Jaya Rao, MD, MHS, is an associate professor in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy in the UNC School of Pharmacy. She received her B.Sc. in Microbiology and MD from the University of Florida, and a MHS degree from Duke University. Dr. Rao completed an internal medicine residency at the University of Virginia Hospitals and rheumatology fellowship at Duke University Medical Center, and she is board certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology. Prior to joining the faculty of the UNC School of Pharmacy, she served as a medical epidemiologist in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 8 years. She is a health services researcher who has expertise in performing longitudinal cohort studies, systematic reviews of the literature and qualitative research.
Dr. Rao’s prior work examined physicians’ use of diagnostic tests in their evaluation of patients with rheumatologic conditions. Her current research focuses on the patient’s perspective of health care. In particular, she is interested in patient-provider communication and methods for enhancing communication between patients and their health care providers. Her work in this area began with studies to understand arthritis patients’ reasons for using complementary and alternative medicine and the potential communication barriers related to this behavior. This research led to additional studies that examined patients’ visit-related expectations and interventions to enhance the verbal communicative behaviors of patients and health care providers. Dr. Rao's current work has examined the advice provided by health-food store employees and pharmacists to "mystery shoppers" with serious and non-serious illnesses. These data can be used to develop educational interventions that help pharmacists and health food store employees provide appropriate advice to consumers.
In addition to her work on patient-provider communication, Dr. Rao has collaborated on several projects related to chronic disease management. Examples of this work include a project to develop quality indicators for pediatric epilepsy care, an evidence based review of falls prevention strategies, and a randomized controlled trial of an integrated model for depression management in primary care. Finally, she led efforts at CDC to increase public health involvement regarding end-of-life issues. She is continuing her research on developing measures that are appropriate for population-based surveillance of end-of-life issues and public-health strategies for promoting advance care planning.