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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Minnesota: Interdisciplinary Research Leaders Links Researchers with Local Leaders for Community Well-Being

For Dr. Billy Kirkpatrick, questions around how people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) can receive the best care weigh heavily on his mind. As chief executive officer of Five Horizons Health Services in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, he provides services such as finding affordable housing and transportation for those with HIV/AIDS. But how does this work help people live with the disease in a region where the death rate for HIV-positive individuals is higher than any other in the U.S.?

To find answers to his questions, Dr. Kirkpatrick teamed up with researchers Dr. Safiya George, assistant dean for research and associate professor at the University of Alabama Capstone College of Nursing, and Dr. G. Tongi Mugoya, associate professor of rehabilitation at the University of Alabama College of Education.

The three are fellows in a program called Interdisciplinary Research Leaders (IRL) at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), IRL is building an innovative approach to research where two academic researchers from different fields and a community leader join forces as equal partners to tackle issues vital to communities. The program annually funds 15 teams for three years each. Each member receives equal funding and equal participation in the team experience and curriculum. Through their work, and along with the communities that shape their research, the teams strive to produce action-oriented, community-engaged research to help build a national culture of health where everyone has the opportunity to live a healthier life. 

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