By Sarina Rodriguez
One vital aspect of EHSC’s work is community outreach and engagement. Our Community Engagement Core (CEC) is dedicated to overseeing this work which includes science communication, facilitating Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee (CSTAC) meetings and acting as a bridge between scientists and local communities where our research takes place. Best of all, scientists and community members can tap into this network anytime.
A recent training the CEC organized for our 2020 pilot project grantees highlights the importance of creating the space to make these connections. On July 13-14, grantees Peter Havel, Lisa Miller, Tina Palmieri, Crystal Rogers and Anthony Wexler participated in a 2-hour training with Nayamin Martinez from the Central California Environmental Justice Network, Kevin Hamilton from the Central California Asthma Collaborative and Ryan Jensen from the Community Water Center to learn how to develop a successful community-engaged research project. Some scientists had experience with this research model, while others didn’t.
“This annual training opens the door for researchers and community organizations to explore what meaningful collaboration can look like,” says CEC Program Manager Aubrey Thompson. “We want to demystify the administrative process of working with community partners in research, and give tools to address some of the big communication and cultural challenges that can arise during these partnerships.”
The July training focused on scenarios about fair compensation, cultural differences and trust building around ethical dilemmas researchers and community-based organizations commonly experience when working together. In organizing the training, the CEC pulled from its collective experiences, analyzing what made collaborations successful with the goal to generate better teams, improved research and stronger partnerships.
Crystal Rogers, an assistant professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine who studies the genetic and environmental factors of early development, said the training was fun and educational. "I role played with Nayamin Martinez who brought up many points researchers typically ignore or don't consider. I truly appreciated the 'don’t study us without us' mentality and message," Rogers said. "In the future, I'll connect with a community partner before writing an environmental health or exposure study project."
CEC Co-director Tanya Khemet-Taiwo says without CSTAC participation, it’s harder for scientists to develop pilot projects that are as relevant or rigorous as they’d like them to be. “We appreciate our CSTAC members' participation to teach best practices for community-engaged research by ensuring each project provides data relevant to communities and connects researchers directly with impacted residents,” says Khemet-Taiwo. “This linkage between academic and community leaders informs the development of effective health and environmental policies.”
For more information on this year’s pilot projects or upcoming trainings, please contact Community Engagement Core Program Manager Aubrey Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Sarina Rodriguez is a junior specialist with the Community Engagement Core at the UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center. A recent UC Davis graduate, her interests include equitable health access, community-based participatory research, rural community development and public health policy.