Joan Cates teaches graduate students in the Interdisciplinary Health Communication (IHC) certificate program and master’s track programs. She has a Ph.D. in Mass Communication and an M.P.H. in Health Policy and Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Cates’ research examines the role of media in shaping awareness, policies and practices related to sexually transmitted infections (STIs). As principal investigator of the American Youth and Sexually Transmitted Diseases Project, funded by the William T. Grant Foundation (2002-2006), she was responsible for the publication of the first national summary of the scope and impact of STDs in youth in a 2004 report, "Our Voices, Our Lives, Our Futures: Youth and Sexually Transmitted Diseases."

Cates’ more recent research, funded by NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), assesses the extent to which parents and health care providers respond to dissemination strategies by deciding on human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for pre-teen boys. She also is co-investigator on the National Institute of Minority and Health Disparities (NIMHD) funded HIV prevention radio campaign to reduce sexual concurrency among African Americans (Adimora PI). Cates leads a collaborative research team from disciplines of communication, medicine, public health, biostatistics and child psychology, from the campuses of UNC in addition to North Carolina Central University and Duke University. 

She won an IMPACT award in 2005 for graduate research at UNC. Cates’ publications include articles in the Journal of Adolescent Health, Social Marketing Quarterly, Perspectives in Sexual and Reproductive Health, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Women's Health Issues, Sex Education and the Journal of Rural Health. 


  • Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • M.P.H., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill