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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – With great sadness, the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health announces the death Feb. 4, 2010, of Jessie Satia, PhD, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology and special assistant to the School’s dean for diversity.

Dr. Satia, 39, died at her home in Chapel Hill after a long illness.

“We in the Department of Nutrition and throughout the School are shocked and grieved by Jessie’s death,” said June Stevens, PhD, chair of the nutrition department. “Jessie was a dedicated and talented teacher and researcher as well as a delightful colleague. She was a wonderful human being, and we feel her loss deeply.”

Born in the state of Washington, Dr. Satia grew up in Cameroon. She returned to the U.S. and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology, a Master of Science degree in laboratory medicine, a Master of Public Health degree in epidemiology and a doctorate in nutritional epidemiology, all from the University of Washington at Seattle.

She was a postdoctoral fellow and later a research assistant professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. She joined the UNC nutrition department faculty in 2002 as an assistant professor. She also became a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2002.

For two years, Dr. Satia worked in the department of global epidemiology at Amgen Inc. in Thousand Oaks, Calif. She returned to UNC in late 2005 as an assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology, and was appointed Special Assistant to the Dean for Diversity by Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH, dean of the public health school and Alumni Distinguished Professor. In 2007 she was promoted to associate professor, tenured in the departments of nutrition and epidemiology.

In appointing Satia as special assistant, Rimer noted, “Dr. Satia is the perfect choice (to champion greater diversity at the School). We wanted her to return to UNC, after spending two years in industry. She’s an impeccable scientist and teacher and a charismatic person who will be able to motivate others to join her journey.”

“If no man or woman is an island, and any death diminishes us,” Rimer said, “Jessie’s death diminishes us even more. She was so passionate about reducing health disparities and understanding the nature of those disparities, especially in cancer. She also was helping the School to increase recruitment of diverse faculty members. She should have had a long lifetime of professional contributions and personal joys. I am so saddened by her untimely death. My heart goes out to her parents and sisters and to the many faculty, staff and students who came to know her and care deeply about her.”

During her career, Dr. Satia published more than 65 papers and authored two book chapters. Her numerous awards and honors include the Graduate Student Fellowship Award from the University of Washington and the New Investigator Award from the American Society of Preventive Oncology in 1999. In 2001 she won the Dannon Leadership Institute’s Nutrition Leadership Institute Award. She has been a three-time recipient, in 1999, 2001 and 2003, of the Minority Research Scholar Award given by the American Association for Cancer Research.

The overarching focus of Dr. Satia’s research was the association of nutrition- and diet-related factors with chronic diseases, particularly human cancers. Her primary research interests were cancer etiology, nutritional epidemiology (dietary assessment), minority participation in research studies and cancer survivorship. She conducted research to study relationships between various dietary factors (including dietary supplements) and colorectal, lung, bladder and prostate cancer risk, with an emphasis on racial and ethnic disparities. She also was interested in the development of simple and practical dietary assessment tools that are adaptable to diverse ethnic and racial populations and in the use of nutrient biomarkers in diet and cancer research.

Dr. Satia explored various methods and strategies to recruit African-Americans into research studies for cancer prevention and control. She also assessed and monitored trends in health-related behaviors among colon and prostate cancer survivors and examined whether health behaviors impact cancer prognosis and survival.

Dr. Satia also served on a number of external committees that address cancer and disparity issues at local, state and national levels. She was involved with the National Institutes of Health in the Integrative Nutrition and Metabolic Processes Program, the Health Disparity Research in Prostate Cancer Program and the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program. At UNC, she was a member of Campus Partnerships for Health Committee on Recruitment and Retention of Minority Faculty of Color and Campus Partnerships for Health Working Group on addressing health disparities.

In addition to her university and community service, Dr. Satia was a member of a number of national societies that are prominent in the cancer and public health field, including American College of Epidemiology, American Association for Cancer Research, and the Association of Schools of Public Health’s diversity committee.

She is survived by her parents, Drs. Benedict and Philomena Satia of Bothell, Washington, and two younger sisters.

A wake for Dr. Satia will be held Friday evening, Feb. 12, from 7:30 to 11 p.m., in the Christ United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, in Southern Village at 800 Market St., Chapel Hill.

Mourners may greet the family at a viewing, Saturday, Feb. 13, from 10 – 10:45 a.m. at the church. The memorial service will begin at 11 a.m., followed by interment at Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery, 1721 Legion Rd., Chapel Hill.

Guests are invited to a reception from 1:30 – 3 p.m. at the church fellowship hall.

The family has requested, in lieu of flowers, that donations may be made to The Dr. Jessie A. Satia Memorial Fund.

To make an online donation, please visit the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health Web site. Under ‘Select a School Fund,’ designate Other. Enter Satia Memorial Fund under ‘Other Instructions.’

Checks (made payable to UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, with Satia Memorial Fund in the memo line) may be mailed to Kembrie Greene, Office of External Affairs, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, 107 Rosenau Hall, Campus Box 7400, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27599-7400. Phone: (919) 966-0198.