About the Center for Healthy Communities and Research

The Center for Healthy Communities, which was formed in 1997, develops community-academic partnerships that improve health in urban and rural communities in Wisconsin. The Center integrates community-based education for graduate students and undergraduate medical students into these partnerships, and conducts research, both locally and nationally, on community-identified needs. In 2010, the CHC converted to the Center for Healthy Communities and Research (CHCR) combining both the Center and the Research divisions within the Department of Family and Community Medicine.

CHCR faculty members teach and advise in the Academic Fellowship in Primary Care Research, the PhD program in Public and Community Health, the Masters in Public Health program, and the Medical Student Pathways program.

Center for Healthy Communities & Research Faculty and Staff

Staci Young, PhDStaci Young, PhD

Associate Professor and Director, Center for Healthy Communities and Research
Department of Family and Community Medicine
Medical College of Wisconsin

Staci Young, PhD, associate professor of family and community medicine, is the director of the Center for Healthy Communities and Research division. Dr. Young earned her bachelor’s degree in economics from Marquette University, and her master’s and doctorate in urban studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has over 20 years of experience in community engaged research, evaluation and education.

Dr. Young’s research focus areas include advocacy for vulnerable patients and populations, the organization of work among health professionals in traditional and community-based clinical settings, and the relationship between the urban environment, acute and chronic life stressors, and health status. She has been the Principal Investigator for multiple research projects with longstanding local and statewide partners addressing women’s exposure to violence and harm reduction, the public and community health workforce, and the role of safety net providers in ensuring access to health care. She is the co-investigator for NIH funded grants focused on residential segregation and breast cancer survival among African American and Hispanic women, and weight loss and breast cancer survival among Hispanic women. She was among an inaugural group of 20 scholars nationally selected to participate in the Critical Race Praxis Institute at the University of Maryland. She is also a grant reviewer for the National Science Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Dr. Young is deeply committed to teaching and mentoring MCW medical students and graduate students. This includes students in the Urban and Community Health Pathway, the Masters in Public Health program, the PhD program in Public and Community Health, and trainees in the academic primary care fellowship. She is also an advisor to the medical student managers of the Saturday Clinic for the Uninsured.

Dr. Young has received numerous awards for her achievements, including the MCW Outstanding Medical Student Teacher recognition, the Humanitarian Award from the Milwaukee Academy of Medicine, the Milwaukee Neighborhood Development Innovation award and the MCW President’s Diversity and Inclusion Award.

Outside of MCW, Dr. Young is the chair of the advisory board for City on a Hill, a faith-based nonprofit organization dedicated to working as a catalyst to bring transformation to individuals, families and neighborhoods in the central city of Milwaukee.

Contact Dr. Young | Download Dr. Young's CV

Zeno Franco, PhDZeno Franco, PhD, Associate Professor

Download Dr. Franco's CV

Grants:

  • Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin’s (AHW) Advancing Community-Academic Partnership for Translational Research: Scientific Citizens and Citizen’s Scientist, which strives to advance community engagement in translational research as a core programmatic area for both the Institute for Health & Equity and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) of Southeast Wisconsin.

Linda Meurer, MD, MPHLinda Meurer, MD, MPH, Professor

Download Dr. Meurer's CV

Jeffrey Morzinski, PhD, MSWJeffrey Morzinski, PhD, MSW

Download Dr. Morzinski's CV

 

David Nelson, PhDDavid Nelson, PhD, Associate Professor

Download Dr. Nelson's CV

Grants

  • Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin’s (AHW) Advancing Community-Academic Partnership for Translational Research: Scientific Citizens and Citizen’s Scientist, which strives to advance community engagement in translational research as a core programmatic area for both the Institute for Health & Equity and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) of Southeast Wisconsin.
  • Principal Investigator of the Salud de la Mujer, funded by the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program, which strives to increase the health literacy and knowledge of health resources for women and families in a predominately Latino community.

Activities:

  • Milwaukee Food and Fitness Initiative
  • Communicandonos Juntos: Found in Translation: Coordinated communication program in Waukesha County for Spanish speakers
  • Transition Team for Milwaukee County Nutrition and Physical Activity Coalition

Teaching:

  • Family and Community Medicine M3 Clerkship
  • M1 Clinical Continuum: Medical Interviewing and Evidence Based Medicine

Leslie Ruffalo, PhDLeslie Ruffalo, PhD, Assistant Professor

Download Dr. Ruffalo's CV

Grants:

  • Principal Investigator, A Collaborative Response to Reduce Binge Drinking in Rural Wisconsin Communities (Project # 2013D-01), funded by the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program
  • Dryhootch iPeer: A Social and Technology Support Program for Veteran Mental Health (Project # 2012I-03), funded by the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program
  • Building the Family Medicine Workforce through a Competency-based Three-Year Accelerated MD Program in Family Medicine, funded by Health Resources and Service Administration
  • MOVE OUT: A Partnership with Veterans Groups to Enhance Weight Management in the Veterans Health Administration, funded by the VA- Health Services Research and Development
  • Consultant, Physical Education Healthy Activities Benefiting Individual Teachers and Students (PE HABITS), funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Carol M. White Physical Education Program

Activities:

  • Faculty Advisor, Family Medicine Student Association and Family Medicine Learning Community
  • Faculty Advisor, MCW Scholarly Pathways
  • Workgroup Member, Community Medical Education Program, Curricular and Interprofessional Development Workgroup

Teaching:

  • Community Health, M3 Family Medicine Clerkship
  • Co-Course Director, Promoting Health in Underserved Communities
  • Lecturer, Foundations of Clinical Medicine
  • Lecturer and Facilitator, Urban and Community Health Pathway and Master Clinician Pathway

Marie Wolff, PhDMarie Wolff, PhD, Associate Professor

Marie Wolff, PhD

Grants:

  • Co-Investigator of the "Gathering Resources and Aligning Community Engagement (Great Rivers) Hub" initiative, funded by the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program, which will create, implement, adapt, and evaluate a system in La Crosse, Wisconsin to bridge the gap between health care delivery and the social service sector for cost savings, improved population health outcomes, and increased client experience and engagement.
  • Co-Investigator of the "Research in Early Child Development to Improve Resiliency and Equity (REDIRECT) initiative, funded by the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Program. The overarching goal is to improve the wellbeing of children in Milwaukee through sophisticated analyses of novel data and qualitative exploration of the key drivers of health disparities related to early childhood development to create a better understanding of the complex interplay between individual, family, community, and strength-based factors to overcome adversity and enable children to thrive.
  • Principal Investigator of the "Developing a School Health Services Assessment Tool and Related Resources", funded by the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program, which will assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the current health services infrastructure in Wisconsin public schools.
  • Co-Principal Investigator of the "Kohl’s Conversations for the Cure", funded by the Southeast Wisconsin Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which strives to increase screening rates and raise awareness about breast cancer in southeastern Wisconsin.

Teaching:

  • Course Co-Director, M4 Elective "Promoting Health in Underserved Communities"
  • Course Director, Integrated Selective, "Promoting Health in Underserved Communities"

Research Interests:

  • Health Disparities, Health Care Safety Net, Access, Health Policy, Community-Academic Partnerships, Medical Education Curriculum

Melissa DeNomie, MSMelissa DeNomie, MS, Research Coordinator

Grants:

  • Gathering Resources and Aligning Community Engagement (GRACE) Hub (Principal Investigator: David Nelson)
  • Colposcopy (Principal Investigator: Leslie Ruffalo)
  • Eastern Wisconsin Food Banks Serving as Community-wide Food Hubs to Increase Health Offerings (Principal Investigator: David Nelson)
  • Healthy Environments, Healthy Choices, Healthier People (HHH) (Principal Investigator: David Nelson)

 

Michele Leininger, Program Coordinator; Clinical Research Coordinator for Froedtert Radiology

Grants:

  • IUAN - Institute for Urban Agriculture and Nutrition (Principal Investigator: Zeno Franco, PhD)
  • Benefits of a Patient-Centered Medical Home for High-Risk OB Care (Principal Investigator: James Slawson, MD)
  • Growing Your Future (Principal Investigator: David Nelson, PhD)

Carletta Rhodes, MBACarletta Rhodes, MBA, Program Coordinator

Grants:

  • Eastern Wisconsin Food Banks Serving as Community-wide Food Hubs to Increase Healthy Offerings (Principal Investigator: David Nelson)
  • Dry Hootch (Principal Investigator: Zeno Franco)

 

Tess Chandler, Education Program Coordinator II Tess Chandler, Education Program Coordinator II

Tess Chandler is an Education Program Coordinator II for the Academic Fellowship in Primary Care Research, which is a 2-3 year postdoctoral program funded by a HRSA T32 award since 1998. Dr. Linda Meurer is the director of this full-time fellowship that integrates primary care physicians, psychologists, social scientists, advance practice nurses and pharmacists in an intense, interdisciplinary experience in primary care and community engaged research. Tess has served on the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee since 2016 and as a leader in the NCBI Welcoming Diversity workshops.

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