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Spotlight on Dr. Jo Anne Earp

Jo Anne Earp, ScD

Jo Anne Earp, ScD

Jo Anne Earp, ScD just treated herself to a trip to Ireland. After recently stepping down as Chair of the Department of Health Behavior at UNC’s Gillings School of Public Health, a position she held for 13 years, she deserves to celebrate.

Earp earned her Doctorate in Behavioral Science from Johns Hopkins University in 1974 and began her career at UNC as a research assistant professor that same year. Earp has now been UNC faculty for 38 years.

In her tenure at UNC, Earp has focused her research on, among other things, patient advocacy, women’s health, and social determinants of health. In 2002, a UNC Master’s in Public Health graduate, Clarence Pearson, approached her with an idea. Pearson’s son, who died from cancer at age 39, had seen upward of thirty doctors in his last several months of life. Seeing the lack of communication among his son’s physicians, Pearson and his wife became determined to improve patient advocacy. He called upon Earp and together they developed the Patient Advocacy Summit. Earp and colleagues then developed a second conference, a book on patient advocacy, and a UNC class on patient advocacy.

Earp is also known for the North Carolina Breast Cancer Screening Project. In 2011, the National Cancer Institute designated the project a Research-tested Intervention Program (or RTIP). Using lay health advisors and community outreach specialists, the program reduced late-stage diagnosis of breast cancer in older African-American women living in eastern North Carolina. Since its launch in 1993, the intervention has become a national model.

Needless to say, Earp has been busy in her last 38 years. Although she no longer serves as Chair, it seems unlikely she’ll slow down. She’ll continue to teach and, with her newfound free time, she’ll spend more time on her hobbies – traveling, reading, and watching movies.

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