Thomas to lead MEASURE Evaluation, UNC’s largest grant program

November 08, 2012
Dr. Jim Thomas

Dr. Jim Thomas

James C. Thomas, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at Gillings School of Global Public Health at The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, has been appointed director of MEASURE Evaluation, a project within the Carolina Population Center (CPC).

In 2008, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded up to $181 million for the six-year Monitoring and Evaluation to Assess and Use Results (MEASURE) project, which continues to be the largest award received by UNC-Chapel Hill.
Project personnel, who work in more than 40 countries, build country health information systems, train public health workers, evaluate programs, develop evaluation tools and help set international health agendas.
Thomas, MEASURE Evaluation’s deputy director for HIV and infectious diseases since 2010, is a CPC faculty fellow with more than 30 years’ experience in public health. He has worked in more than 20 countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.
Since arriving at UNC in 1989, he has served as principal investigator for more than 22 research projects and co-investigator for several others. He was principal author of the public health code of ethics and served as an ethics adviser to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I cannot imagine a more exciting and fulfilling place to be in public health,” Thomas said. “Because MEASURE Evaluation is based at UNC, we have one foot in the world of cutting-edge academics and the other in direct application of public health to those most in need.”
Thomas succeeds Sian Curtis, PhD, associate professor of maternal and child health at Gillings School of Global Public Health, who had served as MEASURE Evaluation director since 2002. During her tenure, the project was twice re-awarded and has more than tripled in size. Project staff members have worked to develop monitoring and evaluation systems to support global HIV/AIDS and malaria programs and have worked with agencies including UNAIDS, the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
“The past ten years have been a tremendous professional experience for me,” Curtis said. “I have been fortunate to work with so many talented and committed people… and I am excited by the new opportunities that are developing in evaluation of global health interventions.”
The first iteration of the current project began in 1991 as the USAID-funded EVALUATION project, focusing on population and reproductive health programs. Over the last 21 years, the project’s scope has grown to encompass all areas of health in which USAID works and has incorporated cross-cutting elements such as capacity building, data use and gender dimensions of monitoring and evaluation.
Thomas and colleagues in the project recognized that UNC’s contributions to evaluation extend well beyond MEASURE Evaluation. They took the initiative to pull UNC’s experts together into a UNC Evaluation Community. Members of this group share insights, resources and opportunities to contribute to UNC’s global leadership in evaluation.
“MEASURE Evaluation is based on the idea that better public health information leads to better decision making about resources,” Thomas said. “That leads in turn to better programs and better health. This is meaningful work for all of us [and constitutes] a global leadership role that the university and the state can be proud of.”
Read more about the MEASURE Evaluation program online.


UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications,
(919) 962-2600 or