August 6, 2021

Dr. Noel Brewer

Dr. Noel Brewer

Leaders at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health are pleased to announce that Noel Brewer, PhD, professor of health behavior and renowned researcher of vaccine uptake and health decision science, has been named Gillings Distinguished Professor in Public Health.

Brewer is one of the world’s top researchers in risk beliefs and communication and is a leading authority on the science behind vaccination practices and vaccine hesitancy. He has authored 300 publications and, since 2017, has been featured in the acclaimed Highly Cited list from Clarivate. This list highlights researchers who produce multiple highly cited papers ranking in the top one percent of citations, demonstrating significant influence among peers. In 2020, he was one of eight Gillings faculty members to receive this honor.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Brewer has provided critical leadership and guidance on COVID-19 vaccination strategies to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC). He has given talks on the importance of risk and vaccine communication for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. In 2021, The Lancet also named him to their Commission for Vaccine Refusal, Acceptance, and Demand in the USA.

“Dr. Brewer’s work is timely and critically important as the U.S. and world launch mass vaccination programs for COVID-19 in 2021, and he is sought out regularly for his expertise on decision science and vaccine uptake,” said Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH, Alumni Distinguished Professor and dean of the Gillings School. “He is a member of the CDC’s Vaccine Confidence Work Group, the WHO’s COVID-19 Vaccines Risk Communication Plan Working Group and their Working Group on Behavioral and Social Drivers of Vaccination. He also has chaired the National HPV Vaccination Roundtable since 2014.”

Brewer has advised on vaccination for human papillomavirus (HPV) and other vaccine-preventable diseases for the WHO, CDC, NVAC, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the President’s Cancer Panel. Along with fellow colleagues, Brewer pioneered the Announcement Approach Training, which teaches health care providers to communicate more effectively about HPV vaccination and other vaccines for adolescents. This communication approach, which is recommended by the National Cancer Institute, is now in use by more than 1,700 providers in 15 states and England and has significantly increased HPV vaccine uptake.

In addition to his appointment at the Gillings School, Brewer is also a member of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. He has contributed to research on the harms of vaping and smoking and the effects of tobacco product warning labels. Findings from his work have been critical in the effort to implement enhanced warnings on cigarette packages through the FDA.

Brewer leads the Health Cognition and Behavior Lab at UNC, which fosters interdisciplinary collaboration between students and faculty to examine behaviors related to vaccination, risk perception, tobacco control, cancer screening and more. Several Gillings alumni who have completed training in his lab have gone on to become leaders in health behavior research, both at the Gillings School and beyond.

“I am thrilled to see Dr. Brewer receive this prestigious professorship,” said Kurt Ribisl, PhD, Jo Anne Earp Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Health Behavior. “His pioneering science in promoting vaccination behavior is guiding the COVID response efforts in North Carolina, our nation and the world. We are also thankful to Sir Dennis Gillings, CBE, for providing the funding to support distinguished scholars such as Dr. Brewer.”

Rimer added, “We are also grateful to Lady Mireille Gillings for her leadership at the Gillings School and look forward to working together to solve some of the world’s greatest health challenges and threats.”

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