The HBCU Wellness Project

Abbreviated for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), the HBCU Wellness Project is an intervention designed to utilize the human and social capital at historically black colleges and universities to promote health and modify risks for chronic diseases among individuals living in the surrounding communities. The primary goal of the HBCU wellness Project is to leverage educational and service-oriented resources at HBCUs to positively impact the health and well-being of Tennessee residents.

Participating HBCUs

“The Fisk-Meharry Wellness Initiative has afforded an opportunity for Fisk University to maintain our “town and gown” legacy. Through this partnership, we have been able to integrate our student body with the local community around issues that really matter…our health. We have empowered our students with opportunity and have encouraged them to become translators and disseminators of vital information in hopes of modifying behaviors to eventually eradicate health disparities along racial lines.”


Visit the Fisk University website >

Contact HBCU Wellness at Fisk

Lee Limbird, Ph.D

Campus Principal Investigator

Yvette Spicer

Campus Coordinator

“At Knoxville College we envisioned an integrated public health and wellness program that would focus on health disparities in underserved populations. That dream is coming to fruition for us through the Center for Public Health, a Meharry HBCU Wellness Project at Knoxville College. Because of the center the College now offers a degree in public health, which is also part of the college work program.”


“Knoxville College was founded in 1875 by the Board of Freedman’s Mission of the United Presbyterian Church in North America. It was chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1901 to promote religious moral and educational leadership among the freedmen. Now accredited in the state of Tennessee, the College is proud to offer programs such as the HBCU Wellness Program to promote healthier lifestyle choices to the surrounding community.”


“The HBCU Wellness Program offers our student ambassadors the opportunity to identify health disparities in the underserved population and then design programs to target their discoveries. As a result, our students are not only promoting healthier lifestyle choices; they’re also now considering health-related careers.”


Visit the Knoxville College website >

Contact HBCU Wellness at Knoxville

Evelyn Hallman, Ed.D.

Principal Investigator

Jim Burnett, M.A.

Campus Program Director

“Since the launch of the HBCU Wellness efforts at LeMoyne-Owen College, we have benefitted in a variety of ways. We’ve been able to hire five new staff members, expanding our institutional and community outreach. We’ve also expanded technologically. We gained a state-of-the-art videoconferencing center, which enables us to interface not only with the HBCU Wellness network but also other entities, for example, our colleagues in the Department of Defense’s Partnership for the Asthma Trigger- Free Homes (PATH) asthma project.”


“The Wellness Project’s emphasis on community outreach and the formation of partnerships has united us with more than one hundred agencies in the Mid-South region. They have both supported our students’ projects and been accessible to the College at large, and additional opportunities have often sprung from the first contact. For example, the Wellness Project fostered a relationship with the Memphis Health Center which later led to our working together in the PATH asthma study.”


“Through the students’ Wellness projects, and their participation in a variety of community outreach efforts—the Mid-South Fair, the Southern Heritage Classic, and numerous other health fairs and community outreach events—we estimate an impact upon more than 100,000 Mid-Southerners. And now, with our ability to host the CoverKids’ program and hire a Hispanic translator/community outreach consultant, we are developing a significant outreach to Memphis’s growing Hispanic population as well.”


“None of this growth could have taken place without the HBCU Wellness Project at Lemoyne Owen College.”


Visit the LeMoyne-Owen College website >

Contact HBCU Wellness at LeMoyne-Owen

Twanda Wadlington, M.P.H.

Campus Program Director

Michael Robinson

Campus Principal Investigator

“Since the inception of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Wellness Project in 2006, we at Lane College have been finding better solutions for community residents for access to health care. Thanks to the project, we have distributed free educational literature and brochures, conducted educational workshops, health activities, testing/screenings, and health fairs, and connected with multiple healthcare agencies and professionals. These critical factors permit us to be a conduit of information for the community about health issues, how to prevent them, and how to maintain one’s health once diagnosed.”

“The project has enabled us at Lane College to open our doors to numerous community partners, and together we’re changing lives. At least one major project takes place each month, and our students take the lead, providing free and confidential screenings for citizens, gathering surveys, analyzing data, and tracking participants’ health knowledge. The community has benefitted but the College has as well, by strengthening our community-based service learning, developing effective intervention programs, and better preparing our students for graduate school and/or careers in the health care professions.”


Visit the Lane College website >

Contact HBCU Wellness at Lane

Fisher Smith

Campus Coordinator

Tennessee State University’s storied past in health care covers a School of Nursing with enviable pass rates on the state’s licensing exam. Now students beyond the School of Nursing can impact their community through the HBCU Wellness Project—and perhaps they will be drawn into the health care field too. The HBCU Wellness Project welcomes Tennessee State University aboard.


Visit the Tennessee State University website >

Student Health Ambassadors

Student health ambassadors (SHAs) are full-time students who attend one of the participating Historically Black Colleges or Universities associated with the HBCU Wellness Project. SHAs are exposed to service learning instruction that enables them to work with local health and social service agencies and also serve as community representatives. In this role, SHAs can positively impact the health and well-being of underserved community residents in culturally sensitive and culturally relevant ways.


SHA Key Roles

  • SHAs are health promotion and disease prevention advocates.
  • SHAs are change agents who work with community partners and residents.
  • SHAs are trained to investigate key community health issues through extensive study.


Student Research

The SHAs take pride in being able to touch the community through their research of disparities plaguing minority communities. As health promotion and disease prevention advocates, they disseminate health information on topics considered health priorities for communities of color using methods shown to be effective in targeted communities. In the course of conducting their research, the SHAs participate in community and campus events to further increase their knowledge both of their chosen research and of their local communities. This access to the community enables them to acquaint citizens with our community partners, who are usually local nonprofit organizations focused on particular disparities in the minority community.


The community partner helps the SHA identify underlying causes of health inequalities in communities of color. The collaboration is a two-way partnership: the community partner benefits from an outsider’s perspective on its resources, and the student gains from the partner’s insights on his/her research. Together they have the goal of increasing positive health behaviors in communities; empowering residents through education, information, and skill development; and building activities that will lead to long-term solutions for social and environmental contributors to disease.

Contact HBCU Wellness at Meharry

The HBCU Wellness Project
Meharry Medical College
1005 Dr. D.B. Todd Jr. Boulevard
Nashville, TN 37208

The HBCU Wellness Project is located on the second floor of the Old Hospital,
in the West Wing, in Room 248.

Contact our HBCU Staff

Freida Outlaw, R.N., Ph.D.

Clinical Consultant

Charlotte Woods, M.P.H.

Adjunct Health Services,
Research Training

Mitchell Parks, M.D.

Co-Principal Investigator,
Assistant Professor;
Department of Psychiatry

Lisa McDonald McGee, M.Ed.


Twanda Scott

Senior Administrative Assistant