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Preventing HPV and cervical cancer in rural Georgia

Emory Nursing | Dec. 19, 2011

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Tami Thomas is studying rural communities in south Georgia to find appropriate ways to disseminate the HPV vaccine as a way to prevent cervical cancer.

In 2005, a girl in her early 20s came to see Tami Thomas PhD CPNP RNC for a routine Pap smear. Thomas, then a pediatric nurse practitioner with the University of Florida, had to deliver devastating news. The girl had cervical cancer induced by a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

“This young woman was at a time in her life when she should have been planning for graduate school or traveling or starting a job,” says Thomas. “Instead she was faced with chemotherapy, radiation, and the possibility of a truncated life. I went to my director and said, ‘Something has to be done about HPV. It’s everywhere.’ ”

Today, she is doing something about it. Now an assistant professor and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar at Emory, Thomas is researching interventions to disseminate health care innovations, like the new HPV vaccine, to adolescent and pediatric populations experiencing health disparities in rural areas.

“The people who live in rural counties suffer from diseases such as cervical cancer at higher rates than those in urban areas, yet they are often invisible,” she says. “The support I get from Campaign Emory and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation allows me to help all Georgians.”

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