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Caroline Thompson Headshot



Dr. Thompson is Associate Professor of Epidemiology in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and member of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her research program lies at the intersection of three interrelated foci: 1) identifying patterns of, and disparities in, healthcare delivery for the detection and treatment of cancer, 2) disentangling the drivers of cancer health disparities, and 3) “big data” methods for cancer population health research. These topics draw on her formal training in cancer epidemiology, healthcare delivery system science, and quantitative methodology. They are also influenced by her former career working as a data manager for cancer clinical trials. An important component underpinning all her research is the creative “re-use” of routine clinical and administrative data, and the careful consideration of the influence of systematic error resulting from the “research use” of such data sources. Pursuant to this, she also develops novel methods to improve the usability of complex longitudinal “big data,” and to mitigate threats to validity due to missing data, selection bias, and lack of generalizability.

Dr. Thompson’s research has received funding support from the National Cancer Institute, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, and the Centers for Disease Control. Her currently active projects include Cancer Diagnosis in the Emergency Department: Explaining Persistent Disparities (R01CA264176), which uses data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Medicare linked resource to investigate disparities related to cancer diagnostic pathways that begin in the emergency department, Understanding Pathways to Earlier Diagnosis for Ovarian Cancer in North Carolina (6-U48-DP006400-04-01), an electronic health record study to examine factors and diagnostic pathways that facilitate early ovarian cancer diagnosis, and a Diagnostic Excellence Initiative award to develop a clinical quality measure for the diagnosis of gastrointestinal cancers from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Dr. Thompson received her BA in biology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and MPH and PhD in epidemiology from University of California Los Angeles. A native of North Carolina, she recently returned home after 20 years living in California, where she was appointed as faculty at San Diego State University and the University of California San Diego.