UNC Epidemiology Professor Jim Thomas to be Director of UNC’s largest project

Originally posted November 8, 2012.

James C. “Jim” Thomas, Ph.D.James C. “Jim” Thomas, Ph.D., has been appointed the new Director of MEASURE Evaluation. In 2008, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded up to $181 million for the 6-year Project, which remains the largest award ever received by UNC-Chapel Hill.

The Project, which works in more than 40 countries, enables improved decision making in public health. It does so through building country health information systems, training public health workers, evaluating programs, creating new evaluation tools, and helping set international health agendas.

MEASURE Evaluation is a project within the Carolina Population Center (CPC).

Thomas is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology in UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. He has served as MEASURE Evaluation’s Deputy Director for HIV and Infectious Diseases since 2010. He is also a CPC Faculty Fellow.

Thomas has over 30 years of experience in public health. He has worked in more than 20 countries in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.  Since arriving at UNC in 1989, he has been the principal investigator of more than 22 research projects and a co-investigator of several others. He has authored more than 80 peer-reviewed journal articles, two books, and seven book chapters. He was also the principal author of the public health code of ethics and an ethics advisor to the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thomas earned his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Public Health from the University of California, Los Angeles and his Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition Science from University of California, Davis.

“I cannot imagine a more exciting and fulfilling place to be in public health,” says Thomas. “Because MEASURE Evaluation is based at UNC, we have one foot in the world of cutting edge academics and the other in direct application of public health to those most in need.”

Siân Curtis, Ph.D., has been the MEASURE Evaluation Director since 2002. During her tenure as Director, the Project has been re-awarded twice and has more than tripled in size. Curtis and staff working on the Project have been at the forefront of development of monitoring and evaluation systems to support the global scale-up of HIV/AIDS and malaria programs and have worked with multiple global agencies including UNAIDS, the World Health Organization, and UNICEF on monitoring and evaluation issues. The Project has developed innovative approaches to address methodological problems in monitoring and evaluation, including exploring application of geospatial and social network analysis methods and development of methods to improve measurement of mortality globally.

Curtis is a Research Associate Professor of Maternal and Child Health in UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. She is also a CPC Faculty Fellow. Though she will no longer be the MEASURE Evaluation Director, she will continue as the Project’s Senior Advisor for Evaluation.

“The past ten years have been a tremendous professional experience for me. I have been fortunate to have worked with so many talented and committed people and have learned so much,” said Curtis. “I am excited by the new opportunities that are developing in evaluation of global health interventions and am looking forward to getting closer to the technical work again.”

S. Philip Morgan said “As Carolina Population Center (CPC) Director, I look forward to working with Jim in his new role. MEASURE Evaluation carries out important evaluation research around the world. MEASURE Evaluation is also an integral part of CPC providing research and training opportunities for UNC faculty and students. Siân Curtis has done a wonderful job leading MEASURE Evaluation; she leaves the program in great shape and in the hands of a very able successor. We look forward to Siân’s continued contributions; I know she is excited about having more time to pursue her own research agenda.”

The Project’s first iteration began in 1991 as the EVALUATION project, which focused on population and reproductive health programs, also funded by USAID. In the last 21 years, the Project’s faculty and staff have developed a worldwide reputation for excellence and leadership in monitoring and evaluation. The scope of the Project has grown to encompass all areas of health in which USAID works, and has incorporated cross-cutting elements such as capacity building, data use, and gender dimensions of monitoring and evaluation.

Thomas and others in the Project recognized that UNC’s contributions to evaluation extend well beyond MEASURE Evaluation. They took the initiative to pull UNC’s experts together into a UNC Evaluation Community. Members of this group share insights, resources, and opportunities to contribute to UNC’s global leadership in evaluation.

“MEASURE Evaluation is based on the idea that better public health information leads to better decision making about resources. That leads in turn to better programs and better health,” said Thomas. “This is meaningful work for all of us in the Project, and a global leadership role that the university and the state can be proud of. “

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About MEASURE Evaluation:

  • MEASURE Evaluation is a USAID-funded project implemented by the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • MEASURE Evaluation is a leader with associates award implemented by the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with Futures Group, ICF International, John Snow, Inc., Management Sciences for Health, and Tulane University.
  • MEASURE Evaluation employs 55 people at UNC and 180 worldwide.
  • MEASURE Evaluation works in more than 40 countries.
  • MEASURE Evaluation enables improved decision making in public health by building health information systems, training public health workers, evaluating programs, creating new evaluation tools, and helping set international health agendas.
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