CTSI seed grants support community-academic partnerships

Seed grant table read.

Published August 17, 2022

"The seed grants are designed to support the development of academic-community research partnerships that together will advance knowledge through research that is meaningful and impactful to the community."
Laurene M. Tumiel Berhalter PhD.

Each year, the UB Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) provides seed grants that support the planning of community-based participatory research projects and engagement of communities in research.

“The seed grants are designed to support the development of academic-community research partnerships that together will advance knowledge through research that is meaningful and impactful to the community,” explains CTSI Community Engagement Core Director Laurene M. Tumiel-Berhalter, PhD, Director of Community Translational Research, Department of Family Medicine, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The 2023 Community Partnership Seed Grant program continues to focus on health disparities and health equity as outlined in the 2023 Request for Proposals (RFP). Letters of intent are due on Tuesday, October 4, and must outline how the partnership will generate a research plan for submission of larger grants. (See the CTSI website and RFP for full details and complete timeline of the submission process.)

Projects that have made an impact in Western New York

In 2020, the first year of the program, funding was awarded to the New American Mental Health Advisory Council (NAMHAC), which developed methods to increase engagement with local refugee and immigrant communities to gain a better understanding of culturally and ethnically diverse mental health treatments and interventions. The NAHMHAC team included university lead Kim S. Griswold, MD, MPH, RN, Jacobs School, and community lead Danielle Bernas, LMSW, Survivors of Torture Program with JFSWNY Refugee & Immigrant Center for Healing (RICH), formerly Western New York Center for Survivors of Torture.

According to Griswold and Bernas, the project found that addressing mental health requires long term investment in the community, with mentorship of community members and leaders. Service gaps were also identified during virtual meetings, including lack of educational materials about mental health and wellness, and gaps in providers' cultural understanding of mental health and stigma related to treatment.

“The community partnership grant has fostered further collaboration between several refugee agencies and Jewish Family Services of WNY,” says Griswold. “A particular connection with the Karen Society of Buffalo is a component of a workshop planned at a national conference a year from now.”

“NAMHAC has allowed us to connect with the different communities for our new Psychosocial Support Program, a tiered system of community engagement, mental health screening, support groups, and supportive counseling,” Bernas adds.

In 2021, two projects were awarded Community Partnership Development Seed Grants. The first, the Reproductive Health Advisory Committees for the African Refugee Community (RHACARC), was designed to provide community insights into family planning needs in Western New York’s African refugee community, and to facilitate the design of culturally relevant interventions that increase family planning uptake.

The team included university lead Kafuli Agbemenu, PhD, MPH, RN, School of Nursing, and community lead Sondra Dawes, BS, Priscilla Project, Jericho Road Community Health Center. As Agbemenu explained in 2021, “Buffalo has resettled over 10,000 refugees since 2001, with African refugees being one of the largest resettled populations. Despite their increasing numbers, and contribution to the Buffalo economy, they are seldom represented in the research literature, and their health status in the US being mostly unknown.”

According to Agbemenu and Dawes, the RHACARC convened two (male and female) community advisory boards to provide insights on the family planning needs of the community. The boards determined community priorities, challenges, and barriers as related to reproductive health, and family planning education.

The second awarded project in 2021 established a community transplant advisory board. The board’s focus was kidney transplant access barriers experienced by Black Western New Yorkers with end-stage kidney disease. The university lead was Liise K. Kayler, MD, MS, Program Director, Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation; Chief of the Division of Transplant Surgery, Department of Surgery, Jacobs School. Serving as community lead was Barbara Breckenridge, Founder, Western New York Kidney Disease and Transplant Support Group, Patient Advisory Committee (PAC) Western New York Regional Advisor, IPRO ESRD Network of New York Partner and Health Disparities Liaison, Fruit of the City.

According to Kayler and Breckenridge, the partnership resulted in the adaptation of an animation-based educational intervention called “KidneyTIME.” A steering committee and a community advisory board were formed comprised of diverse individuals with kidney disease and their families.

“Engaging community partners helped us to ensure that the intervention is culturally appropriate, beneficial to the users, and easy to use and understand,” says Kayler.

“The community partners were excited to be able to share their views, ideas, and life experiences to benefit the project, and also receive additional education on the transplantation process,” Breckinridge adds.

2022 projects explore youth mental health and health equity

In 2022, the CTSI awarded two seed grants. The first involves forming a Community of Practice to address mental health inequity among K-12 students. Serving as university lead is Annahita Ball, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Social Work, while the community lead is JoAnn A. Balazs, Assistant Superintendent, Sweet Home Central School District, and Chair of the district’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee.

The project aims to develop a better understanding of racialized youth’s mental health so as to inform new policies, procedures, and teaming structures that will improve outcomes for students in need. 

The second project awarded 2022 funding involves UB’s Community Health Interventions Lab (CHILab), which works with key members of the Seneca Nation to learn more about community needs around food access. This partnership builds on existing efforts to increase health equity through nutrition programming and related topics identified by community members.

Anne E. Lally, PhD, Assistant Director of Research and Evaluation, Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, School of Public Health and Health Professions, is the project’s university lead, while Angie Kennedy, Allegany Councilor, Seneca Nation, is the community lead. Lally and Kennedy are currently working with the Seneca Nation Health System Diabetes Program on next steps for the project, including the organization of a community advisory board to review and provide feedback on plans, processes, and findings.

More information for prospective 2023 applicants

To learn more about the CTSI Community Partnership Development Seed Grant program, visit the CTSI website. In addition, registration is open for an information session to be held online via Zoom at 1 p.m. on Thursday, September 8.