C3EN Announces Cycle 4 Pilot Awardees



C3EN Pilot Awardees

Congratulations to Cycle 4 C3EN Pilot Awardees Chibuzor Abasilim, Allison J. Carroll, Eva Chang, Melissa Crane, Lindsay Sheehan, Marie Statler, and Anna Volerman!

C3EN Pilot Awardees receive up to $60,000 in funding to obtain data to establish an NIH-funded program of health disparities research. Awardees also receive mentorship from experienced investigators in the C3EN Investigator Development Core and access to the research infrastructure at both University of Chicago and Rush University Medical Center. Learn more and apply for a Pilot Award.

Chibuzor Abasilim, PhD, MPH, Environmental Epidemiology Postdoctoral Scholar, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Illinois Chicago

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Exposure and Cardiometabolic Disease in African American Adults in the Chicago Multiethnic Prevention and Surveillance Study

Dr. Abasilim’s primary research goal is to investigate the intersection of environmental chemical exposures, hormones and genes on the development of cardiometabolic diseases with a focus on hypertension and minority/understudied population. He employs high dimensional biomarker data, electronic medical records, surveillance databases, and observational data to better understand the etiology of cardiometabolic diseases. Dr. Abasilim received his PhD and MPH degrees in Epidemiology from the University of Illinois Chicago, School of Public Health and has continued postdoctoral training at the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences under the mentorship of Drs. Lee Friedman, Victoria Persky and Mary Turyk.

Greater exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) has been demonstrated in minority racial-ethnic groups and communities with low-income. Minority populations also bear a disproportionate burden of cardiometabolic diseases which have been linked to EDCs exposure. “Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Exposure and Cardiometabolic Disease in African American Adults in the Chicago Multiethnic Prevention and Surveillance Study” will leverage data and stored biospecimens from the ongoing Chicago Multiethnic Prevention and Surveillance Study (COMPASS) to measure exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). This project will evaluate associations of PFAS exposure with diabetes and hypertension in African American adults living in Chicago to better understand environmental justice and related health disparities in this population.

Allison J. Carroll, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences,  Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Engaging diverse community partners to plan the implementation of a multi-level salt reduction intervention on the South Side of Chicago

The overarching goal of Dr. Carroll’s work is to develop, evaluate, and implement evidence-based interventions to promote equitable chronic physical and mental health outcomes among diverse, high-risk populations. She has been a Co-Investigator on several implementation research projects to improve behavioral health and chronic disease management in vulnerable populations, some examples of which include: a collaborative care model for depression and anxiety in primary care, a home visiting intervention to promote cardiovascular health in post-partum parents, and a community-engaged approach to implementing a hypertension management intervention via community health centers and faith-based organizations in the South Side of Chicago. She was recently awarded a career development award to use health informatics, community engaged research methods, and an implementation clinical trial to evaluate and address comorbid depression and hypertension among Black adults living on the South Side of Chicago. Along with colleagues, she has also led and contributed to several implementation science methods, including a partner-driven method for selecting and specifying implementation determinants and strategies; an assessment of implementation recipients who failed to be engaged in a behavioral intervention; use of electronic health record data to evaluate implementation outcomes; and the development of an evaluation method for multi-sector partnerships between rural primary care practices and research institutions. She looks forward to connecting with the C3EN investigators and joining the growing network of early career health disparities researchers in Chicago.

“Engaging diverse community partners to plan the implementation of a multi-level salt reduction intervention on the South Side of Chicago” proposes that the Communication for Behavioral Impact for Salt Reduction (COMBI-SR) intervention, a multi-level approach to salt reduction, could significantly reduce overall salt intake on Chicago’s South Side. In partnership with Total Resource Community Development Organization (TRCDO), we aim to identify multilevel determinants and strategies to implementing (1) individual behavior change to achieve a low-sodium diet and (2) community-level behavior change to reduce overall salt consumption by engaging diverse perspectives from key community members with vested interest in salt reduction in this community in three workgroups: (1) Clinicians, (2) Community leaders, and (3) Intervention recipients (i.e., patients, residents). This will form a foundational implementation plan for a subsequent proposal to conduct a full-scale implementation trial of COMBI-SR in Chicago’s South Side community.

Eva Chang, PhD, MPH, Research Scientist Associate, Advocate Aurora Research Institute, Advocate Health

Social needs screening and intervention among patients with non-English language preference (NELP)

Dr. Chang evaluates inequities in the healthcare delivery system, with a focus on understanding access and utilization among disadvantaged populations. She has a broad background in health policy and management, with specific training and expertise in the fields of health services research, health disparities, systematic reviews, and secondary data analysis. Dr. Chang has been the principal investigator, co-investigator, or task lead on a range of grants and contracts funded by federal, state, international, and private organizations. Previously, she was a health services researcher at RTI International. There, she was an investigator for several mixed-methods implementation and evaluation projects involving new models of health care delivery and payment for the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation. She was also an investigator with the RTI–University of North Carolina (UNC) Evidence-based Practice Center, where she conducted systematic evidence reviews. Dr. Chang holds a PhD in health policy and management from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, an MPH from Yale School of Public Health, and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley.

“Social needs screening and intervention among patients with non-English language preference” will use clinical data from Advocate Health-Midwest, a large, multi-setting, community healthcare system, to explore whether patients with non-English language preference are equitably receiving social needs screenings and interventions compared to patients with English language preference. Of particular interest will be how health care setting and organizational characteristics may be associated with the receipt of screening and intervention. Findings from this study can be used to facilitate the development of policies and interventions that support appropriate and equitable use of social needs screenings and interventions.

Melissa Crane, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, Rush University

Leveraging discrete choice experiments to increase participant diversity in future clinical trials in Chicagoland

Dr. Crane is a public health researcher with expertise in developing and evaluating behavioral interventions for weight control. Her weight control research has focused on expanding the reach of these programs to better engage underserved groups, including men working in trade and labor occupations and African American church members. Additionally, she is focused on applying rigorous scientific methods to the problem of low diversity in clinical trials.

Increasing clinical trial participation rates of people from all backgrounds is vital to reducing health disparities. To do this, the research community needs a better understanding of participants’ preferences for clinical trials. “Leveraging discrete choice experiments to increase participant diversity in future clinical trials in Chicagoland” aims to conduct a discrete choice experiment to quantify preferences for clinical trials in a diverse sample of participants recruited from the Chicago area. Before the experiment, we will seek community feedback on the trial characteristics under investigation and descriptions of these characteristics to be included in the experiment. The results of this study will inform the design of future clinical trials to increase participation.

Lindsay Sheehan, PhD, Assistant Professor and Associate Director at the Center on Health Equity, Education, and Research (CHEER), Illinois Institute of Technology

Peer Professional Self-Disclosure for Engaging Black Americans in Mental Health Care

Dr. Sheehan has over 30 peer-reviewed publications and is principal investigator on multiple psychiatric disability-related research and training grants. She developed the Inspiring Change community-based participatory research (CBPR) curriculum and has extensive experience implementing CBPR programming. She is director of a state-funded program to train certified recovery support specialists/ certified peer recovery specialists (CRSS/CPRS).  Her research focuses on the stigma of mental illness, suicide, health equity, and the evaluation of peer services for people with mental illness. Dr. Sheehan also has a decade of experience working in community mental health care, including provision of counseling, case management, residential support, and vocational training services.

“Peer Professional Self-Disclosure for Engaging Black Americans in Mental Health Care” aims to conduct a 3-round Delphi study on best practices for Black mental health peer professional to engage their peers in mental health treatment by using self-disclosure. Through the Delphi method, we will conduct qualitative and quantitative research with two stakeholder groups, namely Black Americans who have received peer services (n = 35) and Black peer professionals (n = 25). The second aim is to co-create a guide for Black peer professionals that outlines best practices of self-disclosure for engaging people in mental health, based on Delphi results. The third aim is to develop a research agenda for further testing research hypotheses that emerge via the Delphi panel.

Marie Campbell Statler, Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, Rush University

The Impact of Health Beliefs Across the Life Trajectory on Colorectal Cancer Screening Behaviors: The Experiences of Black Men in Chicago

Dr. Statler earned her PhD in nursing from the University of Virginia in 2021. Additionally, she holds a Master of Science in Nursing Education from Stevenson University (2018), a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Hood College (2015), and an Associates of Arts in Nursing from Howard Community College (2004). Dr. Statler developed her passion for health equity research during her tenure, as an Associate Investigator and Research Nurse Specialist at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). In this role, she cared for patients in oncology clinical trials, focusing on those with metastatic cancer who received novel experimental adoptive cell therapy, gene therapy, and immunotherapies. Her efforts as a United States Government employee were recognized with a Ten Years of Service Award in 2015. Dr. Statler’s dissertation research laid the foundation for the current study which had a particular focus on relationship dynamics and motives of African American research participants in health research. Dr. Statler has published on topics related to the perspective of African American research participants, African American nurse scientists, and cultivating diversified research. She takes a special interest in developing asset-based strategies to increase the representation of adult African Americans in research and to reduce health disparities among marginalized and oncology populations. Currently, her research is dedicated to developing race-conscious interventions that will improve colorectal cancer screening uptake among adult African American men in Chicago communities.

“The Impact of Health Beliefs Across the Life Trajectory on Colorectal Cancer Screening Behaviors: The Experiences of Black Men in Chicago” will amplify African American men’s perspectives by exploring the health beliefs and social context that impact colorectal screening behaviors in Chicago’s Westside. Colorectal cancer disproportionately affects African American men, with higher incidence and mortality rates compared to other racial groups. This study serves as the initial phase of a program of research that supports culturally participant-designed interventions and fosters community partnerships that will enhance colorectal cancer screening uptake.

Anna Volerman, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, University of Chicago

Mental Health Matters: Harnessing Implementation Science to Advance Youth Mental Health Care in School-based Health Centers

Dr. Anna Volerman is a primary care doctor and health services researcher. Her work focuses on improving systems and reducing inequities among patients and professionals. She is committed to reducing long-standing systemic and structural factors that drive inequities through innovative approaches in clinical, community, and educational settings.

Schools and school-based health centers are important entry points into mental health services for youth. Nearly all Illinois SBHCs provide mental health care; however, staffing, resources, and financial issues result in little standardization and significant variation in care models. “Mental Health Matters: Harnessing Implementation Science to Advance Youth Mental Health Care in School-based Health Centers” aims to identify current practices and protocols for mental health care at school-based health centers and to evaluate the needs and factors that impact potential future interventions and their successful implementation.