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Isaac M. Lipkus, PhD

Professor in the School of Nursing
(919) 668-2348
3067 Pearson Building

Dr. Lipkus is Professor in the School of Nursing and the Department of Community Medicine and Director of the Risk Communication Laboratory. He received his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, specializing in the area of social psychology. Dr. Lipkus, a nationally and internationally known expert on risk communication, is engaged in development of more effective tools for this purpose. For the last 14 years, his research has focused on cancer prevention and detection, and on the role of risk communication in patients' decisions pertaining to cancer treatment and modification of health behaviors. He has applied social cognitive models (with an emphasis on risk communication processes) to motivate changes in life style such as smoking cessation and changes in diet and exercise; to increase participation in screening for breast cancer and colorectal cancer; and to improve breast cancer treatment decisions. His recent research explores the influence of feedback about genetic factors on decision making concerning smoking cessation and choice of treatment of breast cancer.

Academic Program Affiliations

  • Master of Science in Nursing Program
  • PhD in Nursing Program
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice Program


  • PhD - University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
  • MA - University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
  • BS - University of California-San Diego

Research Interests

Dr. Lipkus is interested in:

1) the impact of risk perceptions (e.g., optimistic and pessimistic biases) on modifying precautionary behaviors (e.g., early prevention and detection of cancer, etc.) and

2) how dispositional variables (e.g., hostility) and attitudinal variables (e.g belief in a just world) affect coping with negative life events (e.g., cancer, conflict in interpersonal relationships)

Awards and Honors

  • 1994 || New Directions Award, Academy of Management
  • 1993 || Postdoctoral Felllow in Behavioral Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Ohio State University
  • 1993 || Postdoctoral Felllow in Psychoneuroimmunology, Ohio State University
  • 1992 || Reuben Hill Award, National Council on Family Relations
  • 1991 || Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center
  • 1986 || B.S. cum laude (Sociology), University of California - San Diego

Areas of Expertise

  • Oncology
  • Psychiatric / Behavioral Health

Representative Publications

  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 26438650 Mays, D. and Tercyak, K. P. and Lipkus, I. M. The Effects of Brief Waterpipe Tobacco Use Harm and Addiction Education Messages Among Young Adult Waterpipe Tobacco Users. Nicotine Tob Res. October 4, 2015 Epub ahead of print
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 26065633 Stone, E. R. and Gabard, A. R. and Groves, A. E. and Lipkus, I. M. Effects of Numerical Versus Foreground-Only Icon Displays on Understanding of Risk Magnitudes. J Health Commun. October, 2015 20(10); 1230-41
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 26514587 McBride, C. M. and Blocklin, M. and Lipkus, I. M. and Klein, W. M. and Brandon, T. H. Patient's lung cancer diagnosis as a cue for relatives' smoking cessation: evaluating the constructs of the teachable moment. Psychooncology. October 30, 2015 Epub ahead of print
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 25542922 Lipkus, I. M. and Reboussin, B. A. and Wolfson, M. and Sutfin, E. L. Assessing and Predicting Susceptibility to Waterpipe Tobacco Use Among College Students. Nicotine Tob Res. September, 2015 17(9); 1120-5 PMC4542741
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 26257321 Ross, K. M. and Ranby, K. W. and Wooldridge, J. S. and Robertson, C. and Lipkus, I. M. Effects of physical and mental health on relationship satisfaction: a dyadic, longitudinal examination of couples facing prostate cancer. Psychooncology. August, 2015, Epub ahead of print
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 25173776 Lipkus, I. M. and Schwartz-Bloom, R. and Kelley, M. J. and Pan, W. A preliminary exploration of college smokers' reactions to nicotine dependence genetic susceptibility feedback. Nicotine Tob Res. March, 2015 17(3); 337-43
  • 2015 -- PubMed # : 25603929 vanDellen, M. R. and Boyd, S. M. and Ranby, K. W. and MacKillop, J. and Lipkus, I. M. Willingness to provide support for a quit attempt: A study of partners of smokers. J Health Psychol. January, 2015 Epub ahead of print
  • 2014 -- PubMed # : 23928987 Lipkus, I. M. and Eissenberg, T. and Schwartz-Bloom, R. D. and Prokhorov, A. V. and Levy, J. Relationships among factual and perceived knowledge of harms of waterpipe tobacco, perceived risk, and desire to quit among college users. J Health Psychol. December, 2014 19(12); 1525-35
  • 2014 -- PubMed # : 24804802 Demark-Wahnefried, W. and Jones, L. W. and Snyder, D. C. and Sloane, R. J. and Kimmick, G. G. and Hughes, D. C. and Badr, H. J. and Miller, P. E. and Burke, L. E. and Lipkus, I. M. Daughters and Mothers Against Breast Cancer (DAMES): Main outcomes of a randomized controlled trial of weight loss in overweight mothers with breast cancer and their overweight daughters. Cancer. August, 2014 120(16); 2522-34
  • 2014 -- PubMed # : 25473429 Haga, S. B. and Mills, R. and Pollak, K. I. and Rehder, C. and Buchanan, A. H. and Lipkus, I. M. and Crow, J. H. and Datto, M. Developing patient-friendly genetic and genomic test reports: formats to promote patient engagement and understanding. Genome Med. July, 2014 6(7); 58 PMC4254435


Grant Funding (Selected)

  • Effects of Message Framing and Risk Feedback on CRC Screening

    National Institutes of Health
    09/2014 to 08/2016
  • IPA Karen Nicely

    Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center
    04/2012 to 09/2012
  • Effects of Message Framing on Cessation among Couples where both Partners Smoke

    National Institutes of Health
    03/2012 to 02/2014
    Role: Principal Investigator

    Project Goal: This study aims to test whether focusing the positive effects of quitting at the level of the individual or couples or the negative effects of continuing to smoke at the level of the individual or couples, influence processes of communal coping and downstream smoking-related outcomes.

  • Motivating Weight Loss in Dual Overweight/Obese Couples

    Duke Cancer Prevention, Detection, and Control Research Program Cancer Control Pilot Award
    07/2012 to 06/2013
    Role: Principal Investigator

    Project goal: To motivate weight loss in obese couples using mental contrasting and implementation intentions.

  • Preliminary Test of Habit Formation Intervention for Physical Activity in Breast Cancer Survivors

    Duke University School of Nursing Small Grant Project
    09/2012 to 08/2013
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • Patient self-management and gene guided therapy for CHC

    National Institutes of Health
    04/2012 to 03/2014
    Role: Co-investigator

    This 2 year exploratory mixed-methods longitudinal case study (n=18) will describe patients’ and providers’ explanations of how and why they engage in technical work (T-WORK) and adaptive work (A-WORK), and adaptive leadership (A-LEAD) and how these strategies promote or pose barriers to patients’ SM in the context of the new genetic marker and treatments.

  • Assessing Risk Communication Educational Practices in Genetic Counseling Programs

    National Institutes of Health
    08/2008 to 05/2011
    Role: PI
  • Clinical Validity and Utility of Genomic Targeted Chemoprevention of PCa

    Wake Forest University Health Sciences
    09/2009 to 08/2010
    Role: PI

    This pilot study explores interest among smokers to test for their risk of developing lung cancer based on epigenetic changes associated with methylation of the p16 protein.

  • The Effects of Providing Breast Cancer Recurrence using Oncotype Risk

    The Anthony Marchione Foundation
    05/2008 to 12/2009
    Role: PI

    This study aims to explore 1) patients’ accuracy of stating their recurrence risk based on the oncotype DX, 2) how perceptions of recurrence risk affect weighting of treatment risks and benefits and treatment selection, and 3) how numeracy affects process

  • Testing the Feasibility of Using an Epigenetic Marker of Risk for Lung Cancer, Methylation of p16, to Promote Smoking Cessation

    06/2008 to 05/2009
    Role: Co-investigator

    This pilot study explores interest among smokers to test for their risk of developing lung cancer based on epigenetic changes associated with methylation of the p16 protein.


Friday, June 8, 2018

Congratulations to Isaac Lipkus who has received an award for his NIH R21 proposal entitled "Exploring Reactions to Health Warnings on Waterpipe Tobacco Ads." This project has been awarded at $420,830 for a sixteen month project period from July 1, 2018 until October 31, 2019.

Friday, April 27, 2018

A large number of DUSON faculty and students recently presented at the 2018 Society of Behavioral Medicine annual meeting in New Orleans, LA. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Congratulations to PhD student Cherie Conley and her sponsor Isaac Lipkus who has received an NINR NRSA (F31) award, for her proposal entitled "Peer Support Dyads in an Obesity Prevention Program in African American Churches." The project has been awarded $60,807 with a start date of April 1, 2018.

Friday, April 14, 2017

PhD students Deanna Befus and Rachel Hirschey and PhD alumna Megan Winkler presented their work at the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine in San Diego, Calif.

​Befus' presentation is entitled "A systems-thinking, problem-solving approach to study migraine self-management and empowerment in socially vulnerable women." Janice Humphreys was a contributor for this project.





Friday, November 11, 2016

Kudos to Isaac Lipkus and his entire team for the submission of their NIH R21 application entitled "Pilot Trial of a Multi-Component Intervention to Reduce Sedentary Behaviors among Colorectal Cancer Survivors." This proposal requests funding for a two-year period with a start date of July 1, 2017.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

PhD student Rachel Hirschey published an article with her dissertation chair, Isaac Lipkus, entitled "Message Framing and Physical Activity Promotion in Colorectal Cancer Survivors" in the Oncology Nursing Forum.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Kudos to Isaac Lipkus and his entire team for the submission of their NIH R21 application entitled "Exploring Reactions to Health Warnings on Waterpipe Tobacco Ads." This proposal requests funding for a two-year period with a start date of July 1, 2017.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

From the Center for Nursing Research...

Friday, September 16, 2016

From the Center for Nursing Research...

Great News! Richesson and Jang Receive Awards

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Center for Nursing Research recently released a white paper entitled "Research Areas of Excellence" prepared by Marilyn Hockenberry, Constance Johnson, Isaac Lipkus, Wei Pan, and Allison Vorderstrasse.

In the 14 page document, the team covers everything from guiding principles, research areas of excellence, clinical innovation, population health and chronic illness, methods and analytics and more.

Click here to learn more.