Faculty Spotlight: Dabney P. Evans

June 22, 2016
Dabney P. Evans

Twenty years ago, Dr. Dabney Evans was a first-year MPH student drawn to Emory through the work of Jim Curran—one of the heroes she read about in And the Band Played On. "What I thought I would be doing when I came to public health school was HIV education," says Evans. "But, once I got to Rollins, my world kind of cracked open and I learned all about public health."

Now, a widely published global health and human rights expert, Evans waxes nostalgic about her early days as an eager MPH student.

A Rollins Success Story

"When I first arrived at Rollins, there were a couple of hallmark events that set me on the path for my career," she recalls. One was a lecture she attended at the American Public Health Association during her first year (she has attended the conference every year since). "The panelist was Jonathan Mann and the room was packed to the brim with people. He was beginning to make the connection between HIV positive people and the stigma and discrimination they were experiencing and then linking that explicitly with human rights and the right to health." The other transformative moment for Evans was at commencement, when that year's speaker, the Dalai Lama, spoke about Tibetan refugees. Evans' interest in global health and human rights remains at the core of her work today. 

Shortly after graduation, Evans started a project looking at adolescent health among Tibetan refugees in Northern India and Nepal. After eight years doing public health work, and discovering a deep passion for the fairly nascent field of health and human rights, Evans wanted to build upon her expertise and received her PhD in law from the University of Aberdeen.

"When we first started offering the class on health and human rights, Rollins was one of only three schools offering a health and human rights course." Now, Evans is a leading authority on the subject and hosts numerous trainings and talks on the subject in addition to the classes she teaches at Rollins.

Though Evans has been working steadily in public health for 18 years, her passion for public health has only deepened since those early days of her MPH program. "Most people go into public health because they feel passionately about helping people or improving people's health. Addressing disparities and social inequalities... those are two of many of the reasons I entered public health. So, having that passion about the work that I do is very important to me. I don't see my work as a job. It's a calling."

Current Research Projects

  • Capacity building through the Center for Humanitarian Emergencies (the center offers a certificate program, a fellowship, funded field practica, and will soon offer a health in emergencies Coursera course)
  • Department-affiliated work related to gender-based violence studying the community perceptions of intimate partner violence in Brazil as a reaction to the 2015 Anti Femicide Law.
  • Zika research in Brazil that explores the questions, "Are women choosing a contraceptive method they weren't before? If so, what method are they choosing? And how is Zika affecting abortion rates?" A second part to her Zika research, which she is working on in collaboration with Dr. Robert Bednarczyk, relates to the Zika vaccine that is in development. "We are interested in finding out the potential acceptability of the vaccine once it becomes available. How willing are people going to be to accept a new vaccine, for a new disease?"