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Community Research Fellowship Program has Successful Inaugural Year

September 15, 2021

As part of a new program introduced by the Center for Community Engagement and Health Equity (CEHE), which is Directed by Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, MHS, and in partnership with the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE), nine community members from New Haven joined five research groups at Yale Cancer Center for a 9-month Fellowship in 2021 to bring community perspectives to cancer research and to learn about cancer research at Yale. Hosting research groups included: The Joshi Lab (Mentors: Nikhil Joshi, PhD, Kelli Connolly, PhD); The Tobacco Center on Regulatory Sciences (Mentors: Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, PhD, Grace Kong, PhD); The Townsend Lab (Mentor: Christopher Cross, PhD); Yale Smart Medicine Lab (YSML) (Mentor: Jun Deng, PhD); and the Smilow Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program (Mentors: Xavier Llor, MD, PhD, Tracy Sturrock, APRN).

This program provided training and support to hosting research groups on academic-community collaborations and delivered ongoing workshops for Fellows to introduce them to cancer and cancer research, health disparities, the social determinants of health, community-level health interventions, cancer prevention, and community based participatory research. “This program builds knowledge, skills, and confidence for community members interested in driving forward community engaged research at YCC,” explained Marquita Taylor, PhD, Assistant Director for Health Equity Leadership Programs at CARE and manager of the program. “The approach is unique, because it provides structured learning with ‘on-the-ground’ research experience to community residents, while building active relationships between community members and Yale Investigators,” added Erin Singleton, Program Manager at CEHE.

Fellows were able to contribute to research on: the experience of underrepresented minority patients in clinical trials; barriers to colorectal cancer screening in the community; development of an AI-empowered mobile health platform; and research on tobacco regulation and youth-based tobacco interventions. These successful Investigator-Fellow collaborations are moving toward academic-community partnered presentations and publications, and several of these collaborations will continue beyond the Fellowship period.

The Center for Community Engagement and Health Equity looks forward to continuing and expanding this program to other cities throughout our Connecticut catchment area, with an emphasis on engaging people of color and people from low-income communities. CEHE will be recruiting a new cohort of Fellows and YCC research group hosts starting in November 2021 to begin in 2022. Please contact Erin Singleton (erin.singleton@yale) for more information.

*CARE was established in in 2007 and its mission of is to improve the health of New Haven residents. It is co-housed at Southern Connecticut State University the Yale School of Public Health.

Submitted by Emily Montemerlo on September 15, 2021