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Pilot Project Mini-Grant Program

The Pilot Project Mini-Grant Program is aimed at intensifying investigator-initiated research, attracting new investigators to the field, and encouraging trans-disciplinary research that will advance health disparities science and health policy.  Pilot projects will contribute to health policy and social science research and to improving minority health and/or to eliminate health disparities. 

Each year the RWJF Center for Health Policy releases a request for proposals to fund up to five pilot projects for a duration of 18 months. Funding is open to eligible investigators from Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University. Pilot project proposals must be relative to health policy.


2014 Pilot Project Mini-Grant Awardees Announced

The RWJF Center for Health Policy is pleased to announce the Pilot Project Mini-Grant Program's 2014 recipients. Five faculty members from Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University were selected among a competitive applicant pool. This year's slate of recipients is unique in that all investigators will have a Health Policy Fellow or Health Policy Scholar serve as a student researcher on their project. Below is the list of awardees and a description of their projects.

2014 AWARDEES

Assessing the impact of nutrition literacy on dietary behaviors in low-income minority groups

Akohoue

Principal Investigator: Sylvie A. Akohoue, PhD, CNS
Assistant Professor
Family & Community Medicine
Meharry Medical College

Award Amount: $20,000

OnwuStudent Investigator: Cheryl Onwu
2013 Health Policy Scholar
First-year MSPH student, Meharry Medical College





About this project: The proposed study is to examine the impact of nutrition literacy on dietary behaviors by conducting a cross-sectional study with 150 adults (males and females ≥ 21 years old), comprised of primarily minority residents living in  resource-poor areas of Nashville-Davidson County.


Survivorship in Women of Color: An examination of coping mechanisms for black women diagnosed with breast cancer

Carpenter

Principal Investigator: Laura Carpenter, PhD 
Associate Professor
Department of Sociology
Vanderbilt University

Award Amount: $20,000


SweetingCo-Principal Investigator: Raeshell Sweeting, MD 
Department of Surgery
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine




WilsonStudent Investigator: Kanetha Wilson, MA
2011 Health Policy Fellow
Sociology doctoral student, Vanderbilt University





About this project: This project aims to answer the call for more culturally-sensitive perspectives on the consequences of breast cancer by considering coping strategies essential to survivorship for women of color: processes of support and disease; types of social support that prove instrumental; and coping mechanisms employed to thwart identity threat from narratives from black women who have or are experiencing treatment for breast cancer.


Immigration and Chronic Disease within the U.S. Black Population: Using an Equitable Longevity Framework to explore policy implications for racial/ethnic health disparities

Cornfield

Principal Investigator: Daniel Cornfield, PhD 
Professor
Department of Sociology
Vanderbilt University

Award Amount: $20,000


DagaduStudent Investigator: Helena E. Dagadu, MA, MPH
2010 Health Policy Fellow
Sociology doctoral student, Vanderbilt University





About this project: Historically and contemporarily, the diversity within the U.S. black population is driven by the migration (whether forced or voluntary) of blacks from the African continent. Yet, the health needs and practices of African immigrants in the U.S. remain poorly characterized. The proposed project seeks to expand the immigration and health care debates in the U.S. by comparing the chronic health experiences of immigrant and non-immigrant blacks.


Identifying intimate partner violence (IPV) to prevent reoccurences and risk of associated health disparities

Halpern

Principal Investigator: Leslie R. Halpern, DDS, MD, PhD, MPH
Associate Professor and Program Director
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Residency Program, School of Dentistry
Meharry Medical College

      Award Amount: $20,000


GangulaCo-Principal Investigator: Pandu Gangula, PhD

Associate Professor
Department of Oral Biology and Research
Meharry Medical College



Ferguson-YoungConsultant: Daphne Ferguson-Young, DDS, MSPH
Program Director
General Practice Residency Program, School of Dentistry
Meharry Medical College


AlburyConsultant: Charles Albury, DMD

Assistant Professor
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, School of Dentistry
Meharry Medical College




Student Investigator: Ciera Scales
2013 Health Policy Scholar
Third-year dental student, Meharry Medical College

About this project: Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a significant, under-diagnosed public health epidemic. Dental health professionals are often in an excellent position to recognize IPV injuries, especially when facial, neck and intra-oral injuries are involved. The objectives of this pilot project are: to provide two short questionnaires that inquire about consented clients' source of any injury plus any current self-reported health disparities, and to request the provision of two saliva samples.


Identifying institution-specific barriers to follow-up of abnormal mammograms and implementing an institution-specific intervention to improve follow-up of abnormal mammograms

LammersPrincipal Investigator: Philip Lammers, MD, MSCI
Assistant Professor
Department of Internal Medicine
Meharry Medical College

Award Amount: $20,000

Co-Principal Investigator: Laila Saied Agrawal, MD 
Hematology/Oncology Fellow
Department of Internal Medicine
Meharry Medical College

FordStudent Investigator: Sydne Ford
2011 Health Policy Scholar
Third-year medical student, Meharry Medical College





About this project: African American women have a lower incidence of breast cancer compared to white women but are diagnosed at a later stage and have a disproportionally higher mortality from breast cancer. This study will evaluate the causes of delays in follow-up of abnormal mammograms at Nashville General Hospital. Following the identification of key barriers to care in this population, we will target these barriers by designing a specific comprehensive intervention (entitled "Mammogram Follow-up Plan," or MFP) to increase the number of women with abnormal mammograms who receive timely follow-up.


All previous recipients and a brief description of their respective projects are listed below.

2013 AWARDEES

GriffithDerek M. Griffith, PhD
Center for Medicine, Health & Society
Vanderbilt University
Project Title: Social Determinants of Obesogenic Behaviors of Middle-aged African American Men
Award Amount: $20,000


LevineMejia de GrubbRobert Levine, MD (Principal Investigator)
Maria C. Mejia de Grubb, MD, MPH (Co-Principal Investigator)


Family and Community Medicine
Meharry Medical College
Project Title: Parental Perceptions of Their Children's Weight Status among Low-Income Hispanic Populations: Implications for Future Interventions and Policy Recommendations
Award Amount: $20,000


SethiManish K. Sethi, MD
Orthopaedic Institute Center for Health Policy
Vanderbilt University
Project Title: School Intervention and Gun Violence, Part 2: A Proposal to Tackle the Rise of Gun Violence in Nashville
Award Amount: $40,000


WareTawana Ware, DDS, MSD
School of Dentistry
Meharry Medical College
Project Title: Enhancement of Perinatal Oral Health Care through Educating Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Award Amount: $20,000

 


2012 AWARDEES

Dr. C. Andre Christie-MizellC. André Christie-Mizell, PhD
Project Title: Racial Variation in Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Poverty, and the Family Context
Award Amount: $40,000

Dr. Christie-Mizell is a RWJF Center for Health Policy at MMC-funded Professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University and Health Policy Associate.  His study entitled, Racial Variation in Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Poverty, and the Family Context, evaluates and states that children of poor families are at higher risk for developing poor mental health and associated behavior problems (e.g., depression, anxiety disorders and antisocial behavior) compared to their non-poor counterparts.  However, despite the substantial association between poverty and children's outcomes, how socioeconomic conditions are linked to child development and health is not well understood.  This project aims to help discover these linkages and show how they vary by race and ethnicity.


Dr. Flora A. UkoliFlora A. Ukoli, MD, MPH
Project Title: Obesity Prevention in Low-Income African-American Babies and Young Children: An Early Childhood Nutrition Education Intervention with Breastfeeding Promotion Component
Award Amount: $40,000

Dr. Ukoli is a Health Policy Associate and Professor of surgery at Meharry Medical College.  The goal of her study entitled, Obesity Prevention in Low-Income African-American Babies and Young Children: An Early Childhood Nutrition Education Intervention with Breastfeeding Promotion Component, is to recommend policy changes to support mothers to prevent early childhood obesity (ECO) and eliminate social barriers for doing so. A culturally appropriate education intervention will be developed in partnership with African-American mothers to foster informed decisions about exclusive breastfeeding (EBF), delayed weaning, restriction of sweetened beverages, and transition to healthy food choices. Rationale: Increasing knowledge about underlying causes of obesity, reinforcing positive attitudes and dispelling misconceptions about breastfeeding (BF) and infant feeding, and providing strategies to achieve appropriate actions will set the foundation for childhood obesity prevention in this most high-risk and vulnerable population.


Dr. Ethel P. HarrisEthel P. Harris, DDS
Project Title: Oral Health Effects on Women in Recovery and Transition
Award Amount: $20,000

Dr. Harris is a Health Policy Associate and the Interim Dean of Clinical Affairs at Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry.  She also serves as Director of Compliance and Safety in the Department of Clinical Affairs and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Restorative Dentistry.  Her study entitled, Oral Health Effects on Women in Recovery and Transition, proposes to describe the social and professional impact of poor oral health among women in recovery and transition.  The poverty and lack of attention to health care that results from substance abuse and addiction is very apparent when focusing on oral health among populations experiencing high rates of addiction.  Methamphetamine mouth (meth mouth) is an extreme form of poor oral health.  The combination of methamphetamine use and poor oral health increases the risk of low birth rate outcomes and many physical health problems including cardiac issues.  Substance abuse has also been associated with low income and homelessness or marginalized housing.  Further, addiction history, homelessness and poverty affect social supports and self-esteem.  A qualitative method will be used to gather data from women who have had dental reconstruction and those who have not.


Dr. Jacinta P. LeavellJacinta P. Leavell, PhD
Project Title: Factors Influencing Barriers to Accessing Oral Healthcare by Immigrants in the Metropolitan Nashville Area
Award Amount: $20,000

Dr. Leavell is a Health Policy Associate and an Associate Professor of Dental Public Health at Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry.  Her study entitled, Factors Influencing Barriers to Accessing Oral Healthcare by Immigrants in the Metropolitan Nashville Area, proposes to establish pertinent preliminary data needed for the implementation of appropriate oral health care services for immigrants.  The United States has experienced significant growth in the immigrant population during the past 15 years.  As a result, some key challenges specifically related to oral health care have been created.  This project intends to evaluate factors influencing barriers to accessing oral health care by immigrants in the metropolitan Nashville, Tennessee area.  The main goal of the project is to provide a foundation for understanding the association between barriers and the accessing of oral health care by immigrants.  The intended project would further allow Meharry's School of Dentistry to obtain an advantage in developing alliances with the community that can engender appropriate oral health care services for immigrants residing in the Nashville area.  Due to the lack of appropriate formalized dental services in some immigrants' birth countries, they sometimes present with some very unique dental problems that go untreated for a long time.  The long-term goal is to increase the number of immigrant individuals accessing oral health care in Metropolitan Nashville.  More specifically, the project will (1) determine the barriers encountered by immigrants while attempting to access oral health services and (2) delineate the factors related to those barriers.


Dr. Jonathan MetzlJonathan M. Metzl, MD, PhD
Project Title: Masculinity, Race, and the Politics of American Men's Health Policy
Award Amount: $20,000

Dr. Metzl is the Director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University, a Health Policy Associate, and the Frederick B. Rentschler II Endowed Professor for the Department of Sociology and Center for Medicine, Health, and Society.  He also serves as a Professor for the Department of Psychiatry at Vanderbilt.  His study entitled, Masculinity, Race, and the Politics of American Men's Health Policy, presents a multi-layered analysis of the contemporary politics of men's health.  Working with men from the Nashville, Tennessee and Detroit areas, the project proposes to explore the diversity of contemporary American cultural narratives regarding masculinity, manhood and men's health and compare how race, implicit ideological and cultural attitudes, age, and socioeconomic status shape notions of masculinity and health, particularly for working-class men.


2011 AWARDEES

Dr. Walter OwensDr. Keydron K. GuinnWalter Owens, DDS (left)
Keydron K. Guinn, PhD
Project Title: Bringing Attention to Minority Oral Health

Dr. Walter R. Owens is an Assistant Professor and Associate Dean for external affairs in the School of Dentistry at Meharry Medical College. Dr. Keydron K. Guinn is an Assistant Professor in the School of Graduate Studies and Research at Meharry Medical College. He is also the Deputy Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry. Their pilot project, Bringing Attention to Minority Oral Health, is derived from the collaboration between the School of Dentistry at Meharry Medical College, the National Dental Association and the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry.  The project's main purpose will be to develop a quantitative survey instrument that can be used by researchers around the country to collect data on minority dentists and their patients.  Focus groups will be conducted in order to import the voices of minority dentists opposed to a reliance on existing knowledge and information that may not necessarily apply to these groups.  Additionally, academic articles will be published using data collected for the development of the quantitative survey instrument.


Dr. Evelyn PattersonEvelyn Patterson, PhD
Project Title: Prisons, Health, and Population Dynamics

Dr. Evelyn Patterson is a Health Policy Associate of the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry and Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Patterson's proposal affirms that the United States has the highest incarceration rate of any nation. Persons of color and of lower socioeconomic status are disproportionately incarcerated. As the experience of incarceration does not end once one exits the prison doors, prison can alter one's social, economic, and health trajectories.  Her study, Prisons, Health, and Population Dynamics, seeks to provide a tool that enables the assessment of the short and long term consequences of changes in incarceration policies.


Dr. Manish SethiDr. Alex JahangirManish Sethi, MD (left)
Alex Jahangir, MD

Project Title: School Intervention and Gun Violence: A Proposal to Tackle the Rise of Gun Violence in the African-American Community in Davidson County, Tennessee

Dr. Manish Sethi and Dr. Alex Jahangir both are Health Policy Associates of the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry, and Co-directors of the Vanderbilt Orthopaedic Institute Center for Health Policy.  Dr. Sethi is a Fellow in the Division of Orthopaedic Trauma at Vanderbilt University.  Dr. Jahangir is an Assistant Professor of orthopaedic surgery and rehabilitation at Vanderbilt University Medical Center where he practices as an orthopaedic trauma surgeon.  Both will serve as Co-principal Investigators for their pilot project, School Intervention and Gun Violence: A Proposal to Tackle the Rise of Gun Violence in the African-American Community in Davidson County, Tennessee. In a recent retrospective cohort study of 343,866 Vanderbilt University emergency room patients, the Vanderbilt Orthopaedic Institute Center for Health Policy has determined that African-American patients between the ages of 18-25 presenting to the Vanderbilt ER are 3.3 times more likely to present with gunshot injuries as compared to their white counterparts.  The pilot project mini-grant will allow for development of an effective gun violence education curriculum, which ultimately, through support of the Davidson County school system and potential additional future funding, will be introduced to youth across Davidson County with metrics for evaluation of success.


Machelle Fleming Thompson, R.D.H., M.S.P.H.Machelle Fleming Thompson, RDH, MSPH
Project Title: An Interprofessional Educational Approach to Increasing Access to Health Services for African-American Women at Risk for Preterm Low Birth Weight Babies

Dr. Machelle Fleming Thompson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Dental Public Health at Meharry Medical College.  Her pilot project, An Interprofessional Educational Approach to Increasing Access to Health Services for African American Women at Risk for Preterm Low Birth Weight Babies, proposes to increase access to health services and reduce the number of preterm and low birth weight babies, using an interprofessional educational approach, by improving oral health among African-American women in Davidson County.  In the United States, people of color represent one-third of the total population, yet they comprise more than fifty percent of the uninsured.  Her project seeks to improve access to quality oral health care through collaboration with Meharry's School of Dentistry, The Center for Women's Health at Meharry, Matthew Walker Community Health Center and the March of Dimes-Nashville.  Data collected from 150 African-American women patients and their health care providers will be analyzed to recommend policy changes that will positively impact pregnancy and the oral health outcomes of African-American women.


Dr. William L. TurnerDr. Christine Minja-TrupinWilliam L. Turner, PhD (left)
Christine Minja-Trupin, PhD, MPH
Project Title: Difficult Pasts, Uncertain Futures: An Ethnographic Exploration into the Experiences of HIV-Positive Individuals After Their Release from Prison

Dr. William Lofton Turner and Dr. Christine Minja-Trupin are both Health Policy Associates of the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry. Dr. Turner is a Betts Professor of Education and Human Development, Professor of Community Research and Action, Professor of Human Development Counseling, Professor of Human and Organizational Development, and Director of the Health and Human Services Undergraduate Major in the Peabody College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Minja-Trupin is an Assistant Professor in the School of Graduate Studies and Research at Meharry Medical College.  Working together as Co-principal investigators, their project, Difficult Pasts, Uncertain Futures: An Ethnographic Exploration into the Experiences of HIV-Positive Individuals After Their Release from Prison, centers around an ethnographic exploration of the experiences of African-American HIV-positive individuals after their release from prison. The proposed research is a unique contribution to the literature in that the specific implications of prison post-release HIV-positive individuals has not been previously explored. African-American populations are particularly impacted by both HIV and incarceration. Understanding the realities associated with the post-prison experience, the challenges specific to HIV-positive populations, and the impact these challenges have on their health, will have important practice and policy implications.


2010 AWARDEES

Dr. Tyson BrownTyson Brown, PhD
Project Title: The Intersection of Race/Ethnicity, Gender, and Class on Chronic Disease and Disability Trajectories

Tyson Brown, PhD is a RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry funded Assistant Professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University.  His study, The Intersection of Race/Ethnicity, Gender and Class on Chronic Disease and Disability Trajectories, integrates life course and intersectionality perspectives to examine the joint and simultaneous impacts of race/ethnicity, gender and social class on health trajectories. First, the study investigates how age-trajectories of chronic conditions and disability vary between white, black and Mexican-American men and women. Do race/ethnicity, gender and class combine in an additive or multiplicative fashion to shape health trajectories?  Do health inequalities increase, remain stable or decrease with age? Second, the study examines whether patterns of health inequality are explained by racial/ethnic/gender differences in childhood and adult socioeconomic status, health behaviors, and health care access and utilization. Findings from this study will provide health policy-relevant information for improving health among vulnerable groups and eliminating health disparities.


Dr. Andre Christie-MizellAndre Christie Mizell, PhD
Project Title: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Mental and Physical Health Outcomes for Children and Adolescents in Foster Care

Andre Christie-Mizell, PhD is a RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry funded Professor of Sociology at Vanderbilt University.  His study, Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Mental and Physical Health Outcomes for Children and Adolescents in Foster Care, utilizes the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (n ≈ 5,500), a nationally representative sample of children in the foster care system, to assess the mental and physical health outcomes of children in foster care. This proposed research includes four specific aims. With regard to these aims, one central goal of the proposed research is to investigate how relationships vary by race/ethnicity for African-American, Latino, and white youth.  Aim 1) determine whether types of foster care placement (i.e., kinship versus non-kinship) serves as a protective factor against mental and emotional health problems. Aim 2) determine whether types of foster care placement (i.e., kinship versus non-kinship) serves as a protective factor against physical health problems. Aim 3) understand whether resources (financial, social, and human capital) within the foster family moderate the effect of foster care placement on (a) mental and (b) physical health. Aim 4) understand whether and how neighborhood resources available to the child moderate the effects of foster care placement on (a) mental and (b) physical health.


Dr. Monique LyleMonique Lyle, PhD, MA
Project Title: The Role of Politics in the Stigmatization of Mental Illness:
Interactions with Race

Monique Lyle, PhD is a former RWJF Health Policy Scholar and Assistant Professor of political science at Vanderbilt University.  Her study, The Role of Politics in the Stigmatization of Mental Illness: Interactions with Race, examines the roles that American government and politics and race might play in mitigating or exacerbating stigma toward individuals who suffer from mental illnesses.  The study uses a nationally representative sample, with an oversample of African Americans, to replicate an experiment previously conducted by Dr. Lyle, which used contemporary mental health politics to examine how three political mechanisms—rhetoric from political elites, legislation, and government reports—might affect the extent to which people hold stigmatizing attitudes toward individuals with mental illness.  The study also examines whether African Americans are more or less likely than white Americans to change their attitudes about mental illness in response to information attributed to these political mechanisms, and whether the effect of information attributed to these political mechanisms on stigmatizing attitudes varies depending on the race of the mentally ill person being evaluated.


Dr. Flora UkoliFlora A. Ukoli, MD. MPH
Project Title: Infant Feeding Pattern and Childhood Obesity in Low-Income Minority Populations: Implications for Infant Nutrition and Breast Feeding Policy Recommendations

Flora Ukoli, MD, MPH is a Professor of surgery at Meharry Medical College.  Her study, Infant Feeding Pattern and Childhood Obesity in Low-Income Minority Populations: Implications for Infant Nutrition and Breast Feeding Policy Recommendations, investigates the association between infant weight gain, nutrition, and breastfeeding pattern among African Americans by reviewing 200 records of preschool children born at Nashville General Hospital between 2005-2007. Childhood obesity among African Americans will be assessed by surveying sixty mothers and collecting information about their knowledge and attitudes to infant nutrition and breastfeeding. A fifteen-person community advisory board will be constituted to utilize the information collected to develop a culturally appropriate education intervention to protect, promote, and support breast feeding using the “Baby Friendly” Hospital Initiative model. The primary goal is to empower mothers to make informed decisions about breast feeding, prevent rapid weight gain in infancy, enhance maternal and child health and reduce childhood obesity in the long-term. This education intervention will be pilot tested in sixty pregnant African Americans, and provide data to recommend policy changes that will actively promote breast feeding in African-American populations that are at disparity risk for childhood obesity.


Dr. Richard White IIIRichard White III, MD
Project Title: Addressing Health Communication and Health Literacy in Latino Adults with Diabetes

Richard White III, MD is an Assistant Professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at Meharry Medical College.  His study, Addressing Health Communication and Health Literacy in Latino Adults with Diabetes,  includes the immediate goals of completing the pilot testing of a literacy-sensitive educational toolkit—DLNET_Latino—and begins to examine the quality of health communication between Latino diabetes patients, providers, and Spanish interpreters.  To meet these goals, the PI had proposed the following aims: 1) recruit thirty adult Latino diabetes patients and expose them to the content of a literacy-sensitive educational toolkit in efforts to examine the clarity, usefulness, and feasibility of improving self-management behaviors and self-efficacy for diabetes care, and 2) recruit twenty-five Latino diabetes patients from an existing cluster RCT addressing health literacy and diabetes care in the Tennessee state health department safety net clinic system: the study will test the feasibility of digital audio taping clinical encounters, with descriptive analysis of the quality of communication between providers and patients with particular focus on the role of the Spanish medical interpreter.  These projects will provide important insights into the nature of health communication with Latinos, and the role of Spanish interpreters in the process.