Communication Key, TRI Community Advisory Board Tells Chancellor

 UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., (center), told the Translational Research Institute Community Advisory Board that its input is helping UAMS improve health and health care.

UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., (center), told the Translational Research Institute Community Advisory Board that its input is helping UAMS improve health and health care.

June 17, 2013 | Members of the UAMS Translational Research Institute Community Advisory Board recently told UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., that improving health-related communication between UAMS and the communities it serves could go a long way toward improving health care.

Meeting with the 12-member advisory board for the first time, Rahn introduced the group to UAMS’ three-pronged mission of patient care, research and education. He said UAMS has to be innovative to translate each of those areas into helpful solutions for the people of Arkansas.

“You are helping us refine our research agenda to actually improve health and how to measure it,” Rahn said.

The Translational Research Institute Community Advisory Board was formed last year to help foster lasting partnerships that will help UAMS address health disparities among communities at risk for poor health outcomes.

Following its meeting with the chancellor, the board met with Julie Moretz, UAMS’ first associate vice chancellor for patient- and family-centered care. She told the board that her goal is to make UAMS a model for patient- and family-centered care and that she will work with communities to learn their priorities for health care.

Rahn noted that the burden of poor health is not evenly distributed across the state and that the challenge for UAMS is to go beyond traditional training and strategies to work collaboratively with communities to design new ways of addressing health and education.

At Rahn’s invitation, the board’s members offered a range of thoughts and ideas.

Margarita Solorzano, executive director of the Hispanic Women’s Organization of Arkansas in Springdale, said physicians and other medical professionals need more training in counseling patients to achieve effective behavior modification.

Darrell Nelson, a member of the Texarkana Community Advisory Board, suggested that physicians offer more holistic treatments and that patients need better communication from their physicians about their treatment plans. He said community health workers could be utilized as physician extenders to help patients.

Naomi Cottoms, of Helena-West Helena, executive director of the Tri-County Rural Health Network and director of the Community Connection Program, said cultural and linguistic competencies are an important part of any health worker’s education to understand the root causes of negative health behaviors.

Charles Moore, who founded the Planting a Seed Foundation in Camden, said expanding the use of community health connectors could greatly benefit the health of people in underserved areas.

Moore lost his wife and a daughter to the heart disease cardiomyopathy. “They were never checked and they didn’t know, so communication is the key,” he said.

The Community Advisory Board members represent the racial, cultural and geographical diversity of Arkansas, serving as a voice of the communities they represent. They are drawn primarily from local community organizations, predominantly nonprofit, with advocacy or service missions. The board advises the Translational Research Institute on issues important to various constituencies in the state, assists the institute in prioritizing research initiatives, and increases the institute’s visibility at the community level.

Other members of the board are:

  • Pam Christie, executive director, Mental Health Council of Arkansas in Little Rock
  • Sarah Facen, of Little Rock, is a member of the Patient/Community Advisory Board for the Division of General Internal Medicine in the UAMS College of Medicine
  • Nicole Hart, a military veteran who leads AR VETS, in North Little Rock, a nonprofit that promotes the reintegration of veterans in Arkansas
  • Rosa Hatch, of the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities in the Arkansas Department of Health in Little Rock, focuses on improving health outcomes of the Latino community
  • Anna Huff, program director of the Mid Delta Community Consortium in Helena-West Helena, which focuses on demonstrating community-based approaches to health improvement
  • Ruth Shepherd, executive director of Just Communities of Arkansas, in Little Rock, an organization that works to embrace diversity in the community
  • Steve Sullivan, a chaplain at Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System in North Little Rock, he leads the Clergy Partnership Program in which faith communities in El Dorado, Pine Bluff, Russellville and Searcy are developing local programs to promote engagement of veterans in health care
  • The Rev. Jerome Turner, director of special projects for the Boys, Girls, Adults Development Center in Marvell, and pastor of the Mt. Everett Baptist Church and New Hope Baptist Church in rural Phillips County

The Translational Research Institute’s mission is to help accelerate research that will improve the health and health care of people in Arkansas and across the country. It was established with major funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2009 and is one of 60 NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) recipients. The institute’s funding from NIH flows through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).

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