2021 Trailblazer Awards and Planning Grants awardees announced

October 18, 2021

Fourteen new projects have been funded by the 2021 Trailblazer Awards and Planning Grants, which are supported by Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) Community Health Partnerships. The next opportunity to apply for these awards will be during the spring of 2022. Learn more about the Trailblazer program here.

The Trailblazer Award supports collaborative, community-engaged research projects that focus on topics that have potential to improve health equity in Indiana. Eight projects were funded with up to $25,000 each.

The Trailblazer Award awardees are:

  • Ellen Wells, PhD, Associate Professor of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences at Purdue University, and Eric Evans, Blackford County Concerned Citizens, received an award for, Rural Environmental Health Assessment and Neighborhood-Specific Public Health Plan for Hartford City Using a Community-Engaged Approach.” This project addresses rural health inequities related to the impact of environmental contamination in Hartford City, Indiana. Community members suspect contamination from a steel recycling facility in the low-income Commercial-Main neighborhood may affect their health, but currently lack definitive data. With this grant, they plan to assess contamination and residents’ exposure by measuring concentrations of heavy metals in environmental samples and personal samples collected from adult community members. Based on their findings, they will work with the community to develop a public health plan to reduce exposure and improve health equity.
  • Natalia Rodriguez, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor in the Purdue University Department of Public Health, and Kelly Kajumulo, Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, received an award for, “Examining multilevel determinants of cervical cancer and acceptability of screening innovations to address disparities among Hispanic women in Lake County, Indiana.” Cervical cancer is preventable and treatable if detected early, yet screening rates are concerningly low among marginalized populations, and declining during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lake County has the highest Hispanic population and the highest cervical cancer mortality rates in Indiana. This study aims to understand the barriers to cervical cancer screening and care, the potential for screening innovations to address these needs, and how best to implement these interventions. This study will involve examination of deidentified patient medical records, self-administered patient surveys, and in-depth interviews. The findings will inform future community-based interventions aimed at increasing cervical cancer screening coverage and linkage to care.
  • Seethal Jacob, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at IU School of Medicine, and Emily Meier, Indiana Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center, received an award for, “Sickle Cell Trait Education for Adolescents and Young Adults.” Sickle cell trait (SCT) often results in increased risk for various health conditions and has reproductive implications impacting more than 300 million individuals worldwide, and 1 in every 13 African American newborns in the U.S. Despite that, few adolescents and young adults (AYAs) receive counseling regarding SCT-related complications. One opportunity for improving communication regarding SCT is to incorporate education as part of usual preventative AYA counseling. The primary objective of this study is to assess feasibility of educating AYAs and their caregivers about SCT status and provide related counseling in a primary care setting. With the Indiana Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center (IHTC), they plan to institute SCT counseling and education, gather information regarding caregiver recollection of SCT, and refine this process for long-term sustainability.
  • Nan Kong, PhD, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Purdue University, and Sherl Moore, National Alliance on Mental Illness West Central Indiana (NAMI-WCI) Chapter, received an award for, “Examining the effect of community-based programs in coping with stress during COVID-19 recovery.” Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become extremely difficult for many people to cope with stress. NAMI’s local chapters provide community-based mental health programs for individuals and families, but with limited staffing and funding, many chapters struggle to meet the rapidly increasing demand while maintaining the quality of their support programs. With this grant, they plan to examine the effects of support activities on mental health of distinct cohorts, most of which are rural and/or affected by the pandemic.
  • Virgil Gregory, PhD, Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at IUPUI, and John Muhammad, Fathers and Families Center (FFC), received an award for, “A Community Partner-University Collaboration for Increasing African American Men’s Access to Professional Mental Health Services: A Structural Equation Model.” With this grant, they plan to model causal relationships among plausible barriers to African American men accessing mental health services in Indianapolis. The negative outcomes of untreated mental illness pervade every aspect of life from family to work to morbidity and premature mortality. The findings have implications at the local/community partner level and this knowledge will be disseminated back to FFC via formal presentations provided to FFC staff and clients. The information gained from this study will also provide a model of causal structures that can inform direct practice and policy.
  • Nancy Michael, PhD, Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Behavior at the University of Notre Dame, and Carey Gaudern, Beacon Health System-Community Impact, received an award for, “Building Trauma-Informed Communities through NEAR Science and Strength-Based Theory of Change.” Community stakeholders have come together to begin the work of creating a trauma-informed St. Joseph County, and efforts are underway to raise awareness surrounding the impact of trauma on brain development and health outcomes. Little exists, however, in terms of programs and resources to aid organizations in taking the next step: creating organizational structures and processes that respond to individuals impacted by trauma. This project aims to empower community-based organizations to move forward in becoming trauma-informed. Sessions will be held to identify gaps in content knowledge, barriers to organizational change, and personal leadership. Training workshops will be developed that address gaps, cultivate community dialogue, and build a community change model.
  • Kalyn Renbarger, PhD, Assistant Professor of Nursing at Ball State University, and Corie Hess, Muncie Mental Health Coalition, received an award for, “Mitigating the Effects of COVID-19 on Maternal Mental Health Through a Community-University Partnership.” The purpose of this study is to increase access to trained support, reduce barriers to treatment, and improve maternal mental health outcomes during and post-COVID-19 among women with symptoms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). In Delaware County, many women with PMADs do not receive appropriate treatment due to a lack of trained mental health providers. The need for support has intensified in the face of isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic. This study aims to assess the effect of group counseling sessions on PMADs, examine the effect of peer support specialists, and evaluate the feasibility of building a referral system. Findings will be provided to the non-profit group 2020 MOM to inform creation of a national network of peer support specialists for maternal mental health.
  • Karla Galaviz, PhD, Assistant Professor at the School of Public Health at Indiana University, and Jill Stowers, Indiana University Health, Bloomington, received an award for, “PEER-UP: Using Peers to Enhance PrEP Uptake in Rural Indiana.” As HIV cases continue to increase in rural communities, strategies to link at-risk individuals with preventive services, such as Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) therapy, are needed. Using peers to promote engagement in HIV preventive services can help close access gaps, overcome the medical mistrust some communities experience, fill in PrEP-related knowledge, and improve PrEP awareness. Therefore, the objective of this pilot study is to test the acceptability and signals of effectiveness of a peer outreach intervention for improving HIV testing and PrEP uptake among at-risk individuals in rural, northcentral and southcentral Indiana. Overall, the proposed peer outreach intervention is a promising community-based strategy to address access disparities in HIV prevention in rural Indiana.

The Trailblazer Planning Grants support the development of community-university partnerships that focus on improving health, examining social determinants of health, or enhancing health equity to result in future collaborative research proposals. Six projects were funded with up to $5,000 each.

The Trailblazer Planning Grant awardees are:

  • Karen Comer, PhD student at the School of Public Health at IUPUI, and Andrew Robertson, Physicians’ Initiative for Demographic Analysis (PIDA), received an award for, “Strategic Needs Assessment for Physicians’ Initiative for Demographic Analysis.” PIDA aims to facilitate the rigorous evaluation of the social and structural determinants of health in Bartholomew County, including but not limited to any inequities in healthcare access or delivery that could be contributing to identified outcome disparities. PIDA proposes to partner with the Polis Center at IUPUI (Polis) to help achieve its mission. PIDA physicians bring expert knowledge of healthcare delivery processes as well as of the broader healthcare delivery ecosystem, while Polis brings expertise and experience in needs assessment, data collection, data integration, data analysis, and information dissemination. PIDA and Polis will document the elicited information needs and draft a strategic plan to meet the needs that are within the scope of PIDA’s mission.
  • Kristin Trainor, PhD, Assistant Professor of Social Work at Ball State University, and Ken Hudson, Whitely Community Council (WCC), received an award for, “Whitely Community Council and Ball State University: Partnership for Improved Health Outcomes.” The WCC and Ball State University are partnering to further assess and support local health-related initiatives. This is an action-oriented, participatory, community-engaged initiative to bring together the Whitely community and Ball State University (BSU) with a common goal to improve local health outcomes. The aims for this collaborative initiative are to build a partnership between WCC and BSU and to assess community identified needs to assist in building and sustaining the Whitely Community Health and Wellness Committee. The long-term goal of the proposed initiative is to build and sustain a community-academic partnership to address specific health promotion and outcomes within the Whitely Community.
  • Richard Brandon-Friedman, PhD, Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work at Indiana University, and Marissa Miller, Trans Solutions Research and Resource Center, LLC, received an award for, “Building Community Partnerships to Enhance the Safety and Well-being of Transgender People of Color.”This partnership grows from a shared recognition of the significant health disparities facing transgender and gender-diverse (TGD) People of Color (POC) and a joint commitment to creating safe, affirming spaces to receive healthcare-related services designed for the TGD POC community by TGD POC. To be successful, programing needs to establish a sense of safety and security for participants. The partnership will enhance access to healthcare for TGD POC in Indianapolis by exploring how the community defines safety, how safety needs can be met in healthcare programming, how meeting these needs will enhance participation in programming, what local adaptations to programming are required, and which service agencies need to be involved in these discussions.
  • Amy Magan, MS, Communications Manager for the Center for Aging and Community (CAC) at University of Indianapolis, and Kelsey Stinson, CICOA Aging and In-Home Solutions, received an award for, “UIndy-CICOA Partnership for Innovations in Healthy Aging.” While CICOA and CAC have long operated in the aging network in Central Indiana and have supportively co-existed, only recently have the two organizations made determined efforts to work collaboratively. This grant will further the pair’s efforts to leverage data and community-based interventions in ways that will benefit older adults and people with disabilities living in Central Indiana. CICOA and CAC plan to develop an ongoing, collaborative fellowship program that supports faculty and staff from UIndy to leverage their expertise in innovative approaches to meeting the needs of CICOA’s clients, either through the enhancement or creation of services, programs, and/or education/training.
  • Nancy Michael, PhD, Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Behavior at the University of Notre Dame, and Cassy White, Joseph County Department of Health, received an award for, Developing Collaborative Public Health Approaches for Positive and Adverse Childhood Experiences.” The goal of this planning grant is to utilize the existing network of community partnerships held by Notre Dame’s Neuroscience and Behavior program to rebrand the Department of Health as an active, engaged member of the community. This funding will be used to convene local partners of the Notre Dame Neuroscience and Behavior’s community-based research partnerships for listening and planning sessions, and to establish collaborative strategies across existing local partners to identify and prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences while strengthening Positive Childhood Experiences.
  • Brownsyne Tucker Edmonds, MD, MPH, Associate Dean for Health Equity Research at IU School of Medicine, and Rachel Maxey, Mdwise, Inc., received an award for, “Working Group of University and community partners to learn about Indiana maternal mortality and morbidity rates and examine the potential patient value-add of the Eskenazi Doula Pilot.” Pregnant people in Indiana experience maternal mortality and morbidity at rates that significantly outpace the national average. Key stakeholders have identified several interventions aimed at prevention efforts, including the use of pregnancy healthcare specialists such as doulas. Doulas are trained to provide physical, emotional, and educational support to birthing people during the prenatal period, labor, birth, and in the immediate postpartum. The Eskenazi Health Hospital system plans to hire Doulas to work within their Maternal Care Teams who are racially and ethnically similar to their patients. The goal of this project is to improve pregnancy outcomes in the state of Indiana by increasing accessibility and trust between healthcare providers and their diverse clientele of maternity patients.
|2021-10-18T11:50:26-04:00October 18th, 2021|Comments Off on 2021 Trailblazer Awards and Planning Grants awardees announced

About the Author: Anna Carrera

Anna Carrera
Anna Carrera is the research communications manager for Indiana University's Precision Health Initiative, IU School of Medicine Research Affairs and the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. She joined the team in June 2019 after working as a TV news reporter for ten years. She loves sharing stories about the great research being done across the state to improve the health of Hoosiers.

Get Involved with Indiana CTSI