UNC professor John Vernon dies at age 43

John Vernon, an assistant professor with the department of health policy and management in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, died June 19 in his home in West Lafayette, Ind.

Vernon, 43 is survived by his wife Jucineia Gomes, two sons and a stepdaughter.

Vernon, a native of Durham, held undergraduate, master’s and doctorate degrees in economics from Duke University, N.C. State University and the University of London, respectively. He also earned a doctorate degree in management science from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

Vernon’s research focused on economic aspects of the pharmaceutical industry.

Before he came to UNC in 2008, he worked as a senior economic policy advisor at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He also served as a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“He tried to model progress that was economically sustainable and good for patients,” said professor Howard McLeod, the director of the Institute for Pharmacoeconomics and Individualized Therapy, a program at UNC with which Vernon did much of his work.

“He really represented someone with a lot of passion for taking boring economic models and using them to make people’s lives better.”

His colleagues particularly remember the high quality and quantity of his work. He published more than 47 papers, 30 editorials and three books and chapters. He also won the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research Methodology Research Award in 2006 for his work.

“He was a brilliant scholar,” said Peggy Leatt, chairwoman of the department of health policy and management. “We were very proud to have him associated with us.”

Vernon’s position will eventually be filled, but the search for a replacement has not yet begun.

“There’s still a lot of shock that a young, vital guy is gone,” McLeod said.

McLeod said finding a replacement will not be easy, as Vernon was specifically recruited by the school for his unique qualifications.

“We need people with his expertise, and there aren’t many of them around,” McLeod said. “He will be sorely missed.”

Daniel Belsky, a doctoral student of Vernon’s, said he found his support helpful while working to earn his degree.

“John was a very supportive and easy-going mentor,” Belsky said.

“He was very interested in helping his students succeed.”

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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