September 10, 2021

Dr. Cleo Samuel-Ryals

Dr. Cleo Samuel-Ryals

Cleo Samuel-Ryals, PhD, associate professor of health policy and management at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, is one of four faculty members who have been awarded the 2021 Phillip and Ruth Hettleman Prizes for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement.

The late Phillip Hettleman, a member of the UNC-Chapel Hill class of 1921, and his wife Ruth established the prestigious award in 1986 to recognize the achievements of outstanding junior faculty who exemplify groundbreaking and innovative research along with future career promise. The recipients of the $5,000 prize were recognized at the Sept. 3 Faculty Council Meeting, and each will deliver a virtual presentation on their research during University Research Week.

Along with Samuel-Ryals, this year’s Hettleman Prize awardees include Nicholas Law, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy within the College of Arts & Sciences; Alice Marwick, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Communication within the College of Arts & Sciences; and Daniel Matute, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Biology within the College of Arts & Sciences.

Samuel-Ryals is a health services researcher whose research, teaching and service activities demonstrate her steadfast commitment to racial justice and health equity. Her research foci include disentangling the multilevel sources of inequities — such as clinician bias and structural racism — in palliative and supportive cancer care and addressing such inequities through system-level approaches that leverage health informatics tools and community partnerships.

She is currently the principal investigator of Symptom and Healthcare Access Reporting and Evaluation (SHARE) for Supportive Care Equity, a five-year National Cancer Institute-funded study focused on understanding and addressing racial inequities in symptom management among patients with cancer. As part of the SHARE study, Samuel-Ryals and her team are analyzing data from the UNC Health Registry/Cancer Survivorship Cohort to inform the development of a novel electronic patient-reported outcome tool designed to routinely monitor symptoms and symptom-relevant health care access challenges during cancer treatment.

“Samuel-Ryals has a most impressive record of research funding, peer-reviewed publications, teaching, mentoring and service,” said Morris Weinberger, PhD, Vergil N. Slee Distinguished Professor of Healthcare Quality Management and chair of the health and policy management department, and Stephanie Wheeler, PhD, professor of health policy and management and associate director of community outreach and engagement at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Her research will not only increase our understanding of health disparities but also guide the development of interventions that improve the lives of cancer patients.”

In 2019, Samuel-Ryals was honored as a 40 Under 40 Leader in Minority Health by the National Minority Quality Forum and Congressional Black Caucus. In 2020, she was appointed to serve on the National Cancer Policy Forum within the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Samuel-Ryals is also the Founding Director of the Centering Racial Equity in Data Science (CREDS) Initiative within the UNC Lineberger Cancer Outcomes Research Program.

Samuel-Ryals earned a doctorate in health policy from Harvard University. She also holds a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Miami.

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