More than fifty people gathered at the Willie Hinton Neighborhood Resource Center on Oct. 28 to learn about opportunities for community-academic research partnerships, network, and be inspired by others who are working hard to create and maintain healthy communities. This gathering, the Community-Academic Partnerships Mini Conference, was hosted by the Office of Community-Based Public Health (OCBPH) at the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health (COPH) in collaboration with Tri County Rural Health Network, a long-standing community partner of the OCBPH.
The conference was put on to facilitate introductions and serve as a mixer between community-based organizations and staff and faculty from the COPH. Community organizations that serve Central Arkansas and whose work broadly relates to health or healthcare were invited to attend. Jimmy Parks, DrPH, a Community Connector with Tri County Rural Health Network, visited with many organizations prior to the conference to learn about their work and tell them about the types of research and service learning opportunities with the COPH. Ashley Bachelder, MPS, MPH, OCBPH Community Program Manager, met with COPH faculty prior to the meeting to learn about their current research focus and to brainstorm about ways to involve the community.
Representatives from 27 community organizations attended, including the Central Arkansas Re-Entry Coalition, Helping Hand of Greater Little Rock, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and the Center for Women in Transition. Also in attendance were more than 20 UAMS COPH faculty and staff from the departments of Health Behavior and Health Education (HBHE), Epidemiology, Healthy Policy and Management and Environmental and Occupational Health, as well as the Master of Health Administration program. A few students and staff from the new UAMS Center for Health Literacy and the Translational Research Institute also attended.
The conference opened with welcoming remarks from COPH Dean Jim Raczynski, Ph.D. and participant introductions. The group then moved into an interactive activity in which attendees shared about what motivates them to do the work they do. OCBPH Director Kate Stewart, M.D., MPH spoke briefly about research basics and the ways that community organizations and individuals can be involved in research, which include serving on a community advisory board or as a research study co-investigator.
A panel followed in which individuals involved in ongoing academic-community partnerships spoke about their work and experiences: MPH student Jake Coffey, MPS, and COPH HBHE Associate Professor Nick Zaller, Ph.D., speaking about their work on prison re-entry with their partners from Arkansas Voices and the Central Arkansas Re-Entry Coalition; Dr. Stewart and partners from Tri County Rural Health Network, speaking about their work on access to healthcare in the Delta; and COPH HBHE Assistant Professor Tiffany Haynes, Ph.D. and Tri County Rural Health Network, speaking about their project on depression in Jefferson County. The conference ended with a networking activity.
Conference organizers declared the event a great success, so much that the OCBPH is considering making it a semi-annual event to occur every semester.
“We were highly encouraged by the great turn-out,” Dr. Stewart said. “It is great to see so many of our faculty members wanting to engage with the community, and so many community organizations wanting to learn more about potential partnerships with us. We also learned that the community organizations appreciated the time and space to network with each other, in addition to just UAMS, so we are happy to help convene the space for that.”
For more information about the OCBPH, contact Ashley Bachelder at AEBachelder@uams.edu or 501-526-6632.