An emerging best practice of addressing health and improving health disparities in communities is ensuring that academic health centers (AHCs) are engaged with area schools, primary care practices, and community advocates as equal partners in research, services, and programs. The literature documents the importance of ensuring that academic–community collaboration is based on equity, trust, and respect and that there is capacity (time and resources) and a shared culture (language, skills, and applied knowledge) for accomplishing mutual goals in academic–community research partnerships. It is also essential that an academic–community collaboration result in tangible and measurable goals and outcomes for both the target community and the AHC. Currently, the models for implementing best practices in community health partnerships, especially training programs, are limited.
This article summarizes the goals and outcomes for the Community Leaders Institute (CLI), a six-week innovative leadership development training program designed to enhance academic–community research, integrate the interests of community leaders and AHC researchers, and build research capacity and competencies within the community. On the basis of two years of outcome data, the CLI is achieving its intended goals of engaging faculty as trainer–scholars while promoting academic–community partnerships that align with community and AHC priorities. The training and collaborative research paradigm used by the CLI has served to accelerate AHC–community engagement and integration efforts, as CLI graduates are now serving on AHC steering, bioethics, and other committees.