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Arnold School of Public Health


Sara Wilcox (EXSC) elected to fellowship in the Society of Behavioral Medicine

April 13, 2016 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

Exercise Science Professor Sara Wilcox has been elected to fellowship in the Society of Behavioral Medicine. She and seven other newly elected fellows were honored on March 31 during the Presidential Keynote and Awards Ceremony at the Society’s 2016 Annual Meeting and Scientific Sessions in Washington D.C.

Society of Behavioral Medicine Fellows are selected in recognition of outstanding contributions to the advancement of the science and practice of behavioral medicine and are evaluated based on academic, professional, clinical, legislative, and other meritorious accomplishments. They are expected to perpetuate the organization’s prestige, dedication and tradition while serving as role models who offer guidance for students and members. The Society’s fellowship program demonstrates its commitment to advancing the science and practice of behavioral medicine and ensures the future of the organization.

Fellows must be accomplished in behavioral medicine practice, research, teaching, or administration/leadership, but Wilcox excels in all of them. As director of USC’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded Prevention Research Center, she oversees the Center’s efforts to translate research into practice—benefiting the public’s health through engaging in the promotion of physical activity, community intervention, training, dissemination and applied research.

In terms of her own research, Wilcox focuses on factors that influence physical activity by understanding personal, social and environmental elements in generally understudied populations (e.g., women, older adults, African Americans). Since 1995, she has published more than 170 peer-reviewed publications, eight book chapters and various other publications and reports. In the past seven years alone, she has received in excess of $20 million in grant funding as a principal investigator and co-principal investigator—much of it from federal agencies.

“Dr. Wilcox has made important and meaningful contributions to examining barriers to physical activity in older adults, women, and African-American populations and in developing interventions to meet the unique needs of these populations and communities,” says Abby King, a professor of health research & policy and medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “Her research involves faculty from multiple disciplines and perspectives and is innovative and impactful.”

Teaching and mentorship are also areas where Wilcox shines. She serves on various university committees and teaches courses in behavioral aspects of physical activity. Since she joined the University of South Carolina, most of her publications have included student authors—often with students listed in first author position. She has chaired the dissertation committees for 12 doctoral students—many of them going on to obtain tenure-track positions and three of whom are now tenured associate professors. Wilcox has also mentored five students in obtaining grants to support dissertation research.

In terms of service, Wilcox has held numerous professional leadership roles, such as president of the Delta Omega public health honor society. She has been a standing reviewer for the National Institutes of Health study section. In addition, she has served as the consulting editor for Health Psychology, as the associate editor for the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, and on the editorial board for both Psychology and Aging and the Journal of Physical Activity and Health. Wilcox currently serves on a committee tasked with adding the faith sector to the National Physical Activity Plan, and she is on both the leadership team and the evaluation committee for the South Carolina State Obesity Plan.

While she is clearly deserving of her election to fellowship in the Society of Behavioral Medicine, this is certainly not the first time Wilcox has been recognized for her achievements. She has received the Paffenbarger Research Award (2001), the Faith-based Award (2003) from the S.C. Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness for her research in African-American churches, the Arnold School of Public Health Research Award (2007) and the USC Educational Foundation Faculty Research Award (2010). Wilcox was selected by the USC Provost to represent USC as a South Eastern Conference Academic Leadership Program Fellow (2014-2015), and she was elected as a Fellow by the National Academy of Kinesiology (2015).

Her nearly 20 years of experience in her field reflects an accomplished and yet still promising career—one that fits perfectly with her most recent honor. “Dr. Wilcox clearly meets our Society of Behavioral Medicine criteria for fellowship,” says Steven Blair, an Arnold School professor of exercise science and 2014 President’s Council Lifetime Achievement Award winner. “She is an exceptional behavioral scientist, and I know that she will continue to make contributions to behavioral medicine and public health.”