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September 16, 2009

Center Achieves Community Engagement Milestones
By Rhonda G. Kost, MD

In April 2009, Dr. Kenneth Olden, Founding and Acting Dean of the new City University of New York (CUNY) School of Public Health, sited at Hunter College, joined the Advisory Committee on Community Engagement and Recruitment (ACCER) as an advisor to and collaborator with, the Rockefeller University Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS). ACCER, a subcommittee of the Advisory Committee for Clinical and Translational Science (ACCTS), is responsible for the implementation of the Community Engagement Key Function at Rockefeller. Dr. Olden brings a wide breadth and depth of experience in science, public policy, and community engagement to his leadership of the new School of Public Health and to Rockefeller. Dr. Olden served as Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program from 1991-2005, where he was recognized internationally for his leadership. More recently, he was a Yerby Visiting Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Olden has defined the goal of CUNY's School of Public Health as “to train interdisciplinary urban public health researchers and practitioners capable of working across all levels of analysis, disciplines, and social sectors -- such as health, education, the environment, and criminal justice -- to address complex urban public health problems.”

Dr. Olden and the ACCER Board, (consisting of Dr. Peter Holt, Dr. Jonathan Tobin, Dr. Rhonda Kost, Dr. Barry Coller, Ms. Maija Neville, Dr. Bonnie Kaiser, and Mr. Joseph Bonner), have begun developing plans to foster interdisciplinary collaborations that partner traditional population-focused public health concerns including health disparities, with biological and mechanistically focused research on the molecular basis of stress and its impact on health risk. Coupling these disciplines holds great potential for synergy in addressing public health challenges and accelerating the dissemination of research findings into practice.

Dr. Daniel Blumenthal, Professor and Chair of the Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) served as a consultant to CCTS under the auspices of a Duke University CTSA consortium-wide project termed the Community Engagement Consultative Service (CECS). Dr. Blumenthal has served as a consultant to the World Health Organization in Geneva; a VISTA Volunteer physician in Lee County, Arkansas; as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta; and as a medical epidemiologist with the World Health Organization Smallpox Eradication Program in India and Somalia. Dr. Blumenthal visited the Rockefeller campus on May 20, 2009 and, in addition to providing his consultation, delivered a Clinical Research Seminar, entitled: “Community Partnerships for Translational Research.” The Rockefeller team described the current program to Dr. Blumenthal through a series of meetings with faculty, ACCER members, Clinical Scholars, and collaborators, including Dr. Kenneth Olden and Dr. Jonathan Tobin, President and CEO of Clinical Directors Network, a community based research network. From a list of 30 practices endorsed by the CECS workgroup, Rockefeller was asked to focus on 1-2 best practices around which to build the consultation. Rockefeller selected: 1) how to design flexible projects that incorporate the community, and 2) building long term relationships with community partners.

After reviewing all the materials and conducting his analysis, Dr. Blumenthal judged the Rockefeller program to be “highly likely” to continue to be successful in achieving our stated goals, and in executing the plan of action. He noted that the CCTS’s “strategic alliances with partners that have deep connections to the community” was an extremely appropriate approach for Rockefeller.