Mississippi INBRE (MS-INBRE) Community Engagement and Training Core (CETC) Co-Director Dr. Jennifer Lemacks presented at the 2023 Puerto Rico INBRE (PR-INBRE) Annual Retreat, held on March 19, 2023, to discuss CETC operations to strengthen community-engaged health disparities research in Mississippi. Her presentation, titled “Multi-Stakeholder Engagement to Support Health Disparities Research in Mississippi,” demonstrated the unique operational model guiding the activities of the core and how this model can be adopted by PR-INBRE for their use. Mississippi INBRE looks forward to similar collaborations with PR-INBRE in the future.

Central to the CETC’s operational model is diversifying student program admissions and employing those students in research projects that tackle issues directly affecting their communities. Dr. Lemacks says this is the key to impassioning the future generation to participate in community-engaged science.

“The CETC utilizes a holistic admissions process to select diverse Mississippians into a summer research program that sparks passion for science by addressing the very issues that impact their own homes, families and communities. The CETC and PR-INBRE will work together to implement best practices that go beyond a standard community advisory board to strengthen the science and healthcare workforce, accelerating the translation of research to practice,” explains Dr. Lemacks.

Similarities between Mississippi and Puerto Rico has prepared the two programs for this collaboration. Both states face the same challenges in terms of healthcare access, chronic diseases, health disparities and more.

Dr. Lemacks states, “Like Mississippi, Puerto Rico experiences many social, environmental and infrastructure challenges. With the increased recognition to honor citizen science and engage community populations in research, PR-INBRE is interested in bolstering their community engagement and health disparities research efforts to advance the health and quality of life of Puerto Ricans.”

Moving forward, Dr. Lemacks hopes to see more cross-INBRE collaborations with PR-INBRE, and in the future, nationwide.

“With the complexity of today’s science, collaboration with other institutions yields efficient operation of the INBRE networks and stewardship of federal funds. Collaboration minimizes duplication of effort, leverages strengths to serve a broader audience and addresses weaknesses of a single INBRE. All INBRE programs face the same challenges, so it just makes sense that we should work together to pool resources and collectively address those challenges,” Dr. Lemacks continues, “I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to work with the Puerto Rico INBRE team. They are a top-notch group, and it was apparent throughout my visit that Dr. Rodriguez-Medina is a first-class leader and mentor. I look forward to building this collaboration that would not be possible without Dr. Rodriguez-Medina’s vision for the future.”

Click here to see more photos from the meeting.