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Jay A. Pearson

McLain Foundation Associate Professor of Public Policy
Sanford School of Public Policy
211 Sanford Building, Box 90245, Durham, NC 27708
201 Science Drive, SB 211, Box 90245, Durham, NC 27708


Jay A. Pearson’s research, teaching and advocacy address how policy sponsored and structurally rooted social inequality influence the social determination of health disadvantage. A native of Hertford County North Carolina, Pearson’s early experiences in the rural agricultural south shaped and informed his professional interests. Pearson began his public health career as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras where he worked as a child survival health specialist training and evaluating midwives and local health workers.

Upon returning to the U.S. he worked as a health educator with the East Coast Migrant Health Project, later designing and implementing health and safety training for Spanish-speaking factory workers, pesticide safety training with a multi-ethnic farm worker population, and lead poisoning prevention in an impoverished urban community. Pearson served as assistant project director of an NIH-funded research study in which he was responsible for primary data collection in an ethnically diverse Detroit community.

Academically, Pearson moved from a model of individual behavior change in undergraduate studies at North Carolina Central University to one of community assessment and intervention during his masters’ work at the University of North Carolina. While pursuing his doctoral degree at the University of Michigan, Pearson began to study the social determinants of population health. He is particularly interested in the health effects of conventional and non-conventional resources associated with racial assignment, ethnic identity, national origin, immigration, and cultural orientations.

Current Appointments & Affiliations

McLain Foundation Associate Professor of Public Policy · 2021 - Present Sanford School of Public Policy
Associate Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy · 2021 - Present Sanford School of Public Policy
Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Sanford School of Public Policy · 2023 - Present Sanford School of Public Policy
Associate Research Professor of Global Health · 2021 - Present Duke Global Health Institute, University Institutes and Centers
Faculty Research Scholar of DuPRI's Population Research Center · 2013 - Present Duke Population Research Center, Duke Population Research Institute
Associate of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society · 2017 - Present Duke Science & Society, Initiatives
Affiliate Faculty Member, Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy · 2022 - Present Duke-Margolis Institute for Health Policy, Initiatives

Education, Training & Certifications

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor · 2006 Ph.D.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill · 1996 M.P.H.
North Carolina Central University · 1991 B.S.