Rachel Shelton, ScD, MPH

  • Associate Professor of Sociomedical Sciences
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Dr. Shelton is a social and behavioral scientist with research expertise and training in dissemination and implementation science, community-based participatory research, and health equity research. She has over 15 years of experience conducting and leading qualitative and mixed-methods research in clinical and community settings focused on addressing cancer health inequities, with over 130 peer-reviewed publications. Using mixed-methods research, she has published extensively on social and contextual factors that influence health inequities in chronic disease and cancer prevention and screening, including factors related to social networks, discrimination, racism, and medical mistrust. She has expertise in implementation science, including in the areas of health equity and sustainability, and teaches one of the first courses offered nationally in dissemination and implementation science in public health (taught since 2013, training over 300 graduate students). Dr. Shelton has been an invited speaker nationally and internationally in implementation science for numerous conference panels and keynotes, and has been a mentor and core faculty for over 10 training institutes in the past 5 years, including for NIH’s Training Institute for Dissemination and Implementation Research in Cancer (TIDIRC), the Institute for Implementation Science Scholars at Washington University (IS-2), and implementation science training programs in Australia, Nigeria, Ireland, Mozambique, and Thailand. Dr. Shelton is the Co-Director of the Community Engagement Core Resource and directs an Implementation Science Initiative through the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research at Columbia University, where she helps lead research and capacity-building efforts in implementation science across the university. She currently serves as Deputy Chair of Research Strategy & Faculty Development in her department. She has over 15 years of experience being a study PI with funded grants in the area of health equity, community engagement, and implementation science, and has been funded through American Cancer Society, NCI, NIA, NIMHD, and NCATs. Dr. Shelton recently led a mixed-methods Health Equity Research Scholar Grant from the American Cancer Society to study the sustainability and adaptation of a nationally disseminated peer-led Lay Health Advisor program for breast and cervical cancer screening led by African American cancer survivors in community settings (National Witness Project). Currently, she is MPI of a R01 grant and trial funded by NCI focused on understanding de-implementation of mammography over screening among older women and consequences for exacerbating health inequities. Additionally, she is an MPI of one of the NCI-funded global implementation science centers for health equity: The Empilisweni Center for Women's Health - Advancing Implementation of Equitable Cervical Cancer Control. Dr. Shelton has held numerous national leadership positions through the Society of Behavioral Medicine and is Associate Editor of the Annual Review of Public Health.

Academic Appointments

  • Associate Professor of Sociomedical Sciences

Administrative Titles

  • Associate Director of Research, Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion
  • Director, Implementation Science Initiative
  • Co-Director of Community Engagement Core Resource; Co-lead of Implementation Science Initiative, Irving Institute CTSA at Columbia University

Credentials & Experience

Education & Training

  • BA, 1998 University of Virginia
  • MPH, 2004 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • ScD, 2008 Harvard School of Public Health

Committees, Societies, Councils

Program Chair, Society of Behavioral Medicine 2017/2018

Editorial Board, Health Education & Behavior

Editorial Boards

Associate Editor for Annual Review of Public Health

Honors & Awards

NIH Health Disparities LRP Award, National Center on Minority Health & Health Disparities, 2009-2014

Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, Harvard School of Public Health, 2005-2006

Kathy Kerr Memorial Scholarship, UNC-Chapel Hill, 2003

Fellow, Training Institute for Dissemination & Implementation Research in Health, 2015

Provost's Award to Promote Diversity at Columbia University, 2017


Research Interests

  • Chronic disease
  • Community Health
  • Urban Health

Selected Publications

Shelton RC, Dunston SK, Leoce N, Jandorf L, Thompson HS, Erwin DO. Advancing Understanding of the Characteristics and Capacity of African American Women Who Serve as Lay Health Advisors in Community-Based Settings. Health Educ Behav. 2017 May 19. pii: 1090198116646365.

Shelton RC, Cooper BR, Stirman SW. The Sustainability of Evidence-Based Interventions and Practices in Public Health and Health Care. Annu Rev Public Health. 2018 Jan 12. doi: 10.1146/annurev-publhealth-040617-014731.

Shelton RC, TA Charles, SK Dunston, L Jandorf, DO Erwin. Advancing understanding of the sustainability of lay health advisor (LHA) programs for African-American women in community settings Translational Behavioral Medicine, 2017; 1-12

Shelton, RC, Griffith, DM, & Kegler, MC. The promise of qualitative research to inform theory to address health equity. Health Education & Behavior, 2017;44(5), 815-819.

Shelton RC, Dunston SK, Leoce N, Jandorf L, Thompson HS, Crookes DM, Erwin DO. Predictors of activity level and retention among African American lay health advisors (LHAs) from The National Witness Project: Implications for the implementation and sustainability of community-based LHA programs from a longitudinal study. Implement Sci. 2016 Mar 22;11:41. doi: 10.1186/s13012-016-0403-9.

Shelton, R.C., Chambers D., Glasgow R. An Extension of RE-AIM to Enhance Sustainment: Addressing dynamic context and promoting health equity over time. Frontiers Pub Health. 2020; 8:134

Shelton, RC, Lee, M., Brotzman, L. E., Crookes, D. M., Jandorf, L., Erwin, D., & Gage-Bouchard, E. (2018). Use of social network analysis in the development, dissemination, implementation, and sustainability of health behavior interventions for adults: A systematic review. Social Science & Medicine.

Shelton RC, Adsul P, Oh A. Recommendations for Addressing Structural Racism in Implementation Science: A Call to the Field. 2021. Ethnicity & Disease, Special Issue on Structural Racism and Discrimination. 31(Suppl 1):357-364.

Shelton RC, Goldman R, Emmons KM, Sorensen G, Allen JD. An Investigation into the Social Context of Low-income, Urban Black and Latina Women: Implications for Adherence to Recommended Health Behaviors. Health Education & Behavior. 38(5) 471-81 2011

Shelton RC, Winkel G, Davis S, Roberts N, Valdimarsdottir H, Hall SJ, Thompson HS. Validation of the Group-Based Medical Mistrust Scale among Urban Black Men. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 25(6) 549-55 2010

Shelton RC, Puleo E, Bennett GG, McNeill LH, Goldman R, Emmons KM. Racial Discrimination and Physical Activity among Low-income Housing Residents. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 37(6) 541-5 2009