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Deanna Kepka

Deanna Kepka

Deanna Kepka, PhD, MPH, MA

Cancer Center Bio

Selected Achievements

Pediatric Clinical and Translational Research Scholar, University of Utah Department of Pediatrics (2013)

American Society of Preventive Oncology Top Abstract (2012, 2013)

National Cancer Institute Cancer Prevention Fellowship Merit Award (2012)

Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program Merit Award (2012)

American Society of Preventative Oncology Top Abstract (2012, 2013)

Society of Behavioral Medicine Citation Award (2011)

AcademyHealth Disparities Interest Group Emerging Scholar Award (2009)

American Public Health Association Maternal and Child Health Fellow (2008-2009)

National Cancer Institute Biobehavioral Cancer Prevention and Control Training Program Traineeship recipient, Department of Health Services, University of Washington (2008-2010)

University of Washington Graduate & Professional Student Senate Travel Award (2008)

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Traineeship recipient, Department of Health Services, University of Washington (2006-2008)

Amauta Peru Practicum Program Scholarship recipient, University of Washington (2007)

Deanna’s primary research interest is to address health disparities related to cancer risk for vulnerable populations. She is also dedicated to improving the quality of primary health care services for cancer prevention and control among minority and underserved populations. Specifically, Deanna is strongly driven to work in cervical cancer prevention among US Latinas.

US Latinas are disproportionately diagnosed with cervical cancer with higher rates than most other racial and ethnic groups. Even with a new avenue for cervical cancer prevention, primary care physicians are not appropriately recommending the HPV vaccine to age eligible women and in Utah, rates of completion of the 3-dose vaccine series are among the lowest in the nation.

At the University of Washington, Deanna was mentored by nationally-known cancer disparities researchers, Drs. Beti Thompson and Gloria Coronado from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and her dissertation included three projects that were published in peer-reviewed journals. As a pre-doctoral Biobehavioral Cancer Prevention and Control Fellow, Deanna completed her dissertation, Preventing cervical cancer among US Latinas: HPV infection, HPV vaccine education, and HPV vaccine knowledge, which investigated possible risk factors for high risk HPV infection. In her dissertation work, Deanna developed and tested a culturally-tailored intervention in the form of a radionovela and fotonovela to promote the HPV vaccine among low-income rural Latino parents.

In 2011, Dr. Kepka continued her training as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, where she received the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Merit Award. She received mentorship from Dr. Robin Yabroff in the Health Services and Economics Branch of the Division of Cancer Control and Populations Sciences. During this time, she used national data to investigate physician recommendations for the HPV vaccine and led an interdisciplinary team of investigators at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her research found that about half of primary care providers were not demonstrating guideline consistent recommendations for the HPV vaccine. The findings of this study received local, national, and international media attention.

Deanna’s passion for vulnerable populations began as a Peace Corp volunteer where she worked with vulnerable populations in Jamaica for 2 years. Over the past decade, Dr. Kepka has worked with at-risk communities through collaborative community-based partnerships that promoted positive health behaviors in Chicago, North Carolina, and Washington. She also has more than five years of experience working with Hispanics/Latino communities in Mexico, Peru, Chicago, North Carolina, and Washington. Deanna aims to improve health disparities related to cancer risk for vulnerable populations through innovative and translational science for patient and family engagement, particularly in the area of prevention and control of cervical and other HPV-related cancers among Latinos in the Intermountain West.

In September 2012, Deanna joined the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) as an investigator with the Cancer Control and Population Science Program, where she continues to work in HPV vaccine research for vulnerable populations. Under the mentorship of Kathi Mooney, PhD, RN, FAAN, at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and University of Utah, and Michael Spigarelli, MD, PH in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Utah, Deanna looks forward to assessing patient, provider, and healthcare system level factors related to HPV vaccination in Utah. Deanna also plans to continue to build strong community-based collaborations in Salt Lake City to develop innovative patient-provider interventions to increase HPV vaccine uptake and improve cervical cancer prevention and control among vulnerable populations.

At the University of Utah and HCI, Deanna has received a 2 year Clinical and Translational Science KL2 Career Development Award from the School of Medicine. She has also received grants for pilot studies from the College of Nursing, the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Primary Children’s Medical Center Foundation, and the University of Utah Research Committee. She leads an interdisciplinary team of researchers and community-based collaborators as she moves forward with her research program in primary care interventions for cancer prevention and control among vulnerable populations.

Aside from her research activities, Deanna is also a tenure-track assistant professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Utah where she teaches the courses, Social Context of Medicine and Leadership and Advocacy, in the Doctorate of Nursing Practice program.