CTSI’s CommuniCare Pilot Involves Community in Translational Science

CTSI’s CommuniCare pilot involves community in translational science

Next door to the Holy Cathedral Church of God in Christ in the storied Sherman Park neighborhood sits a classic Milwaukee bungalow-style home. Step inside and you’ll find an unexpected sight: rooms lined with medical equipment ready for health screenings.

Ribbon cutting for CTSI CommuniCare UnitThe bungalow is the new home of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s (CTSI) pilot CommuniCare Unit, part of the novel CTSI Community Care Initiative, Risk and Prevention Program. The program is a collaborative effort among CTSI, the Wisconsin Northwest Jurisdiction Church of God in Christ, Word of Hope Ministries, Inc. and the Cardiovascular Academic Initiative at MCW.

(Pictured right: Bishop McClelland and Dr. Ward attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the pilot CommuniCare Unit.)

The unit opened its doors to the neighborhood in September 2022 and began providing free cardiovascular screening along with education on healthy living and eating habits, as well as care referral services that are provided by two MCW/Froedtert Hospital cardiologists and three community, volunteer health providers. Community members also have the opportunity to participate in the research component of the project, aimed at better understanding the prevalence of atrial fibrillation and hypertension in underrepresented minority and underserved communities.

Future aspirations for the CommuniCare Unit include expanding services and research opportunities in the areas of ophthalmology, gastroenterology, otolaryngology, mental health and oral/dental health.

Cardiovascular screening at CTSI CommuniCare Unit
Stacey Gardiner, MD (at right), a volunteer physician at the CommuniCare Unit, performs a cardiovascular screening on Syreeta Austin.

“It makes a huge different when communities are involved at the onset of everything we do in translational science and research,” says Doriel Ward, PhD, MPH, executive director of CTSI, chief administrative officer, assistant dean and assistant provost of clinical and translational research at MCW.

The CommuniCare Unit is part of a larger project titled the “CTSI Community Care Initiative” (CCI). For nearly five years, with significant groundwork, Dr. Ward created the novel and innovative framework for the CCI, built to accomplish MCW and CTSI’s long-term goals and enhance contributions toward eliminating health disparities in southeast Wisconsin. The CCI establishes a long-term platform for investigators and their teams to seamlessly carry out activities relevant to clinical and translational research and education, with direct, hands-on involvement with faith leaders and community members as equal partners.

CTSI CommuniCare Unit meeting
Dr. Reza Shaker, Dr. Doriel Ward and Bishop C.H. McClelland speak with church leaders of the Wisconsin Northwest Jurisdiction Church of God In Christ, CTSI members and members of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), including Dr. Michael Kurilla, the director of the division of clinical innovation (standing, second from left).

“There’s instant feedback. We participate at all levels of church leadership and community sectors, so not only with our faith partners but across four additional community sectors including healthcare, childcare, education and nonprofit. In so doing, we have successfully infused and merged our CTSI community engagement programmatic activities into regularly scheduled church events and activities,” emphasizes Dr. Ward. CTSI leadership refers to this overall framework as the CTSI Trilateral Mutually Learning Ecosystem, where the healthcare system, research enterprise and the community take equal ownership at every level of engagement.

“Each of us has a responsibility to advance the health of the community through research and discovery. The CCI provides that opportunity. The community members and the science and the researchers come together to deliver that promise,” says Reza Shaker, MD, director of CTSI, associate provost, senior associate dean and chief of the MCW division of gastroenterology and hepatology.

Pastor Clifford Taylor speaks at opening event for Vroom Room
Pastor Clifford Taylor, an integral partner in the launch of the Community Care Initiative, speaks at the opening event for the Vroom Room in July 2022.

CTSI CommuniCare Unit Memorandum of Understanding signingThe launch of the Community Care Initiative is the result of a dedicated partnership among CTSI and the Wisconsin Northwest Jurisdiction Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and its Word of Hope Ministries, Inc.

In November 2021, CTSI leadership and Word of Hope Ministries, along with community members, gatekeepers and stakeholders, gathered for the public signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that solidified a long-term partnership through the national and international COGIC congregations.

(Pictured left: Bishop McClelland and Dr. Ward attend the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in November 2021.)

The partnership includes the establishment of community service efforts beyond health screenings, including educational offerings, childhood health and well-being activities. It also provides opportunities for hands-on experiences for trainees, scholars and students (high school, undergraduate and medical students), clinical and translational researchers and their teams, community members and health professions interns and more. They will work alongside community members and stakeholders across community sectors and, importantly, in a community setting, such as the Holy Cathedral Church of God in Christ facilities in Milwaukee.

Since signing the MOU, the partners have initiated regularly scheduled Science Café programs for education and community feedback, the establishment of a “Vroom Room” (a global program of the Bezos Family Foundation) dedicated to early childhood education and collaboration on numerous community and church events, and most recently, the establishment of the pilot CommuniCare Unit.

CTSI CommuniCare Unit Vroom Room

The first Vroom Room within the Holy Cathedral facility, which provides space for pregnant mothers, families, caregivers and other stakeholders to take advantage of free classes and other experiences centered around early childhood education.

Dr. Ward also currently is working with another partner, General Baptist State Convention of Wisconsin, to build programming within the group’s True Love Ministry. “We are putting into practice what we believe in within the community, by the community and for the community,” shares Dr. Ward.

– Michelle Schaefer

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