Stephanie Staras, Ph.D., a distinguished population health scientist whose research focuses on preventing human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers, has been named co-leader of the University of Florida Health Cancer Center’s Cancer Control and Population Sciences (CCPS) research program.
Staras, an associate professor and associate chair for faculty development in the department of health outcomes and biomedical informatics in the UF College of Medicine, will co-lead the program with Dejana Braithwaite, Ph.D., associate director of cancer population sciences at the UF Health Cancer Center.
“Dr. Staras is an accomplished epidemiologist and implementation scientist who has had a large impact in scholarship, teaching and service at the University of Florida,” said Jonathan D. Licht, M.D., director of the UF Health Cancer Center. “Her research on HPV vaccine uptake is a critical feature of our mission to prevent cancer occurrence and lessen the burden of cancer in our community. We are delighted to have her join the leadership of the UF Health Cancer Center.”
The mission of the CCPS research program is to reduce the cancer burden in the 23-county area the Cancer Center serves in North Central Florida and beyond through multidisciplinary, collaborative research. The research program aims to understand the molecular, behavioral, social, environmental and other risk factors in cancer incidence and mortality; develop and evaluate primary and secondary cancer prevention interventions; and address the specific needs of cancer survivors.
”I am honored to join the Cancer Center leadership as the co-leader of the CCPS research program,” Staras said. “I am passionate about reducing cancer in the Florida population and look forward to collaborating with the CCPS members to move our collective research forward by identifying synergies and building new partnerships.”
“I am passionate about reducing cancer in the Florida population and look forward to collaborating with the CCPS members to move our collective research forward by identifying synergies and building new partnerships.”Stephanie Staras, Ph.D.
Staras holds a Ph.D. in epidemiology and Master of Science in Public Health, both from Emory University. She is also a graduate of the esteemed Mentored Training in Dissemination and Implementation Research in Cancer program, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
A main focus of her work is reducing HPV-related cancer cases and disparities by studying risk factors and designing parent- and provider-targeted interventions to improve HPV vaccination rates.
She has a 15-year continually funded research program focused on increasing HPV vaccination rates among Florida’s adolescents. She has served as principal investigator on nine implementation research grants, including a five-year, $2.9 million grant from the NCI in 2019 to evaluate simple interventions to boost HPV vaccine rates in 11- and 12-year-olds in Florida.
In 2022, she received another five-year, $4 million NCI grant to improve HPV vaccination rates among 9- to 12-year-old boys and girls in rural Florida. The project aims to improve these rates by providing communication strategies for clinicians, clear information for parents, and transportation, health insurance navigation and vaccine access through UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute mobile clinics. Despite the availability of effective vaccines that can prevent HPV infection and its associated cancer risks, low vaccination rates continue, particularly in Florida and rural areas nationwide.
Staras is also director of the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s Precision Health Program, a collaborative team of scientists and health professionals dedicated to finding ways to improve health outcomes for underserved groups, and associate director of the Institute for Child Health Policy.
She has served as a faculty lead in the NCI-sponsored Training Institute for Dissemination and Implementation Research in Cancer and co-leads an Implementation Science Learning Group that introduces five to 10 UF postdoctoral candidates and junior faculty members to implementation science every year.
Staras has received numerous awards throughout her career, including inclusion in UF’s 2018-19 University Term Professorship cohort. This summer, she was selected for the 2024 class of fellows of the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine program at Drexel University College of Medicine.