HBHE Faculty Happenings

June 09, 2004

HBHE faculty members are on the move! Read below to learn more about faculty leaves, retirements, and research.Faculty Leaves:

HBHE department chair Jo Anne Earp and HBHE professor Carol Runyan (PhD ’83) were both awarded sabbatical leaves by the University to focus on research and scholarly writing. Jo Anne, who received a Kenan Sabbatical leave for the fall semester, will be spending part of her time in the Big Apple as a visiting professor at New York University. While there, she plans to write a book focusing on life stories of the lay health advisors she worked with in eastern North Carolina as part of her 10-year North Carolina Breast Cancer Screening Program. She will also continue planning for the Department’s second patient advocacy conference, to be held in March, 2005. “It’s a real honor to be selected for a Kenan Leave,” Jo Anne said. “I relish the ‘protected time’ this will give me to put together a book I’ve been thinking about writing for a long time .It doesn’t hurt that I’ll be able to take in a few good plays, go to museums, and visit some of my favorite HBHE alums, too!” HBHE professor Jim Sorenson will serve as interim chair during Jo Anne’s absence this fall.

Professor Carol Runyan, who received an RJ Reynolds Sabbatical leave, will be dividing her time between Chapel Hill, Washington, D.C., and Canada in spring, 2005 as she pursues her research into public health and public policy implications of youth employment. Carol recently finished up two major research projects collecting the first data to examine, from a national perspective, teen employment practices and parental involvement in decision-making. Her second study examines the hazards youth encounter when they work in construction. During her semester leave, Carol aims to finish her analyses of these data sets, gather qualitative data about existing policies and programs associated with protecting employed youth, and prepare an edited volume of new findings and synthesis pieces focused on youth employment.

Associate professor Christine Jackson will be taking a leave of absence, starting this summer, to work on research with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE). As many HBHEs know, PIRE’s Chapel Hill office houses many ongoing evaluation projects that assess programming and policy initiatives designed to prevent underage substance use. PIRE’s research portfolio focus dovetails nicely with Chris’s interests, which include the development of preventive interventions for children and families, evaluation research methods, and the design and evaluation of community-based interventions, all to prevent substance abuse. Her current research includes a study of the role of parenting, child competency development, and the onset of tobacco and alcohol use. Chris will be joining other HBHE’s doing research at PIRE, including the department’s own doctorally-trained Bob Flewelling (PhD 1991), Beth Moracco (PhD 1999), Chris Ringwalt (DrPH 1995), Victoria Sanchez (DrPH 1999), and master’s prepared Jo Birckmayer (MPH ’92) (she works in the Calverton office of PIRE), and Amy Vincus (MPH 1995). Amy now collaborates with HBHE associate professor Susan Ennett on Susan’s large Context of Adolescent Substance Use project. HBHE-PIRE connections abound: long-time HBHE research associate Denise Dickinson (MPH 1991) very recently joined PIRE’s staff; Beth Moracco, who was a research assistant professor in HBHE from 1999 until 2003, continues to work with a number of our master’s and doctoral students; and professors Allan Steckler and Karl Bauman often consult with PIRE as senior advisors.

Faculty Retirements:

Professor Elizabeth (“Betty”) Mutran retired from UNC this winter after 16 years of service to the Department, School and University. She joined HBHE in 1987 as an established nationally known sociologist working in the areas of self concept and physical and mental health among the aging. As a faculty member of HBHE, she directed her empirical focus toward research in the field of determinants of health services use among the elderly and those near the end of life.

Although she formally retired from HBHE 3 years ago, she maintained her appointment as director of the UNC Center on Minority Aging, where she continued her strong commitment to working with new investigators interested in minority aging. The Center was funded through the National Institute of Nursing Research, the National Institute on Aging, and the precursor to the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. This was her largest grant and the one she personally saw as most meaningful. The Center on Minority Aging provided an opportunity to collaborate with faculty on UNC’s campus as well as with the department of Health Education at North Carolina Central University. It also provided a mechanism for mentoring HBHE students who were interested in working with this population.

Through a number of grants, including ones on retirement, life-sustaining treatments, and long-term care, Betty is known for starting and maintaining a departmental focus on public health aging research. Her life work in this field was recently honored during the UNC Institute on Aging’s annual conference, The Aging Exchange, which brought together researchers from UNC’s Schools of Social Work, Nursing, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Medicine and Public Health to focus on education, research and practice toward improving the status of the elderly.

Pretty soon, HBHEs won’t be seeing professor James Sorenson walking the halls of Rosenau as often as usual. He plans to retire in January, 2005, right after his one-semester stint as acting chair this coming fall. Jim has been a member of the HBHE faculty since 1985. At that time, he left his position as chief of the Social and Behavioral Science Section at the Boston University School of Public Health, to tackle the job of department chair at HBHE. Under his leadership, from 1985 until 1996, Jim launched an effort to refocus the department’s educational mission on graduate level training and to enlarge the role of research and the doctoral program. During his time as chair, the undergraduate program was disbanded (1995); in its place, the Department revised and expanded its doctoral program from 1 or 2 students per cohort to 5 or 10. Faculty got more involved with funded research, particularly intervention research informed by behavioral and social science theories, methods and concepts. Also, during his tenure as chair, HBHE changed its name from the Department of Health Education to Health Behavior and Health Education to reflect an increasing focus on health behavior research.

In recent years, Jim’s own research has focused on the design and evaluation of health promotion and disease prevention interventions, applied human genetics, and health promotion for maternal and child health. His work also focuses on the relationship between heath behavior research and public policy as well as ethical issues in health promotion and disease prevention. Jim has been executive editor of the research journal, Health Education Research: Theory and Practice for the past eight years. Finally, Jim has worked extensively over the past decade with the National Human Genome Research Institute at the NIH in a variety of consulting capacities and has conducted numerous funded large-scale research projects translating discoveries in genetics and genomics into public health and medical practice and policy.

Ever ready with a wry remark, Jim pondered a moment when asked to share some thoughts about his upcoming retirement. “Into this Universe, and why not knowing,” he declaimed, quoting Edward FitzGerald’s translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:

Nor whence, like Water, willy-nilly flowing: And out of it, as Wind along the Waste, I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing.

“On a less wry note, Jim concluded: “I began my professional journey 35 years ago. It has been a privilege to be a member of this faculty, first as Chair, and more recently as Professor, for nearly 20 of these 35 years.”

Faculty Research:

Professor Carol Runyan and her team of researchers have been funded for $3.7 million over 4 years to develop an online injury training program, PREVENT: Preventing Violence through Education, Networking and Technical Assistance. This program is designed to disseminate what is known about what works (and what doesn’t work) with regard to violence in its various forms. Specifically, the program will provide education, networking opportunities, and technical assistance for individuals and organizations nationwide that are involved in the effort to reduce violence through local, state, tribal and national approaches. PREVENT is supported by a cooperative agreement from the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. To carry out this work, Carol has put together an interdisciplinary UNC team that includes Drs. Sandra Martin, Tamera Coyne-Beasley, Steve Orton and Karl Umble as well as Ms. Carol Gunther-Mohr. As Carol says, “this project is daunting in its scope, but is a terrific opportunity to make a major impact on the development of infrastructure for addressing one of our most important public health problems.” She also notes that the project builds on three years of work in developing the National Training Initiative – an effort focused on all injury problems, not just violence. To learn more visit: www.injuryed.org.

Professor Eugenia Eng (DrPH 1983) was recently awarded $1.1 million dollars by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to carry out her 3-year Men as Navigators for Health participatory action research proposal. This project builds on a 10-year partnership among the UNC School of Public Health, 3 local health departments and 3 community coalitions. The program will work with two populations, African American and Latino men, and will focus on specific needs these communities have identified: better cardiovascular and prostate cancer health outcomes among African American men; and better sexual health outcomes among Latino men. Specifically, MAN for Health focuses on two factors that contribute to gender and racial health disparities: male gender socialization within communities that promotes men’s high risk attitudes and behaviors; and organizational culture within institutions that promotes institutionalized racism and limits male-focused services. About her work in developing this proposal, Geni noted that, “the most substantial challenge has been establishing the trust and collaboration of men in African American and Latino communities, who have often in the past either been ignored by local health departments or exploited by the academic research community.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently awarded associate professor Vangie Foshee (PhD ’89) two major 3-year grants simultaneously. She will use both grants to extend her research on dating violence. For one project, she will use a developmental perspective to look at the interrelationships among violence directed towards peers, dates (psychological, physical and sexual dating violence), and self (suicide attempts). Her research will also identify risk factors across these types of violence from four levels of influence: individual, peer, family and neighborhood. This longitudinal study, which follows youth from grades 6 till 10, builds on Vangie’s previous research on partner violence. Other HBHE faculty collaborating with Vangie on her study are professor emeritus Karl Bauman and associate professor Susan Ennett. For her second project Families for Safe Dates, Vangie and colleagues are developing and piloting a family-based program designed, once again, to address multiple types of youth violence. The content of the program will draw heavily from her highly successful Safe-Dates curriculum, a school-based dating violence prevention program, and combine together elements from Dr. Bauman’s model NIH program, Family Matters.

Associate professor Susan Ennett is partnering with Chris Ringwalt (DrPH ’95) at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) to follow up on earlier research into teen substance use. Specifically, the two will continue their long-term collaboration with a longitudinal study to determine the impact of a program, Family Matters, originally developed by now retired HBHE professor Karl Bauman. The current study will look at the long-term effects of a family program designed to reduce tobacco and alcohol use by adolescents 12 to 14 years of age. The project will collect a fourth round of telephone interview data from the adolescents first interviewed 8 years ago, who are now young adults aged 20 to 22. Study results will provide direction for all who are interested in supporting the effective dissemination and institutionalization of evidence-based curricula.

Assistant professor Guadalupe “Suchi” Ayala, together with HBHE doctoral student Delesha Miller, received a grant from the American Lung Association to design an asthma management intervention for middle school students. The project is in collaboration with the Orange County Asthma Coalition and the Chapel Hill/Carrboro School District. In other news, Suchi recently coauthored two papers. One study, to be published in Health Psychology, provides evidence of the effectiveness of a tailored communication nutrition intervention for Latinas. The second, which will appear in Social Science and Medicine, demonstrates the relationship between acculturation and physical activity among first generation immigrant Latinas in North Carolina.

For further information please contact Catherine Vorick either by phone at 919-966-3918 or by email at cvorick@email.unc.edu