Health Behavior Faculty News – Spring 2019

May 13

Suzanne Maman, PhD, professor and vice chair in health behavior and co-leader of the Master of Public Health global health concentration, has been named UNC faculty director at the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center. The Center is one of six Rotary Peace Centers worldwide that train students to become leaders in peace building and conflict resolution.

Maman assumes the position from  Margaret (Peggy) Bentley, PhD, Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor in the Department of Nutrition and associate dean for global health.

As UNC faculty director, Maman will nurture the experience of fellows by working closely with managing director Susan Carroll, the faculty director at Duke and Rotary board members.

May 11

Beth Moracco

Dr. Moracco

Beth Moracco, PhD, associate professor of health behavior received a McGavran Award for Excellence in Teaching for 2019. The award honors Edward G. McGavran, MD, MPH, dean of the UNC School of Public Health from 1947 to 1963 and proponent of “hands-on” field training for public health students. First given in 1975, the award recognizes career-long excellence in teaching by a faculty member at the Gillings School.

Moracco earned a doctoral degree from the Gillings School in 1999, joined the Department of Health Behavior faculty in 2008 and has served as director of the master’s program since 2012. As a researcher and public health practitioner, she is skilled in intervention development and evaluation research and an expert in engaging with communities and community-based organizations.

“I am delighted to nominate Beth Moracco for this award,” wrote one faculty member. “Since returning to her alma mater in 2009, she has demonstrated unwavering commitment to the excellence of the health behavior department’s training programs through her teaching, mentoring and advocacy. Beth averages ten assigned advisees each year, and countless other students flock to her for mentoring. Whether students are seeking advice about evaluation methods or a personal crisis, Beth can be counted on to provide thoughtful guidance that is rooted in integrity.

April 24

Photo: Dr. Lynn Blanchard

Dr. Lynn Blanchard

Lynn White Blanchard, PhD, associate professor of health behavior and director of the Carolina Center for Public Service, received the Massey Award, a prestigious award that recognizes unusual, meritorious or superior contributions. The six 2019 recipients were honored at an awards luncheon on April 27. Each awardee receives a $10,000 stipend.

Blanchard completed a master’s degree and doctorate in health behavior. Since 200, she has been director of the Carolina Center for Public Service, home of APPLES Service-Learning, the Buckley Public Service Scholars Program and the Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars Program. She is primarily interested in research around public service, including community partnerships and collaboration, programmatic evaluation and service learning.

The center coordinates the University’s disaster response. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Michael and Florence in 2018, Blanchard organized relief efforts that delivered 60,000 pounds of supplies to affected areas.

April 24

PHOTO: Meg Landfried

Meg Landfried

Meg Landfried, MPH, assistant professor, received the Engaged Teaching Award for 2019 for her work developing the Health Behavior Capstone course. Offered by the Office of the Provost, the award rewards a faculty member whose work is an example of excellence, including responsiveness to community concerns and strong community partnerships.

Within the Department of Health Behavior, Landfried works with the MPH program director and Master’s Advisory Committee to manage the program. She directs health behavior’s year-long, community-led, group-based, mentored service-learning course that is the culminating experience for health behavior MPH students. She has provided leadership to the evolution of the MPH programs across Gillings and is taking on an expanded schoolwide role as MPH practicum director for all the MPH concentrations that include a practicum.

Landfried also is the coordinator for MPH/MCRP dual-degree program that brings together the disciplines of health behavior and city and regional planning.

April 22

Dr. Laura Linnan

Dr. Laura Linnan

Maija Leff

Maija Leff

Workplace health promotion programs are increasing in the United States according to a study authored by Laura Linnan, ScD, professor in the Gillings School’s Department of Health Behavior. Nearly half of all workplaces in the nation offer some level of health promotion or wellness programs, and 17 percent of workplaces with 50 or more employees offer comprehensive workplace health promotion programs. Maija Leff, MPH, project director for the Carolina Collaborative for Research on Work and Health, is a co-author on the paper.

“Most American adults work, and many spend half or more of their waking hours at work,” Linnan said. “Where we work, how long we work, the conditions of our work, who we work with – all of these factors impact our health. Employers have an opportunity to shape work environments and work conditions in ways that support employee health.

April 11

Dr. Noel Brewer

Dr. Noel Brewer

Noel Brewer, PhD, professor of health behavior and a nationally known tobacco researcher, was quoted by Reuters this week. Brewer responded to an analysis of data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health that found that teen smoking dropped by half in urban areas in the period 2014-2016 compared with the 2008-2010 period, while the drop was only a third in rural areas.

According to Brewer, “[This could mean] we’re going to have larger differences down the road with more people smoking in rural areas than urban areas, and it’s going to create a new public health problem that we haven’t really had before.”

March 27

Dr. Alexandra Lightfoot

Dr. Alexandra Lightfoot

Alexandra Lightfoot, EdD, assistant professor of health behavior, is our department’s recipient of  the Gillings School’s student-nominated Teaching Excellence and Innovation Award, which honors faculty members who inspire students; enhance student learning through creative, engaging and innovative teaching methods; or support student success in the classroom and student growth as public health professionals.

Lightfoot is one of nine faculty members announced at this year’s annual Teaching Innovation Awards ceremony. The award carries a $1,000 prize that is intended to help the awardee’s educational development in teaching and learning.

Lightfoot a national award-winning leader in using community-based participatory research (CBPR) to address health disparities in collaboration with communities and serves as director of Community Engagement, Partnerships and Technical Assistance at the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

February 5

Dr. Kurt Ribisl

Dr. Kurt Ribisl

Kurt Ribisl, PhD, professor and chair of health behavior, was named one of the most prolific e-cigarette scientists in a study published Jan. 24 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.  The article, “Bibliometric Analysis of Electronic Cigarette Publications: 2003-2018,” also mentioned health behavior faculty, students and alumni who are active researchers in this area, among these: Noel Brewer, PhD, professor of health behavior; Marcella Boynton, PhD, assistant professor  of health behavior; Marissa Hall, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center; and current and former graduate students Sabeeh Baig, PhD,  Catherine Jo, PhD, Amanda Kong, MPH, Joseph Lee, PhD,  Allison Myers, PhD, Elizabeth Orlan, doctoral student, and Andrew Seidenberg, MPH.

“We have prioritized conducting e-cigarette studies at UNC since shortly after they were introduced in the U.S.,” Ribisl said. “E-cigarettes are a double-edged sword that are becoming alarmingly popular among youth, but under certain conditions, a well-regulated e-cigarette could help some adults quit smoking and serve as a powerful harm-reduction product.”

Ribisl noted that, 2014 alumna Jessica Pepper, PhD, who conducted one of the first dissertations on e-cigarettes during her time at Gillings, also was recognized as one of the most prolific e-cigarette researchers.

February 4

Dr. Sam Cykert

Dr. Sam Cykert

Dr. Geni Eng

Dr. Geni Eng

Sam Cykert, MD, professor of medicine at the UNC School of Medicine, adjunct professor of health policy and management at UNC Gillings,  and Geni Eng, DrPH, professor of health behavior, are  coauthors of an article in Cancer Medicine, which shows that a pragmatic system-based intervention within cancer treatment centers can eliminate existing disparities in treatment and outcomes for black patients with early-stage lung cancer across the U.S.

The research findings show treatment rates for both black and white patients increased dramatically after a three-part intervention. Before the intervention, treatment rates were 78 percent for white patients and 69 percent for black patients. With the intervention in place, treatment rates climbed to 95 percent for white patients and 96.5 percent for black patients.

The intervention had three parts – a real-time warning system derived from electronic health records, race-specific feedback to clinical teams on treatment completion rates and a nurse navigator effort to engage with patients throughout treatment.

January 25

Dr. Kate Muessig

Dr. Kate Muessig

Photo: Hightow-Weidman

Dr. Lisa Hightow-Weidman

Kate Muessig, PhD, assistant professor of health behavior at the Gillings School, is senior author of the paper, “‘Stay strong! keep ya head up! move on! it gets better!!!!’: Resilience processes in the healthMpowerment online intervention of young black gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men,” published online Jan. 11 in AIDS Care.

Co-authors include Lisa Hightow-Weidman, MD, MPH, associate professor of health behavior at the Gillings School and of infectious diseases at the UNC School of Medicine; doctoral candidates Natalie Blackburn and Willa Dong; and master’s degree alumnus Deren Pulley, all from the Department of Health Behavior.

The team analyzed data from HealthMpowerment (HMP), an anonymous online intervention designed by Hightow-Weidman that includes forums in which randomized controlled trial participants could generate new content or react to prepopulated or staff-generated conversations around topics identified as relevant by these individuals.

The team analyzed participants’ conversations focusing on resilience – a process through which individuals counter adversity and reduce or avoid negative outcomes.

January 24

Dr. Nisha Gottfredson

Nisha Gottfredson, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Health, recently was interviewed in UNC’s online series Women in Science Wednesdays.

Gottfredson sums up her research this way: “Recovery is hard – prevent addiction.”

Her research focuses upon how problems in substance abuse develop and especially how a child’s risk of addiction develops from birth to adulthood. She draws on expertise in quantitative psychology, math and the social ecological framework.

Gottfredson sums up the life of a working mom this way: “Being a working mom, it’s difficult to spend time on much else. But I am passionate about trying to raise good human beings. Other than that, I make time to exercise almost every day because it improves my mood and gives me energy to keep up with everything else going on in my life.”

Gottfredson is a faculty affiliate at the UNC Center for Developmental Science and an adjunct faculty member in UNC’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.

Read the brief interview .

Access expanded versions of many of these item in the Gillings School’s Health Behavior Newsfeed here.