Whitney Robinson, PhD, MSPH
Principal Investigator
Associate Professor in Obstetrics and Gynecology
Member of the Duke Cancer Institute
Core Faculty Member, Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy
Contact Information
DUMC Box 3084, Durham, NC 27710


Whitney Robinson, PhD, MSPH, is an Associate Professor in the Division of Women's Community and Population Health in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Duke University Medical Center.

She is an epidemiologist who specializes in quantitative methodology for studying health inequalities. Currently, Dr. Robinson uses health care and administrative data to understand causes of racial/ethnic differences in treatment of conditions like fibroids, abnormal uterine bleeding, and endometriosis in the premenopausal and perimenopausal periods.

A central motivation of Dr. Robinson's research is understanding how social and environmental factors underpin race and sex differences in health — even for inequalities sometimes presumed to be mostly biologically based, such as racial differences in cancer incidence or rates of hysterectomy. A common theoretical underpinning of her work is the life course framework, particularly hypotheses that exposures during critical periods in utero; during childhood; and at other life stages, such as the menopausal transition, have enduring effects on later adult health.

In addition to her current focus on gynecologic health, Dr. Robinson has done research on determinants of trends in obesity and several cancers. For instance, her earlier work found that perinatal and childhood poverty and stress may predispose females, more so than males, to adult obesity, potentially explaining the large obesity gender gap observed among Black Americans. She has also used age-period-cohort analysis to predict future trends in obesity prevalence in Millennials. Other work has showed that childhood obesity is not a major driver of the Black-white disparity in prostate cancer incidence. Another line of research investigates drivers of racial differences in treatment of non-cancerous gynecologic conditions and the "obesity paradox" in survival among people diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma (a type of kidney cancer).

From 2008-2010, Dr. Robinson was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at the University of Michigan. Before that, Dr. Robinson received her PhD in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Robinson also holds a master’s degree in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Until recently, Dr. Robinson worked full-time as an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, a Faculty Fellow at the Carolina Population Center and a member of the Social Epidemiology Program Area and the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Visit Dr. Robinson's personal website here.


Mass probation: Temporal and geographic correlation of county-level probation rates & mental health in North Carolina.

Journal Article Ssm Ment Health · December 2023High community incarceration rates are associated with worse community mental health. However, it remains unknown whether higher rates of probation, a form of criminal legal community supervision, are similarly associated with worse community mental health ...Full textLink to itemCite

Patient and Surgery Characteristics of Inpatient Hysterectomies Among Transgender Individuals.

Journal Article Lgbt Health · May 26, 2023Purpose: The purpose of this study is to estimate population-based rates of inpatient hysterectomy and accompanying bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy by indication and evaluate surgical patient characteristics by indication, year, patient age, and hospital l ...Full textLink to itemCite

Hysterectomy With and Without Oophorectomy, Tubal Ligation, and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in the Nurses' Health Study II.

Journal Article J Womens Health (Larchmt) · May 8, 2023Background: Hysterectomy, oophorectomy, and tubal ligation are common surgical procedures. The literature regarding cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk after these surgeries has focused on oophorectomy with limited research on hysterectomy or tubal ligation. ...Full textLink to itemCite

Disparities in job characteristics by race and sex in a Southern aluminum smelting facility.

Journal Article Am J Ind Med · April 2023BACKGROUND: Former workers at a Southern aluminum smelting facility raised concerns that the most hazardous jobs were assigned to Black workers, but the role of workplace segregation had not been quantified or examined in the company town. Prior studies di ...Full textLink to itemCite

A comparison of analytic approaches for investigating the obesity paradox in kidney cancer.

Journal Article Cancer Causes Control · April 2023PURPOSE: Body mass index (BMI) and kidney cancer mortality are inconsistently associated in the scientific literature. To understand how study design affects results, we contrasted associations between pre-diagnosis BMI and mortality under different analyt ...Full textLink to itemCite

Single-center serological surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in pregnant patients presenting to labor and delivery.

Journal Article Int J Gynaecol Obstet · March 2023OBJECTIVE: To measure maternal/fetal SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels. METHODS: A prospective observational study of eligible parturients admitted to the hospital for infant delivery was conducted between April and September 2020. SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels were ...Full textLink to itemCite

Inequities in life course criminal legal system sanctions: measuring cumulative involvement.

Journal Article Ann Epidemiol · December 2022PURPOSE: The impact of incarceration on health is well known. Yet, most studies measure incarceration alone and miss additional exposure to the criminal legal system over time. We evaluated adult criminal legal sanctions - inclusive of arrests, charges, pr ...Full textLink to itemCite

North Carolina public school teachers' contact patterns and mask use within and outside of school during the prevaccine phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Journal Article Am J Infect Control · June 2022BACKGROUND: Teachers are central to school-associated transmission networks, but little is known about their behavioral patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic. METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of 700 North Carolina public school teachers in 4 ...Full textLink to itemCite

Trends in surgical treatment of early-stage breast cancer reveal decreasing mastectomy use between 2003 and 2016 by age, race, and rurality.

Journal Article Breast Cancer Res Treat · June 2022PURPOSE: To examine trends in the surgical treatment of breast cancer by age, rurality, and among Black women in a populous, racially diverse, state in the Southeastern United States of America. METHODS: We identified women diagnosed with localized or regi ...Full textLink to itemCite

Public health critical race praxis at the intersection of traffic stops and injury epidemiology.

Journal Article Inj Epidemiol · March 21, 2022BACKGROUND: Law enforcement traffic stops are one of the most common entryways to the US justice system. Conventional frameworks suggest traffic stops promote public safety by reducing dangerous driving practices and non-vehicular crime with little to no c ...Full textLink to itemCite

Development of an algorithm to assess unmeasured symptom severity in gynecologic care.

Journal Article Am J Obstet Gynecol · March 2022BACKGROUND: Healthcare disparities research is often limited by incomplete accounting for differences in health status by populations. In the United States, hysterectomy shows marked variation by race and geography, but it is difficult to understand what f ...Full textLink to itemCite

Validity of breast cancer surgery treatment information in a state-based cancer registry.

Journal Article Cancer Causes Control · February 2022PURPOSE: Surgery is an important part of early stage breast cancer treatment that affects overall survival. Many studies of surgical treatment of breast cancer rely on data sources that condition on continuous insurance coverage or treatment at specified f ...Full textLink to itemCite

Prevalence of SARs-CoV-2 Infection Among Pregnant Women in a Rural Pandemic Hotspot in the Southern U.S.

Journal Article American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology · February 2022Full textCite

Correlates of Receiving Guideline-Concordant Postpartum Health Services in the Community Health Center Setting.

Journal Article Womens Health Rep (New Rochelle) · 2022Introduction: New clinical guidelines recommend comprehensive and timely postpartum services across 3 months after birth. Research is needed to characterize correlates of receiving guideline-concordant, quality postpartum care in federally qualified health ...Full textLink to itemCite

Changing trends in Black-White racial differences in surgical menopause: a population-based study.

Journal Article Am J Obstet Gynecol · November 2021BACKGROUND: Bilateral oophorectomy before menopause, or surgical menopause, is associated with negative health outcomes, including an increased risk for stroke and other cardiovascular outcomes; however, surgical menopause also dramatically reduces ovarian ...Full textLink to itemCite

Patterns of black and white hysterectomy incidence among reproductive aged women.

Journal Article Health Serv Res · October 2021OBJECTIVE: To investigate the intersection of race and economic context in treatment with hysterectomy among reproductive aged women with noncancerous gynecologic conditions. DATA SOURCES: We combined administrative billing records of inpatient and outpati ...Full textLink to itemCite

Estimated Performance of Transvaginal Ultrasonography for Evaluation of Postmenopausal Bleeding in a Simulated Cohort of Black and White Women in the US.

Journal Article Jama Oncol · August 1, 2021IMPORTANCE: Black women in the US with endometrial cancer (EC) are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced-stage disease independent of insured status and histologic type. The most common way of diagnosing EC at early stages is through screening of peopl ...Full textLink to itemCite

Timing, delays and pathways to diagnosis of endometriosis: a scoping review protocol.

Journal Article Bmj Open · June 24, 2021INTRODUCTION: Pathways to diagnosis for women with endometriosis are frequently characterised with delays. Internationally, women face significant barriers and times to diagnosis. The prolonged time without a diagnosis may result in treatment delay, with c ...Full textLink to itemCite

Mexican households' food shopping patterns in 2015: analysis following nonessential food and sugary beverage taxes.

Journal Article Public Health Nutr · June 2021OBJECTIVE: To examine patterns of taxed and untaxed food and beverage shopping across store types after Mexico's sugary drink and non-essential food taxes, the nutritional quality of these patterns and the socio-economic characteristics associated with the ...Full textLink to itemCite

Incorporating measures of structural racism into population studies of reproductive health in the United States: A Narrative Review

Journal Article Health Equity · February 1, 2021Purpose: Black women in the United States face poor outcomes across reproductive health measures - from pregnancy outcomes to gynecologic cancers. Racial health inequities are attributable to systemic racism, but few population studies of reproductive heal ...