; and Ronda Zakocs, PhD, MPH, public health consultant.
  • Inventing the Future: Significant Contributions of HB Alumni, with: Jillian Casey, MPH, senior associate, National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors; Adina Kalet, MD, MPH, Gold Professor of Humanism and Professionalism, New York University School of Medicine; Rebecca Kohler, MPH, senior vice president for corporate strategy and development at IntraHealth International; Amy Lansky, PhD, MPH, deputy director for surveillance, epidemiology and laboratory science in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Liana Richardson, PhD, MA, MPH, assistant professor of sociology at UNC-Chapel Hill.
  • The UNC Department of Health Behavior as a Proving Ground: HB Faculty in Their Early Years, with Rosalind Thomas, MPH, research scientist at the AIDS Institute in the Bureau of STD Prevention and Epidemiology at New York State Department of Health; Mark Daniel, PHD, MSc, professor of epidemiology and head of the School of Population Health, University of South Australia; Sandra Quinn, PhD, associate dean for public health initiatives, professor of family science and senior associate director of the Center for Health Equity at the School of Public Health, University of Maryland at College Park; Arjumand Siddiqi, PhD, assistant professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and adjunct assistant professor at the Gillings School; and Victor Strecher, PhD, professor and director of innovation and social entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

“It’s hard to express how terrific it was for me to see so many of my good friends, colleagues and mentees together for that long weekend,” Earp said. “It struck me that virtually every participant at that grand reunion – what my friend Elizabeth [French] called ‘Earpfest’ – is making an important difference in the world. Seeing the collective impact of friends, colleagues, alumni and students makes a strong case for my general sense of optimism, about my belief in our capacity to make positive change in the world, and for why I chose this career path. As I’ve said many times: ‘best job in the world, best place to work.'”

The symposium was followed by a reception and dinner at Chapel Hill’s Carolina Inn.
On Saturday, April 13, current and former students, faculty and administrators and their families greeted Earp at an ice cream social in the atrium of the Michael Hooker Research Center.
“It was inspiring from beginning to end,” said recent graduate Nakeva Wilkins (MPH, 2013). Participating in the symposium and hearing each of the speakers talk about their work made me so proud to be affiliated with the department and School. The whole weekend further affirmed for me how many different, valuable kinds of career paths are possible with my Master of Public Health in health behavior.”
Earp joined the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty in 1974 after completing her Doctor of Science degree in behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University. She served as department chair from 1996 to 2005 and 2008 to 2012. Her many awards include designation by the National Cancer Institute’s Research-tested Intervention Program for the N.C. Breast Screening Program (NC-BCSP) in 2011; becoming an Academic Leadership Program fellow at the UNC-Chapel Hill Institute of the Arts and Humanities (2006); receiving the UNC Women’s Leadership Council Mentoring Award (2008), the John Larsh Jr. Award for Mentorship at the Gillings School (2005), the Greenberg Alumni Award for outstanding teaching (1996), the McGavran Award for Teaching (1983), and the N.C. Equity Carpathian Award for Research on Women and Health (1994).
“In the end,” says Earp,” although I certainly am proud of my work with the N.C. Breast Cancer Screening Program and helping reduce inequities and disparities in health-care access in other ways, my primary role as a faculty member in the Gillings School of Global Public Health has been as advocate, connector, bridge-builder, ally, supporter, cheerleader, networker, really a guardian of what was entrusted to me. For almost 40 years, I’ve been privileged to play this role with hundreds of students and dozens and dozens of faculty members. I can’t imagine a more rewarding work life.”


Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu.