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Our PhD program prepares graduates for leadership positions in academia, industry, and government sectors. Students develop solid research skills, enabling them to conduct high quality research directed at improving the use and cost-effectiveness of pharmaceutical products, technology, and services in society.

We study the effectiveness and costs of medications, how patients take their medications, and the impact of drug policies on health outcomes in diverse populations. Our research focuses on health outcomes and how to support medication taking at the individual, practice, and system level. Key challenges our Division addresses include:

  • Ensuring that all people have the knowledge, skills, and resources to use the medications they need
  • Personalized medication treatment to ensure optimal effectiveness, safety and value in real world settings.
  • Promoting informed and shared decision making so that prescribed medication regimens reflect patients’ values, preferences and needs.

Addressing these complex issues requires an interdisciplinary approach with innovative use of a variety of data sources, including administrative records, primary survey data, and community stakeholders.

Our Curriculum

The DPOP curriculum prepares students to apply social behavioral theory in the design and evaluation of health interventions as well as in the study of multilevel factors that affect health behaviors and outcomes; to interpret and apply state-of-the-art epidemiologic approaches to study utilization and comparative effectiveness/safety of healthcare interventions using a variety of complex data sources; and to analyze the impacts of pharmaceutical policy. Students learn how to select the optimal study design to answer a research question and, through research rotations and practica, gain skills in primary data collection and secondary data analysis. Students can tailor their coursework to develop expertise in the methodologies and content of greatest interest to them.

     Topic/course Term Credit hours

     DPOP 803 Social and Behavioral Aspects of Pharmaceutical Use

Fall, odd years 3

     DPOP 806 Pharmaceutical Policy

Fall, even years 3

     DPOP 872 Proposal Writing

Fall, even years 3

     PHRS 815 Implementation Science

Spring, even years 1.5

     PHRS 801 Cross-Disciplinary Training in the Pharmaceutical Sciences

Fall 1

     PHRS 802 Drug Development & Professional Skills Development

Spring 1

     PHRS 899 DPOP Student and Faculty Seminar (1 credit per semester)

Fall/Spring 4

     PHRS 991 Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences

Fall/Spring 4

     PHRS 994 Doctoral Dissertation

Fall/Spring 6

     EPID 710 Fundamentals of Epidemiology

Fall 3

     EPID 765 Methods and Issues in Pharmacoepidemiology

Spring, odd years 3





     Strongly Recommended

     DPOP/EPID 766 Epidemiologic Research Using Healthcare Databases

Spring, odd years 3


Students should confer with their advisor to identify additional important courses. In particular, students interested in gaining expertise in social and behavioral research should consider taking HBEH853 or HPM794. Students interested in gaining expertise in epidemiology should consider taking EPID705, 712 and 715. Students interested in gaining expertise in policy and economics should tailor their coursework to develop expertise in the methodologies and content of greatest interest to them. All students are required to take 9 credits of coursework in statistics and 11 credits of coursework in electives that support their interests for a minimum of 50 credits. We recommend the statistics sequence offered at Gillings, HPM881, HPM882, and HPM883. Students should be prepared to meet pre-requisites.

Our Faculty

DPOP has 12 faculty members and 37 adjunct faculty members. Several faculty are located on the Asheville campus.

Faculty are trained in public health and have expertise in: pharmacoepidemiology, genomic epidemiology, health behavior and behavior change (including the effects of patient-provider communication, risk communication, and health literacy on health behavior), comparative effectiveness research, pharmaceutical policy, and pharmacoeconomics.

DPOP faculty receive funding through the National Institutes of Health, Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, Centers for Disease Control, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute as well as a number of private foundations including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, and industry. Faculty also serve as advisors to numerous professional, federal, and state health and advocacy organizations.

DPOP is one of the few programs in the country with faculty who are trained in public health and that has an active research program in pharmaceutical outcomes and policy that is housed in a school of pharmacy.

DPOP Primary Faculty

Delesha Miller Carpenter

(828) 250-3916

Delesha Carpenter, PhD, MSPH, is a professor and Executive Vice Chair in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy. Her research focuses on developing trainings to improve patient-provider communication about sensitive issues, like suicide and substance abuse use disorders. She also runs an active research program in inhaler technique education and mHealth. She is especially interested in improving access to healthcare services in rural areas and directs a practice-based research network for rural community pharmacists.

Jennifer Elston Lafata

(919) 966-9480

Jennifer Elston Lafata, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also serves as the co-lead for the UNC Cancer Care Quality Initiative and Associate Director in the UNC Institute for Healthcare Quality Improvement. She conducts practice-integrated research to understand and improve patient-clinician communication and decision making, particularly in the context of cancer prevention and control.

Alan Kinlaw

(919) 966-2747

Alan Kinlaw, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy. His research focuses generally on pharmaco-epidemiology and health services research that leverages large and high-dimensional secondary data, including healthcare claims data, clinical registry data, and electronic health records. He studies patterns of medication use and comparative effectiveness and safety, related to antibiotic stewardship as well as several other substantive areas.

Megan Roberts

(919) 843-4071

Megan Roberts, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy and the Director of Implementation Science in Precision Health and Society at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Her research focuses on evaluating and improving the implementation of genomic medicine. In particular, she is interested in implementation research aimed at improving quality of care and reducing racial disparities in cancer prevention and treatment.

Amanda Anne Seyerle

(919) 962-6342

Amanda Seyerle, PhD, MSPH, is an assistant professor in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy and faculty with the Carolina Health Informatics Program (CHIP).  Her primary research interests are in understanding the ‘omics of variable drug response and the role of ‘omics and gene-environment interactions in health disparities. A critical part of this work involves expanding existing genomics research to underserved populations so that policies surrounding personalized medicine are based on more representative samples.

Betsy Sleath

(919) 962-0079

Betsy Sleath, PhD, is the Regional Associate Dean for Eastern North Carolina and the George H Cocolas Distinguished Professor in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. She is a senior research fellow and director of the Child and Adolescent Health Program at the Cecil G Sheps Center for Health Services Research. She is also an adjunct professor of health policy and management and epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She is the recipient of the 2018 Research Achievement Award in the Pharmaceutical Sciences from the American Pharmacists Association. Sleath and her team co-developed a website with youth for youth called “Information for the Evolving Teenager” ( that has tools they can use to be more involved in their health care.

Kathleen Thomas

(919) 966-3387

Kathleen C Thomas, PhD is Associate Professor and Vice Chair of Research and Graduate Studies in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy, Senior Fellow at the UNC Cecil G Sheps Center for Health Services Research and Adjunct Associate Professor in Health Policy and Management, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She is a behavioral economist and mental health services researcher whose work focuses on three areas: 1) disparities in access to care, 2) health insurance policy, and 3) patient self-efficacy (confidence managing health and health care use). All three areas inform pharmaceutical outcomes and policy. Her research in disparities in access includes variation in use of psychotropic medication and polypharmacy by nonclinical factors. Her research in health insurance demonstrates how insurance plan benefit structure impacts ability to pay for medications and financial barriers to their use due to out-of-pocket costs. Her research in patient self-efficacy supports shared decision-making in treatment choices such as medication vs other options. All three areas require patient-engaged work with multidisciplinary research teams and creative data compilation to accomplish scientific breakthroughs. The combined learning in these three areas is synergistic, with the goal to improve access and quality of mental health services.

Carolyn Thorpe

(919) 843-9834

Carolyn Thorpe, PhD, MPH is an associate professor in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy. She conducts research to evaluate and improve prescribing quality and safety and medication adherence in older adults with multiple chronic conditions.

Joshua M Thorpe

(919) 225-2747

Joshua M. Thorpe, PhD, MPH, is an Associate Professor in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy. He is the Principal Investigator (PI) or Co-Investigator (Co-I) on NIH-funded studies including appropriate medication use and prescription safety, regulating licensed nursing practice in nursing homes, and disparities in healthy behaviors and preventive health behaviors in older adults with responsibilities for elder care.


Our PhD Students and Postdoctoral Fellows

DPOP typically has between 9-15 PhD students and postdoctoral fellows, who work with faculty during research rotations, and a research and teaching practicum. During their first year, students form a Student Advisory Committee (SAC). This committee provides the student with an interdisciplinary perspective, because SACs involve DPOP faculty and faculty from across campus.

Students are also partnered with a faculty advisor who can help each student personalize their experiences to suit the student’s unique interests, needs and talents.

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