During the 2015-2016 academic year, the Department of Health Behavior added four faculty members and promoted several others. Longstanding faculty members, Research Associate Professor Michael Bowling and Professor Vangie Foshee retired. Research Assistant Professor Alexandra Lightfoot, Professor Geni Eng and Associate Professor Wizdom Powell were recognized with university or external awards.
Letter from the chair
I am so proud to be the chair of this wonderful department. The impressive body of research that our faculty are engaged in, our students’ and faculty’s commitment to the health of populations, and our alumni’s leadership in the field of public health make this department one of the best in the nation.
This year the department participated in the Graduate Program Review, a process that occurs every seven years and includes an evaluation from external reviewers of our academic programs, faculty, students and alumni. Many of you participated in the process through completing a survey or meeting with the external review team. Feedback from the reviewers was overwhelmingly positive. I want to share three quotes from the report they submitted to the UNC Graduate School that speak to the quality of the program, faculty, students and alumni:
“The Department of Health Behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health is widely recognized as one of the premier programs of its type nationally, largely due to the scholarly contributions of its faculty members. Beyond their considerable individual talents and accomplishments, the faculty members feel like a real team that works together, cares about each other, and tries to encourage the development of all.”
“The Department’s success to date in attracting and enrolling top students in the face of competition speaks volumes about the reputation and quality of the program.”
“For all of the highly impressive contributions that the department and its faculty members have made to the science of health behavior, its greatest contribution to the field may be populating it with graduates who carry forward its mission and values with passion and skill in leadership positions throughout the world.”
The exceptional quality of our students and alumni was evident to our external reviewers as it is to me every day. The outstanding achievements and success of our students and alumni are truly remarkable. The strength of the training that we offer is seen in our graduates’ ability to get good jobs and to become leaders in the field of public health as alumni from our program. We would like to hear more from our alumni and with the help of Hannah Prentice-Dunn, Judith Winkler, communications director and Helena Knego, assistant to the chair, we will work to connect more often and to share news and information with each other. Please don’t be shy to share your news with us!
Leslie Lytle, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Health Behavior.
Faculty appointments during academic year 2015-2016
Marcella Boynton, PhD, joined the faculty as a research assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior in July 2016. Boynton is a behavioral health researcher with expertise in health decision-making theory, complex survey design and sophisticated regression-based data analytic techniques. She conducts research across a wide range of health domains, including tobacco use, alcohol misuse, maternal and child health and cancer prevention.
Nisha Gottfredson, PhD, joined the faculty as an assistant professor in July 2015. Gottfredson is a quantitative psychologist. After earning her doctorate from UNC she completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Duke University’s Transdisciplinary Prevention Research Center where she focused on ecological momentary assessments and stress. While completing the postdoctoral fellowship, Gottfredson taught in the psychology department at UNC Chapel Hill. After the fellowship, she worked as a statistician first with UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and then with the Center for Developmental Science. In addition to her strong methodological skills, Gottfredson studies the impact of affect regulatory mechanisms and binge eating on drug recovery.
Alexandra Lightfoot, EdD, joined the faculty as a research assistant professor. Lightfoot has extensive experience using the community-based participatory research approach to address health disparities in collaboration with communities across North Carolina. Lightfoot is director of the Community Engagement, Partnerships and Technical Assistance Core at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. She has extensive experience using arts-based approaches to engage communities and interventions.
Carmina Valle, PhD, joined the faculty as a research assistant professor. Valle’s research focuses on developing and evaluating technology-based behavior change interventions to eliminate disparities in cancer. Her research interests include using mobile phone apps and other technologies to promote physical activity and weight control, health behavior interventions for underserved and young adult cancer survivors and tailored health communications.
Faculty promotions during academic year 2015-2016
Noel Brewer, PhD, was promoted to professor in spring 2016. Brewer is a social psychologist who studies how people make risky health decisions. His current work focuses on increasing HPV vaccination, communicating the harms of smoking and encouraging appropriate use of screening.
Laura Linnan, ScD, was appointed associate dean for academic and student affairs in early 2016. Linnan is a professor in health behavior, a researcher and founding director of the Carolina Collaborative for Research on Work and Health. She has ties to several other UNC programs and centers.
Clare Barrington, PhD, was promoted to associate professor during the 2015 fall semester. Barrington is also the Latin American projects director at the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases and a fellow at the Carolina Population Center. She conducts mixed-methods research to examine social network and structural influences on health and health behaviors.
Deborah Tate, PhD, was promoted to professor in fall 2015. Tate’s research focuses upon behavioral weight management, particularly strategies that are delivered through web-based and mobile platforms. She researches short- and long-term weight loss and programs using alternatives to clinic-based care.
Wizdom Powell, PhD, was promoted to associate professor in fall 2015. Powell is recognized nationally for the impact of her work addressing social determinants of health inequities among boys and men of color. She examines the widely acknowledged “gender paradox” that men, despite having more social power than women, are more likely to experience premature death than women.
Faculty retirements during academic year 2015-2016
Michael Bowling, PhD, research associate professor, retired in spring 2016. Bowling is a survey sampling statistician. His primary research interests are the evaluation of health interventions, particularly those that have injury prevention and criminal justice components. He conducted several studies designed to identify the combination of individual, organizational and community-level factors that predict whether North Carolina women obtain domestic violence protective orders. Bowling joined the health behavior faculty in 1994 and was an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Biostatistics.
Vangie Foshee, PhD, professor, retired in spring 2016. Foshee’s research interests include adolescent problem behaviors, determinants and social ecology of adolescent dating violence, intervention research, and cigarette smoking and alcohol use. Foshee earned a doctorate in health behavior from the Gillings School and joined the faculty in 1991. She continues to work with the department as an adjunct professor.
Selected faculty awards received during academic year 2015-2016
Geni Eng, DrPH, professor of health behavior, was one of eight faculty members presented with the UNC Gillings’ annual Teaching Innovation Award. The awards honor faculty members who students feel “improve the learning environment at the Gillings School by integrating new technologies, engaging students in interactive activities, employing creative assessment methods, and introducing and incorporating progressive curriculum ideas into the classroom.”
Alexandra Lightfoot, EdD, research assistant professor, received the 2015 Tom Bruce Award for community-based public health (CBPH) research at a November meeting of the American Public Health Association. The award, established in 2006 to celebrate the work and legacy of Thomas Allen Bruce, MD, who is known as the “father of CBPH,” recognizes one individual per year who exemplifies leadership in the field.
Lightfoot was also named one of ten Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars for 2016-2018. The program is aimed at understanding and pursuing community engagement through scholarly endeavors. During the two-year program, scholars participate in sessions in community settings focused on exemplary University-community partnerships.
Wizdom Powell, PhD, associate professor, was awarded Carolina’s Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement by Young Faculty in fall 2015. Powell is recognized nationally for her work in public health and health policy as it relates to gender and race. She has made significant breakthroughs in the understanding of health at the intersection of gender and race as it applies to men of color and in adoption of research-based approaches to health disparities and mental health policy. In spring 2015, Powell was awarded a residency at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy where she will further her research.