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Community Engagement Studios: A Structured Approach to Obtaining Meaningful Input From Stakeholders to Inform Research

Joosten, Yvonne A. MPH; Israel, Tiffany L. MSSW; Williams, Neely A. MDiv; Boone, Leslie R. MPH; Schlundt, David G. PhD; Mouton, Charles P. MD, MS; Dittus, Robert S. MD, MPH; Bernard, Gordon R. MD; Wilkins, Consuelo H. MD, MSCI

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000794
Innovation Reports

Problem Engaging communities in research increases its relevance and may speed the translation of discoveries into improved health outcomes. Many researchers lack training to effectively engage stakeholders, whereas academic institutions lack infrastructure to support community engagement.

Approach In 2009, the Meharry-Vanderbilt Community-Engaged Research Core began testing new approaches for community engagement, which led to the development of the Community Engagement Studio (CE Studio). This structured program facilitates project-specific input from community and patient stakeholders to enhance research design, implementation, and dissemination. Developers used a team approach to recruit and train stakeholders, prepare researchers to engage with stakeholders, and facilitate an in-person meeting with both.

Outcomes The research core has implemented 28 CE Studios that engaged 152 community stakeholders. Participating researchers, representing a broad range of faculty ranks and disciplines, reported that input from stakeholders was valuable and that the CE Studio helped determine project feasibility and enhanced research design and implementation. Stakeholders found the CE Studio to be an acceptable method of engagement and reported a better understanding of research in general. A tool kit was developed to replicate this model and to disseminate this approach.

Next Steps The research core will collect data to better understand the impact of CE Studios on research proposal submissions, funding, research outcomes, patient and stakeholder engagement in projects, and dissemination of results. They will also collect data to determine whether CE Studios increase patient-centered approaches in research and whether stakeholders who participate have more trust and willingness to participate in research.

Y.A. Joosten is assistant professor of medical education and administration, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and executive director, Office for Community Engagement, Vanderbilt Institute for Medicine and Public Health, Nashville, Tennessee.

T.L. Israel is translational research coordinator, Vanderbilt Institute for Medicine and Public Health, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee.

N.A. Williams is network administrator, Community Partners Network, Nashville, Tennessee.

L.R. Boone is translational research coordinator and T2 Studio manager, Vanderbilt Institute for Medicine and Public Health, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee.

D.G. Schlundt is associate professor, Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.

C.P. Mouton is professor of family medicine, School of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee.

R.S. Dittus is associate vice chancellor for public health and health care; senior associate dean for population health sciences; director, Institute for Medicine and Public Health, Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center; and director, Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center, VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, Nashville, Tennessee.

G.R. Bernard is associate vice chancellor for research, principal investigator, Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, and senior associate dean for clinical sciences, Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee.

C.H. Wilkins is associate professor of medicine, General Internal Medicine and Public Health, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, associate professor of medicine, School of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, and executive director, Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, Nashville, Tennessee.

Funding/Support: This work has been supported by federal funds from the National Center for Research Resources and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), National Institutes of Health, through the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program (CTSA) under the following award numbers: UL1RR024975-03S1, UL1-RR025747-02S1, U54-MD007593, and UL1-TR000445. The work was also supported by a research award from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute: ME 1306-03342.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: The Vanderbilt University institutional review board granted exemption for the CE Studio program and approved the focus groups conducted with researchers and patient/community stakeholders to better understand the impact of the CE Studio.

Disclaimer: The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

Previous presentations: Parts of this work were presented at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Learning Health System Challenge Award Winners Webinar Series, February 19, 2014; at the AAMC Integrating Quality Meeting, Chicago, Illinois, June 12, 2014; and at the National Institutes of Health Collaboratory Grand Rounds, Bethesda, Maryland, August 29, 2014.

Correspondence should be addressed to Consuelo H. Wilkins, 1005 Dr. D.B. Todd Jr. Blvd., Biomedical Building, Nashville, TN 37208; telephone: (615) 963-2820; e-mail: consuelo.h.wilkins@vanderbilt.edu.

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© 2015 by the Association of American Medical Colleges