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The University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center selected Meghan O’Leary, MA, as the recipient of the 2020 Marci K. Campbell Dissertation Award, which recognizes excellence in dissertation research focused on cancer and population sciences.

A smiling brunette woman wears a dark plum colored long-sleeve shirt, and stands in front of a building with reflective windows.
Meghan O’Leary, MA, is a doctoral candidate in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management.

A doctoral candidate in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management, O’Leary is investigating the use of systems science tools for information decision making about the selection and implementation of colorectal cancer screening initiatives. The award comes with a $3,000 prize.

“By applying a systems approach to colorectal cancer screening, we have an opportunity to design decision support tools that reflect and address the kinds of questions and concerns that health administrators and other decision-makers are grappling with in terms of how to best intervene in their local settings and populations,” O’Leary said.  “The goal is to better equip them with the information and resources they need to implement colorectal cancer screening interventions that are effective and appropriate for the local context.”

This award honors the memory and accomplishments of Marci Kramish Campbell, PhD, a leader in cancer prevention and control, disparities, and survivorship research at UNC-Chapel Hill and across the nation. Campbell died from colon cancer in December 2011. She was an exceptional mentor and believed producing the next generation of researchers was one of our most important aims.

“Dr. Campbell provided a wonderful example of applying a health equity lens to research in cancer control and prevention,” O’Leary said. “I hope to honor her legacy and her dedication to designing and implementing research that addresses the multi-level factors contributing to existing cancer disparities through my work using systems science to advance equity in the area of colorectal cancer screening.”

Stephanie Wheeler, PhD, MPH, who chairs O’Leary’s dissertation committee, praised O’Leary’s academic and professional growth and accomplishments while pursuing her doctoral degree and the potential of her dissertation research to benefit the state of North Carolina by improving cancer outcomes and reducing cancer disparities.

“Meghan’s dissertation aims are novel, in that they contribute much-needed evidence to guide how to best use systems sciences methods in implementation science. Her continued use of systems science approaches to improve colorectal cancer screening in diverse populations will provide direction on alternative strategies that may be implemented to meet these targets,” Wheeler said. “Given Marci’s own research interests and personal experience with colon cancer, I imagine that she would have been excited to see Meghan’s dissertation research.”