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Whitney  Robinson, Ph.D. - UNC-Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC, US

Whitney Robinson, Ph.D. Whitney  Robinson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Epidemiology | UNC-Chapel Hill


Areas of expertise: Women's reproductive health and health care; Breast cancer disparities; Health disparities by gender, race & ethnicity.



Whitney R. Robinson is figuring out why Black women in the U.S. experience worse health and healthcare than other Americans when it comes to gynecological issues, cancer, and obesity.

Her research focuses on everyday challenges (such as poverty during childhood, limited health care options, parts of the country where people live, and structural racism) and how they contribute to people's risk of dealing with chronic health care issues. She believes that Black women are like "the canary in the coal mine": the kind of changes that would improve the health of Black women would dramatically improve the health of all Americans.

Robinson specializes in epidemiologic methods for health disparities research. She focuses on how and why processes of obesity and cancer development differ by sex, race, and ethnicity. The theoretical underpinning of her work is the lifecourse framework. For example, her Population Health work hypothesizes that nutritional, socioeconomic, and psychosocial exposures during critical periods in utero and during childhood have enduring effects on adult obesity development and partially explain why obesity prevalence is much greater in young U.S. Black women than in young U.S. Black men and other groups. Robinson's newer research program uses the lifecourse framework to investigate questions relevant to demography and reproductive health. This newly funded work investigates how racial/ethnic and socioeconomic inequalities in gynecologic surgery among U.S. women affect disparities in fertility as well as health disparities in several chronic diseases.

A Faculty Fellow at the Carolina Population Center, she also currently leads an NIH R01 to use health care data to investigate racial/ethnic differences in hysterectomy rates among young women, and also recently completed an R03 to investigate the obesity paradox among people diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma (a type of kidney cancer).

Industry Expertise (2)



Areas of Expertise (6)

Cancer Survivorship

Health disparities by gender

Breast cancer disparities

Women's reproductive health and health care

Epidemiologic methods

Health disparities by race and ethnicity

Accomplishments (2)

Award for Teaching Excellence and Innovation, (professional)

Epidemiology Department, April 2018

Fellow (professional)


The Obesity Society

Education (3)

University of North Carolina: Ph.D., Epidemiology 2008

University of North Carolina: MSPH, Epiodemiology 2004

Harvard University: A.B., Biochemical Sciences 2001

Affiliations (3)

  • Delta Omega
  • The Obesity Society
  • Society for Epidemiologic Researc

Articles (3)

Perceived discrimination and depressive symptoms among US Latinos: the modifying role of educational attainment

Ethnicity & Health

Julia B Ward, Lydia Feinstein, Anissa I Vines, Whitney R Robinson, Mary N Haan, Allison E Aiello


"Despite growing evidence that discrimination may contribute to poor mental health, few studies have assessed this association among US Latinos. Furthermore, the interaction between discrimination and educational attainment in shaping Latino mental health is virtually unexplored."

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Employment characteristics and cause‐specific mortality at automotive electronics manufacturing plants in Huntsville, Alabama

American journal of industrial medicine

Nathan DeBono, David Richardson, Alex Keil, Kaitlin Kelly‐Reif, Whitney Robinson, Melissa Troester, Stephen Marshall


"This study was carried out in response to worker concerns over their exposure to lead solder and chlorinated solvents at automotive electronics manufacturing plants in Huntsville, Alabama."

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Mortality among autoworkers manufacturing electronics in Huntsville, Alabama Authors

American journal of industrial medicine

Nathan DeBono, Kaitlin Kelly‐Reif, David Richardson, Alex Keil, Whitney Robinson, Melissa Troester, Stephen Marshall


"Workers raised concerns over suspected excesses of mortality at automotive electronics manufacturing facilities in Huntsville, Alabama. A study of 4396 UAW members ever‐employed at Huntsville facilities between 1972 and 1993 was conducted with mortality follow‐up through 2016."

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