Rachel Shelton

Profile Headshot


Rachel Shelton, ScD, MPH is a social and behavioral scientist with expertise in implementation science, cancer prevention, and community-based intervention research. She is Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health, where she is the Associate Director of Research for the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion. She is also the Associate Director of the Community Engagement Core Resource at the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, where she directs a new university-wide initiative on Implementation Science at Columbia and co-teaches a course on Interdisciplinary Research and Team Science. Dr. Shelton developed and teaches one of the first courses offered in dissemination and implementation science nationally (since 2013) and is a co-author in the chapter on fidelity and adaptation in the 2018 textbook on Dissemination and Implementation Research in Health. She has been an invited speaker and trainer nationally and internationally in the field, and has been a facilitator for the Training Institute for Dissemination and Implementation Research in Health (TIDIRH) in Ireland and the Training Institute for Dissemination and Implementation Research for Cancer (TIDIRC). Dr. Shelton has over 13 years of experience conducting mixed-methods research in both community-based and health system settings, with over 62 peer-reviewed publications in journals including Translational Behavioral Medicine, Social Science & Medicine, American Journal of Public Health, Implementation Science, and Annual Reviews of Public Health. In addition to her work on advancing the implementation and sustainability of evidence-based interventions in real-world community and clinical settings (e.g. lay health advisor and navigator programs), she has published extensively on social and contextual factors that influence disparities in cancer and other chronic diseases among low-income African American and Hispanic populations, including social networks, discrimination, and medical mistrust. Dr. Shelton has been consecutively funded as Principal Investigator for the past eight years, with funding through American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, and National Institute on Aging (NIA). She is a former recipient of a K12 grant through the CTSA, and recently completed a Mentored Research Grant through the American Cancer Society to understand the role of social influences on outcomes for colon cancer patients when there is insufficient evidence to guide clinical decision-making. Dr. Shelton is currently PI of a Research Scholar Grant for Health Equity through American Cancer Society focused on advancing understanding of the sustainability of lay health advisor programs in under-resourced community settings and is multiple-PI of a R01 grant through NIA focused on social stressors and resources related to behavioral and epigenetic aging processes. Dr. Shelton served as Program Chair for SBM's 2018 Annual Meeting, is currently on the SBM Board as Member Delegate, and has received awards for her leadership and mentorship at SBM, including the Early Career Mentorship Award through the Student SIG, and the C. Tracy Orleans Distinguished Service Award.

Academic Appointments

  • Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences

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

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


Selected Publications

  1. 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.
  2. RC Shelton, 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.