Providing Healthy Living Choices for the Community

The idea for the Meharry Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Wellness Project was literally plotted on a napkin at a restaurant, said Lisa McDonald McGee, M.Ed. and Director of the HBCU Wellness Project.

Launched July 1, 2006, the project is designed to encourage Tennessee students to go into health care careers by promoting health and modifying risks for chronic diseases among individuals living in underserved communities. It is funded by the State of Tennessee.

Mitchell H. Parks, M.D. is Assistant Professor of psychiatry and Co-Principal Investigator of the HBCU Wellness Project. He describes one of its resources as the Summer Institute.

“Seventy-five Student Health Ambassadors (SHA) come to the Summer Institute from five HBCU’s: Fisk University, Knoxville College, Lane College, LeMoyne-Owen College and Tennessee State University,” said Dr. Parks.  “It is three weeks long and we provide them with health disparities information and training on scientific protocol preparation and IRB submission through a service learning model.” Once IRB approved, the SHA implement their plans with national and local community partners as they go out into their communities. All protocols address breast cancer, prostate cancer, HIV/AIDS, infant mortality or obesity reduction.

By receiving IRB approval, SHA can write subsequent research posters, national conference abstracts, etc., as they matriculate further into their studies and beyond.

The Meharry HBCU Wellness Project is the first of its kind in the nation and, to date, there have been over 530 SHA to complete the program.