Program in Health Disparities Research Staff and Associates

Crystal Wiley Cené, MD, MPH










Carson TL, Aguilera A, Brown SD, Peña J, Butler A, Dulin A, Jonassaint CR, Riley I, Vanderbom K, Molina KM, Cené CW. A Seat at the Table: Strategic Engagement in Service Activities for Early-Career Faculty From Underrepresented Groups in the Academy. Acad Med. 2019 Aug;94(8):1089-1093. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002603.

Cené CW, Halladay JR, Gizlice Z, Donahue KE, Cummings DM, Hinderliter A, Miller C, Johnson LF, Garcia B, Tillman J, Little EP, Rachide MR, Keyserling TC, Ammerman A, Zhou H, Wu JR, DeWalt D. A multicomponent quality improvement intervention to improve blood pressure and reduce racial disparities in rural primary care practices. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2017 Apr;19(4):351-360. doi: 10.1111/jch.12944. Epub 2016 Nov 25.

Thornton RL, Glover CM, Cené CW, Glik DC, Henderson JA, Williams DR. Evaluating Strategies For Reducing Health Disparities By Addressing The Social Determinants Of Health. Health Aff (Millwood). 2016 Aug 1;35(8):1416-23. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2015.1357. Review.

Cené CW, Dilworth-Anderson P, Leng I, Garcia L, Benavente V, Rosal M, Vaughan L, Coker LH, Corbie-Smith G, Kim M, Bell CL, Robinson JG, Manson JE, Cochrane B. Correlates of Successful Aging in Racial and Ethnic Minority Women Age 80 Years and Older: Findings from the Women’s Health Initiative. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2016 Mar;71 Suppl 1:S87-99. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glv099.

Cené CW, Haymore LB, Ellis D, Whitaker S, Henderson S, Lin FC, Corbie-Smith G. Implementation of the power to prevent diabetes prevention educational curriculum into rural African American communities: a feasibility study. Diabetes Educ. 2013 Nov-Dec;39(6):776-85. doi: 10.1177/0145721713507114. Epub 2013 Oct 15.


Samuel Cykert, MD

Samuel Cykert’s work focuses on interventions primarily to reduce Black-White disparities in cancer care and chronic disease management. His teams’ approach is to use digital systems to provide real time transparency for missed opportunities in care and to provide data feedback to clinical teams to promote accountability. Dr. Cykert’s goal is in partnership with community work to identify and measure outcomes that result from systems level bias, use system-based interventions to intercede and improve these outcomes, then to measure again to confirm improvements in care.










Cykert S, Eng E, Manning M, Robertson L, Heron D, Jones N, Schaal J, Zhou H, Yongue C, Gizlice Z. A Multi-Faceted Intervention Aimed at Black-White Disparities in the Treatment of Early Stage Cancers: The ACCURE Pragmatic Trial. J Natl Med Assoc. 2019 Mar 27. pii: S0027-9684(18)30191-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jnma.2019.03.001.


Cykert S, Eng E, Walker P, Manning M, Robertson L, Arya R, Jones N, Heron D. A system‐based intervention to reduce Black‐White disparities in the treatment of early stage lung cancer: A pragmatic trial at five cancer centers. Cancer Med. 2019;00:1–8.

Samuel, C.A., Schaal, J., Robertson, L., Kollie, J., Baker, S., Black, K., Mbah, O., Dixon, C., Ellis, K., Eng, E., Guerrab, F., Jones, N., Kotey, A., Morse, C., Taylor, J., Whitt, V., Cykert, S. Racial differences in symptom management during breast cancer treatment. Supportive Care in Cancer 2018 May;26(5):1425-1435 .

Cykert S, Dilworth-Anderson P, Monroe MH, Walker P,McGuire FR, Corbie-Smith G, Edwards LJ, Bunton AJ. Modifiable factors associated with decisions to undergo surgery among newly diagnosed patients with early stage lung cancer. JAMA 2010; 303(23): 2368-2376.

Cykert S. A New Paradigm: Approaching Racism as a Method of Disease Prevention. Chest 2014;145 (3):442-443.


Marisa Domino, PhD

Marisa Domino is a Professor and Health Economist in the Department of Health Policy and Management and the Director of the Sheps Program on Mental Health and Substance Use Services and Systems. Her interests in the efficiency and equity in Medicaid policies and for vulnerable populations drive her interests in health care disparities across race, ethnicity, gender, and among people with severe mental illness.









Song PH, Xu W, Chisolm D, Alexy E, Ferrari R, Hilligoss B, Domino, Marisa Elena, “How Does Being Part of a Pediatric ACO Impact Health Services Use for Children with Disabilities?” HSR, forthcoming.

Grove, Lexie R.+, Joel F. Farley, Karen E. Swietek+, Chris Beadles+, Alan R. Ellis, Carlos T. Jackson, C. Annette DuBard, Marisa Elena Domino (2019) “Medical Home Effects on Enrollees with Mental and Physical Illness.” American Journal of Managed Care, forthcoming.

Mona Kilany+, Joseph P. Morrissey, Marisa Elena Domino, Kathleen C. Thomas, Pam Silberman, “Utilization and Adherence in Medical Homes: An Assessment of Rural-Urban Differences for People with Severe Mental Illness.” June 2018 Medical Care 56(10): 870–876. PMC6298219.

Megan Shepherd-Banigan+, Marisa E. Domino, Rebecca Wells, Regina Rutledge+, Marianne M. Hillemeier, and Courtney H. Van Houtven. “Do maternity care coordination services encourage behavioral health treatment among pregnant women on Medicaid? Women’s Health Issues, pii:S1049-3867(16)30248-1. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2017.02.006. PMID: 28427755.

Sean K. Sayers+, Marisa E. Domino, Gary S. Cuddeback, Nadine J. Barrett+, and Joseph P. Morrissey (2017). “Connecting Mentally Ill Detainees in Large Urban Jails with Community Care” Psychiatric Quarterly, 88(2):323-333. PMID: 27342104.


Erin Kent, PhD

Erin E. Kent is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Dr. Kent’s focus is on the impact of social context on cancer control, which detecting, understanding, and reducing disparities through intervention plays a large role. Dr. Kent examines health disparities and health inequities along several dimensions, and at different phases of Kilbourne’s framework including detection, understanding, and reduction.









Rincon, M. A.,Yu, M., Smith, A. W., Kent, E. E. (Under Review). Trends in disparity of health-related quality of life by race/ethnicity and education in Medicare Advantage beneficiaries (1998-2012).

Lines, L. M. Cohen, J., Halpern, M. T., Smith, A. W., Kent, E. E. (In Press). Care Experiences among Dual (Medicare/Medicaid) and Special Needs Plan Enrollees with and without Cancer: SEER-CAHPS, 2005-2013. Cancer Causes & Control.

Kent, E. E., Wheldon, C., Smith, A. W., Srinivasan, S., Geiger, A. (2019). Cancer care delivery disparities faced by sexual and gender minority populations: a systematic review. Cancer, 125(24), 4371-4379.

Mollica, M. A., Weaver, K. E., McNeel, T. S., Schussler, N. C., Kent, E. E. (2018). Examining urban and rural differences in experiences among cancer patients: A SEER-CAHPS study. Cancer, 124(15):3257-3265.

Kent, E. E., Breen, N., Lewis, D., de Moor, J. S., Smith, A. W., Seibel, N. L. (2015). Trends in survival disparities among adolescents and young adults with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Cancer Causes & Control, 26(8):1153-62.

Kent, E. E., Forsythe, L. P., Yabroff, K. R., Weaver, K. E., de Moor, J. S., Rodriguez, J. L., Rowland, J. H. (2013). Are survivors who report cancer-related financial problems more likely to forgo or delay medical care? Cancer 119(20): 3710-7.


Valerie Lewis, PhD


Murray, Genevra F., Thomas D’Aunno, and Valerie A. Lewis. Forthcoming Feb 2020. “Upstream with a tiny paddle: ACO efforts to address social determinants of health.” Health Affairs.

Fraze, Taressa K., Amanda Brewster, Valerie A. Lewis, Genevra F. Murray*, and Carrie H. Colla. 2019. “Prevalence of Screening for Food, Housing, Utilities, Transportation, and Interpersonal Violence by Physician Practices and Hospitals.” JAMA Network Open 2(9):e1911514.

Lewis, Valerie A., Karen Joynt Maddox, Andrea Austin, Daniel Gottlieb, and Julie P.W. Bynum. 2019. “Developing and validating a measure to estimate poverty in Medicare administrative data.” Medical Care 57(8):601-607.

Lewis, Valerie A., Taressa Fraze, Elliott S. Fisher, Stephen M. Shortell, and Carrie H. Colla. 2017. “ACOs Serving High Proportions Of Racial And Ethnic Minorities Lag In Quality Performance.” Health Affairs 36(1):57-66.

Fraze, Taressa, Valerie A. Lewis, Hector Rodriguez, and Elliott S. Fisher. 2016. “Housing, Transportation, And Food: How ACOs Seek To Improve Population Health By Addressing Nonmedical Needs Of Patients.” Health Affairs 35(11):2109-2115.


Arrianna Planey, PhD












Bigman C.A., Smith M., Williamson L.D., Planey A.M., & McNeil Smith S. Selective sharing on social media: Examining the effects of race-related disparate impact frames on intentions to retransmit news stories among U.S. college students. New Media and Society. 21(11–12), 2691–2709.

Planey A.M., McNeil Smith S., Moore S., & Walker T. (2019). Barriers and Facilitators to Mental Health Help-Seeking among African American Youth and their Families: A Systematic Review Study. Children and Youth Services Review. 101, 190-200. DOI:

Planey A.M. (2019). Audiologist Availability and Supply in the United States: A Multi-Scale Spatial and Political Economic Analysis. Social Science and Medicine. 222. 216-224. DOI:

Niles M, Asiodu I.V., Crear-Perry J., Julian Z, Lyndon A., McLemore M.R., Planey A.M., Scott K.A., Vedam S. (2020). Reflecting on Equity During a Pandemic. Forthcoming at Health Equity.

Planey AM. (2019). Audiology Service Accessibility & the Health Policy Landscape. The Hearing Journal. 72(4). Pp 11,13. DOI: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000557744.28152.45


Kathleen Thomas, PhD

Kathleen Thomas focuses her work to improve access to care for under-served populations with mental health needs. One important theme in her work is how patient activation and shared decision-making provide strategies to reduce racial disparities in mental health service use. Another theme of her work is exploring the quality of health insurance benefits in order to develop strategies to close coverage gaps that result in disparities.









Pérez Jolles M, Thomas KC. Disparities in Self-reported Access to Patient-centered Medical Home Care for Children with Special Health Care Needs. Med Care. 2018 Oct;56(10):840-846. PubMed PMID: 30211808.

Hall JP, Shartzer A, Kurth NK, Thomas KC. Medicaid Expansion as an Employment Incentive Program for People With Disabilities. Am J Public Health. 2018 Sep;108(9):1235-1237. PubMed PMID: 30024794.

Thomas KC, Stein GL, Williams CS, Jolles MP, Sleath BL, Martinez M, García SJ, Guzman LE, Williams CE, Morrissey JP. Fostering Activation Among Latino Parents of Children with Mental Health Needs: An RCT. Psychiatr Serv. 2017 Oct 1;68(10):1068-1075. Epub 2017 Jun 1. PubMed PMID:28566024.

Thomas KC, Shartzer A, Kurth NK, Hall JP. Impact of ACA Health Reforms for People with Mental Health Conditions. Psychiatr Serv. 2017 Nov 15. PubMed PMID: 29137555.

Thomas KC, Ellis AR, Konrad TR, Holzer CE, Morrissey JP. County-level estimates of mental health professional shortage in the United States. Psychiatr Serv. 2009 Oct;60(10):1323-8. PubMed PMID: 19797371.


Brad Wright, PhD

Brad Wright is an Associate Professor and the Director of Health Services and Outcomes Research in the Department of Family Medicine at the UNC School of Medicine. He also serves as the Co-Director of the Program on Health Care Economics and Finance at the Sheps Center. Dr. Wright’s NIH-funded research focuses on understanding the causes and consequences of disparities in health care delivery, with an emphasis on publicly insured populations (i.e., Medicare and Medicaid), primary care, and emergency medicine. He is one of the nation’s leading experts on both federally qualified health centers and hospital observation stays. His additional research interests include health politics and policy, health reform, and patient and public involvement in health care.








Wright B, Zhang X, Rahman M, Abir M, Ayyagari P, Kocher K. Evidence of Racial and Geographic Disparities in the Use of Medicare Observation Stays and Subsequent Patient Outcomes Relative to Short-Stay Hospitalizations. Health Equity. 2018. 2(1): 45-54.

Cole MB, Wright B, Wilson IB, Galárraga O, Trivedi AN. Longtitudinal Analysis of Racial/Ethnic Trends in Quality Outcomes in Community Health Centers, 2009-2014. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2018. 33(6): 906-913.

Wright B, Askelson N, Ahrens M, Bentler S, Momany E, Damiano P. Completion of Requirements in Iowa’s Medicaid Expansion Premium Disincentive Program, 2014-2015. American Journal of Public Health. 2018. 108(2): 219-223.

Wright B, Potter AJ, Trivedi AN. Federally Qualified Health Center Use Among Dual Eligibles: Rates of Hospitalizations and Emergency Department Visits. Health Affairs. 2015. 34(7): 1147-1155.

Wright B, Jung H-Y, Feng Z, Mor V. Hospital, Patient, and Local Health System Characteristics Associated with the Prevalence and Duration of Observation Care. Health Services Research. 2014. 49(4): 1088-1107.

Sharita R. Thomas, MPP

Sharita R. Thomas is a Research Associate with the NC Rural Health Research Program at the Sheps Center. She received her Masters of Public Policy, with a focus in Health Policy, from the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. In addition to assisting in the revival of the Program in Health Disparities Research at Sheps, she also manages rural health projects, especially work with hospital closures. Her other rural health project interests include: social factors impacting health, maternal-child health, qualitative research, and health inequities.