PRBA Names Katrina R. Ellis as the Next James S. Jackson Emerging Scholar

Katrina EllisANN ARBOR — Katrina R. Ellis, Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Michigan, has been named the next James S. Jackson Emerging Scholar by the Program for Research on Black Americans (PRBA) at the Institute for Social Research (ISR). Dr. Ellis is an affiliate of the Research Center for Group Dynamics at ISR research. Her research seeks to improve racial health equity, with a specific focus on cancer and family-focused approaches to understanding, preventing, and managing health conditions among Black Americans.

“Dr. Katrina Ellis has established a distinguished and highly significant program of research exploring the experiences of African American cancer patients and survivors across the continuum of care including diagnosis, treatment, and remission,” said Dr. Robert Joseph Taylor, Director of PRBA. “Dr. Ellis’ work focuses on the family context of cancer care and explores the strengths and support assets within caregiving families.  She is a highly motivated scholar and mentor and as such an excellent choice for this award.”

An overarching goal of Dr. Ellis’s research is to support the health of families facing multiple, co-existing illnesses, with a specific focus on African Americans. She has advanced work applying antiracist principles to interventions and advocated for centering racial health equity in work with and alongside families.

The James S. Jackson Emerging Scholars Award was established to extend the mentoring efforts of PRBA by providing support for rising University of Michigan research scientists. The endowment honors former RCGD and ISR director James S. Jackson, the pioneering social psychologist known for his research on race and ethnicity, racism, and health and aging among Black Americans. The award is designed to support emerging scholars who are often at an especially creative and productive yet fragile career stage.

“It’s an honor to be selected for this recognition. It provides valuable support for my work with Black American families affected by cancer. Over the years, I have benefited tremendously from Dr. Jackson’s bold and innovative work and his immeasurable leadership and mentorship of generations of scholars. Receiving this award is a testament to the village of scholars and mentors with whom I have had the pleasure to learn from and collaborate,” said Dr. Ellis. 

Dr. Ellis conducts qualitative, quantitative, and participatory research and studies the design and implementation of interventions that support the quality of life of cancer survivors, caregivers, and family members. Her published research includes examinations of the influence of co-occurring illnesses on the psychosocial and behavioral health and well-being of cancer survivors and their family caregivers. She has also investigated psychosocial factors that influence the health behaviors and well-being of African Americans to inform family- and clinic-level interventions. 

Dr. Ellis completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the Cancer Health Disparities Training Program (Department of Health Behavior, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health), the Center for Health Equity Research (Department of Social Medicine, School of Medicine) and Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. During her time as a postdoctoral fellow, she worked with community-based participatory research projects in Greensboro and Rocky Mount, North Carolina focused on reducing the disproportionate burden of cancer morbidity and mortality and cardiovascular disease risk among African Americans and on digital health projects to support the wellbeing of peer supporters and families after a cancer diagnosis. Dr. Ellis is also a former Peace Corps Volunteer, having served as a Health Promotion Officer with the Ministry of Health in Fiji. Her current cancer-focused projects with Black American families include an NIH-funded study to support family communication about and uptake of recommended cancer genetic testing to reduce cancer risk and the development of post-treatment family-level intervention to support quality of life and engagement in health-promoting behaviors among cancer survivors and family members.

Dr. Ellis’s award was announced today at the symposium celebrating the life and career of James Jackson. Along with Robert Joseph Taylor, Katrina Ellis will be co-hosting the PRBA Reunion open to PRBA alumni on Dec. 2.

Dr. Ellis is the second recipient of the James S. Jackson Emerging Scholar Award. The inaugural recipient was Mosi Ifatunji, a mentee of Jackson who won the award in 2022. 

Contact: Tevah Platt, [email protected]