PATIENTS Program Wins UMB Diversity Recognition Award
For its engagement efforts during the pandemic and other initiatives designed to enhance health equity in the city, the PATIENTS Program was awarded the University of Maryland, Baltimore Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Recognition Award for Outstanding Staff.
By Lou Cortina
January 31, 2022
In its mission to conduct patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR), the PATIENTS Program at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy prides itself on meeting West Baltimore community members where they live, work, or worship. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and halted in-person outreach, the program pivoted to meet people where almost everyone had moved: cyberspace.
The PATIENTS Program launched a series of biweekly Facebook Live events titled “Real Time with Rodney” and “BJ’s Corner,” hosted by Rodney Elliott, engagement specialist, and Barbarajean “BJ” Robinson-Shaneman, senior program specialist, respectively. In the fall of 2021, Elliott’s program focused on sharing ideas from community partners about how being financially healthy has a direct impact on your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
“These online programs serve as a platform to keep the PATIENTS Program connected with the Baltimore community,” said C. Daniel Mullins, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Health Services Research and executive director of the PATIENTS Program. “In 2021, we reached over 3,000 people with our Facebook Live sessions. Our program understands the importance of meeting community members where they are and providing information that’s relevant to them. BJ has more than 40 years of service to UMB and has taught all of us how to engage the West Baltimore community authentically.”
For its engagement efforts during the pandemic and other initiatives designed to enhance health equity in the city, the PATIENTS Program was awarded the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Recognition Award for Outstanding Staff. Mullins, who won this award in the faculty category in 2017, is thrilled that UMB and its Diversity Advisory Council are rewarding his team’s work.
“I’m so grateful because all too often leaders get recognition, but those who do the hard work behind the scenes aren’t always thanked appropriately,” Mullins said. “I am happy that UMB recognizes what I see every day — that the PATIENTS Program staff are amazing individuals who embrace the teachings of Dr. King.”
Natalie D. Eddington, PhD, FAAPS, FCP, dean and professor of the School of Pharmacy, nominated the PATIENTS Program for the UMB honor. She has seen the program’s impact firsthand since it was launched in 2013 with a five-year, $5 million infrastructure building grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“I have been consistently proud of the important impact that the PATIENTS Program has had in our West Baltimore community,” Eddington said. “Our faculty, staff, students, and community partners continually strive to enhance the program and the lives of our neighbors. This UMB Diversity Recognition Award shows the value of engagement with the communities we serve.
“My hope is that the PATIENTS Program continues to flourish and becomes a national model of community engagement and interdisciplinary research for other universities and their neighbors.”
The PATIENTS Program describes itself as an interdisciplinary team of community partners and researchers who work to create a path toward health equity in West Baltimore, aiming to eliminate the social and economic inequities faced by underserved populations. It engages UMB’s neighbors in the PCOR process, listening to patients in developing more relevant research questions, aligning research priorities with the values of patients and communities, and training patients, stakeholders, and researchers to become PCOR co-developers.
“The PATIENTS Program eliminates ‘helicopter research,’ where researchers swoop in to gather data, then helicopter out without sharing findings,” Eddington said. “In 2021, the program began working on an exciting new project with a UMB community partner, the Southwest Partnership, to develop capacity for patient-centered outcomes research and comparative effectiveness research [CER].”
That project, COmmunity Based Development of CollaboRatIVE and Sustainable PartNerships in PCOR/CER (CO-DRIVEN), was funded through a $250,000 award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and is led by Michelle Medeiros, MA, MS, CCRP, the program’s director of research.
“CO-DRIVEN was developed based on a direct request from neighborhood residents for more information about health research and what the community’s participation could look like,” Eddington said. “It incorporates the West Baltimore community as partners through all stages of the project: planning, doing, and delivering.”
The PATIENTS Program also delivered in 2021 by helping to address barriers preventing city residents from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, working with Mount Lebanon Baptist Church and Walgreens to administer first and second doses to nearly 300 people. Members of the program and staff from the schools of medicine and nursing volunteered to coordinate the process on two days in April and May.
Mullins said that based on its partnership with Mount Lebanon and a new initiative the church is planning with CVS Health, the PATIENTS Program has received a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health under the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics for Underserved Populations initiative for a project titled “COmmunity Mistrust and Measures of Institutional Trustworthiness (COMMIT).”
“COMMIT will design a sustainable model for trustworthy community-engaged research partnerships to address social, ethical, and behavioral implications of COVID-19 testing and research,” said Mullins, who added that the engagement that occurs in these types of projects debunks the perception that underrepresented communities don’t want to participate in research.
“My experiences suggest that underrepresented populations don’t want to participate in exploitation or research that benefits other communities but not their own,” he said. “The fact that the PATIENTS Program received the Diversity Recognition Award is a testament to UMB leadership for recognizing that research and health equity can go hand-in-hand when done in a respectful and mutually beneficial manner.
“We stand with UMB as we continue to address the social determinants of health,” he added. “I am so proud of my amazing colleagues in the PATIENTS Program for spreading positivity and hope.”
(In photo, clockwise from top left: Godwin Okoye, Rodney Elliott, Joe Howarth, Genevieve Polk, Eileen Eldridge, C. Daniel Mullins, and Michelle Medeiros)