Office of Health Equity Research 2023 Year in Review
Monday, January 29, 2024
The past year has been truly exceptional for the Office of Health Equity Research (OHER), from the 2023 Strategic Planning Retreat that shaped the Office's agenda to the ongoing development of 35 collaborative papers. Here are some highlights from 2023.
Strategic Planning Retreat
OHER organized a Strategic Planning Retreat in April to align its agenda with the priorities identified by the University of Rochester Medical Center Community Advisory Council (URMC CAC). The CAC represents organizations that serve historically marginalized populations in the Greater Rochester area. Its members work in health care and social services, faith-based organizations, and local government.
At the Strategic Planning Retreat, 75 attendees engaged in a dynamic virtual session to gain insights from leaders representing each of the five research concentration areas: 1) safe and healthy housing, 2) prevention of mental health and substance use disorders, 3) prevention of gun violence, 4) prevention of re-incarceration, and 5) prevention and management of chronic disease. During the retreat, leaders from each concentration area shared the status of their research, both within the institution and in the broader community, and potential directions for future research endeavors. The event served as a platform for initiating dialogue and collaboration between stakeholders dedicated to advancing health equity within the URMC and beyond.
The strategic planning retreat exemplified OHER's commitment to ensuring that its research priorities are not only reflective of the academic landscape but are also informed by the perspectives and needs of the communities it serves. By bringing together key players in the health equity research domain, OHER continues to strengthen its position as a hub for innovative and community-centric research initiatives at URMC. Following the strategic planning retreat, our network of more than 120 self-identified health-equity researchers was organized into workgroups for each of the five community-identified priority areas for research, and teams have been meeting for conceptual development on a monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly basis.
Investigator Directory and Searchable Database
The Office also created an online directory of Health Equity Researchers. The searchable database provides access to a list of Health Equity Research Core Investigators (HERCI)—a group of faculty members, scientists, healthcare providers, and trainees who span many disciplines across the University of Rochester, as well as community leaders and members of city government whose work is aligned with our mission. From May 30, 2023, to Dec 31, 2023, the page had 732 views by 453 users.
Youth Advisory Board
OHER established a Youth Advisory Board in 2023 and hosted its inaugural meeting on September 6 with all 15 board members in attendance. The agenda included board and OHER staff introductions, orientation to the board, and presentations to familiarize the youth advisors with research processes. OHER Founding Director Edith Williams, MS, PhD, Arielle Sheftall, PhD, and Traci Terrance, PhD, led the session on behalf of OHER and the broader URMC research community. In December, the board heard from AnaPaula Cupertino, PhD, who presented her R01 proposal focused on youth involvement in gun violence prevention.
The Youth Advisory Board is a testament to OHER's dedication to including the lived experience of Rochester-area residents within the URMC research landscape. Together, we are poised to conduct research that incorporates the perspectives of our youth and meets the needs of our entire community.
OHER Pilot Grants
Last year, OHER solicited grant applications to support up to five health equity research pilot projects in the community-identified research priority areas. The Office received six pilot submissions, and the first pilot study in health equity was awarded to Amina Alio, PhD, to research how to support Black fathers who have been incarcerated, as well as their families. Learn more about her proposal.
OHER “HERE WE ARE!” Events
In a concerted effort to promote cross-disciplinary discourse and conceptual development, OHER hosted weekly writing groups and a monthly gathering at a local restaurant owned by members of the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) community. OHER-sponsored gatherings provided an excellent opportunity for HERCI members to come together in a relaxed and welcoming environment to engage in conversations that bridged the gap between diverse fields of study. OHER encouraged collaboration and the exchange of ideas between individuals with varied content expertise and perspectives.
Weekly and monthly meetings held from June to December 2023 not only contributed to the enrichment of academic discussions but also played a role in building stronger connections between the University community and BIPOC-owned local establishments. OHER's commitment to creating an inclusive and supportive space reflected the University's dedication to promoting diversity, equity, and collaboration among its members.
As a result of numerous activities to facilitate connection and collaboration among health equity research-oriented investigators, HERCI members submitted 13 grant applications. OHER supported five additional proposals and 35 collaborative manuscripts are currently in development. At least one collaborative paper has been published.
Health Equity Research Course
Another OHER priority is to increase the capacity of investigators to conduct health equity research, so a subset of HERCI members, including Williams, Alio, Camille Martina, PhD, Diana Fernandez, MD, MPH, PhD, Courtney Jones, PhD, MPH, Reza Yousefi-Nooraie, MS, PhD, Jonathan Herington, PhD, and Maria Quinones, PhD, created a health equity research course. The course will be a one-credit introduction to relevant theoretical frameworks and strategies to promote health equity research, measurement, analyses, and dissemination. OHER expects to offer the resulting six-week course and pull-apart modules perpetually, beginning in the Fall 2024 semester.
The Office of Health Equity Research achieved significant milestones in 2023. The team looks forward to building on this momentum in 2024 as the Office transitions to the Center for Community Health and Prevention with the appointment of Williams as CCHP’s new director.