Program alumni and university supporters recently gathered at Delmar DivINe to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Community Research Fellows Training Program (CRFT). It is a 17-week public health research training course that equips community members with the tools and resources to examine and address regional health disparities. Since 2013, 193 CRFT alumni across seven program cohorts, have graduated. Participants have ranged in age from 21 to 72 years old.
The CRFT program is offered through Center for Community Health Partnership & Research collaborators, the Program for Elimination of Cancer Disparities, Siteman Cancer Center and WashU’s Public Health Sciences Division. The curriculum is built around community-based participatory research , which actively and equitably engages community as co-creators in the research process. CRFT fellows learn how to responsibly engage with research, use research as a tool to improve health outcomes in their communities, and increase community capacity for collaboration with academic research institutions in mutually beneficial projects and programs.
Felice McClendon completed the program with Cohort 2. “CRFT empowered me with the depth-of-knowledge, experiential learning, best practices, and standard operating procedures to learn firsthand how to make data-based decisions concerning the issues that matter to me most,” she said. “This invaluable experience has forever reshaped my approach to addressing what we call persisting community ‘problems’ – to better identify community-engaged solutions.”
Members of Cohorts 1-7 of the CRFT program celebrate its 10th anniversary
Simone Minner, Cohort 4 graduate, says the CRFT experience equipped her to be a Contact Tracer for the St. Louis County Health Department during the COVID-19 pandemic. She adds, “the CRFT program ultimately led me to work with the Our Community Our Health-St. Louis program.”
CRFT was founded by Melody Goodman, PhD, who led the first three cohorts. Vetta Sanders Thompson, PhD, later directed the program. Leadership has now transitioned to Kia Davis, ScD, MPH, with additional programs occurring in New York and Mississippi. During training in Cohort 7, the three national program cohort delegates had a chance to meet and co-learn.
Davis says, “Each year, it is inspiring to read the applications of those who apply to the CRFT program. These are community members who are dedicated to improving the health of their communities and thinking critically about what they and researchers can do to contribute to that.”
The Center for Community Health Partnership has collaborated closely with the CRFT program with nearly 50 alumni routinely involved in center activities. CRFT Fellows:
- Provide community review for Institute for Clinical & Translational Sciences and Institute for Public Health funding programs;
- Serve as community health research consultants in workshops and community studios;
- Serve as members of the above organizations’ Community Advisory Board;
- Are panelists in Collaborative Cafes and Know Your Level of Community Engagement events;
- Link with academic researchers for projects in center funding programs; and,
- Work as center staff