Meharry Medical College offers a number of research, community engagement, and training programs made possible by federal, state, local, private business, and non-profit grant organizations. These organizations champion Meharry’s mission of serving the nation’s medically underserved populations.
Health Disparities Research Center of Excellence at Meharry Medical College
The Health Disparities Research Center Center of Excellence (HDRCOE, formerly known as EXPORT) examines how society, economics, culture, behavior, and biology impact health, with the aim of involving the community in the research process and improving the health and well-being of ethnic and racial minorities.
For more information about the center’s projects and partnerships, please contact Vicente Samaniego, MPH from the Department of Family and Community Medicine at 615.327.5997 or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Research Partnerships
The “U54 Partnership”: Partners in eliminating cancer disparities
In 1999, the Centers for Disease Control’s Office of Minority Health Disparities and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) launched several new initiatives to establish cancer research partnerships between NCI Cancer Centers and Minority Serving Institutions. These initiatives arose from the disturbing observation that, although minorities including African-Americans suffer a disproportionate burden of cancer deaths in this country, neither the cancer centers alone nor minority serving institutions had been able to address the problem.
The objective of the NCI program was to strengthen the capabilities of minority serving institutions to engage in effective research collaborations with their neighboring cancer centers, with the ultimate goal of reducing the high cancer incidence and death rates among minorities. Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University forged the MMC-VICC partnership through a supplement to the VICC (Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center) Support Grant (CCSG) in 1999. In 2000, Drs. Samuel Adunyah and Harold Moses successfully competed for one of only two U54 NCI Comprehensive Partnership Grants that were funded in the country.
In 2006 the two principal investigators successfully competed for another five years of funding, which awarded Meharry $10 million through 2011. During this time, Tennessee State University was added as a full member of the partnership, creating a triad between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center, and TSU, with TSU housing the Cancer Outreach Component of the partnership. In 2011, the partnership successfully competed for its U54 grant from NCI, which brought another $16 million to the partnership to support research and training activities for five years. The current leadership of the partnership is comprised of Drs. Samuel E. Adunyah and Steve Wolff (Meharry Medical College), Hal Moses and Ann Richmond (VICC), and Baqar Husaini and Margaret Whalen (TSU).
This grant represents one of the very few U54s with a balanced focus on population science, basic research, and clinical research.
A multi-center epidemiologic study on breast cancer in African-American women.
This is a full project between the three institutions. The principal investigators are Drs. Maureen Sanderson (MMC), Wei Zheng (VICC), and David Shen Miller (TSU). The specific aims of this project are to recruit, interview, and collect one thousand African-American breast cancer cases from Tennessee and South Carolina and to identify one thousand age-matched African-American controls from subjects recruited in the Southern Community Cohort Study (SCCS). Combined with the subjects from the Nashville Breast Health Study and the SCCS, investigators plan to have a total of three thousand African-American cases and three thousand African-American controls to complete the study. The first aim of the study is to evaluate approximately 21 GWAS-identified loci to discover genetic risk variants for the risk of breast cancer in African-American women. In the final aim of their study, they plan to establish a breast cancer risk assessment model for African-American women that incorporates clinical and genetic risk factors.
Molecular mechanisms of Skyp2 targeting in prostate cancer progression.
This is a full project between MMC and VICC and the principal investigators are Drs. Zhenbang Chen (MMC) and Robert Matusik (VICC). The Skyp2 gene encodes a signaling protein, which is believed to play a critical role in prostate cancer progression involving castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), which is extremely aggressive and spreads faster. However, the mechanism of Skyp2 in prostate cancer is not well understood and it is the focus of this project. The investigators will use various prostate cancer mouse models and human prostate cancer cell lines to unearth the mechanisms of Skyp2. The outcomes could lead to development of therapeutic agents, which can block or slow down prostate cancer progression in CRPC patients.
Increasing HPV vaccine utilization among African-American girls through social marketing.
The principal investigators are Drs. Maureen Sanderson (MMC), Pam Hull (Vanderbilt), and Elizabeth Williams (TSU). This is a community-based participatory research (CBPR) pilot project between the three institutions and the community-based organizations and community members that serve on our Community Advisory Board (CAB). The main goal of this project is to develop and test the feasibility and impact of a culturally appropriate social marketing intervention targeting African-American girls and their parents to increase utilization of the HPV vaccine series. The outcomes could lead to development of an expanded study to involve large numbers of human subjects. Ultimately, the outcomes will lead to expansion of HPV vaccine utilization among African-American girls.
Samuel Evans Adunyah, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor and Chairman,
Department of Biochemistry & Cancer Biology
MMC-VICC-TSU Cancer Partnership NCI U54 Grant
Meharry Medical College
Samuel Evans Adunyah, Ph.D.
MMC-VICC-TSU Cancer Partnership NCI U54 Grant
Meharry Medical College
1005 Dr. D. B. Todd Jr. Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37208
Meharry Administrative Staff
VICC Administrative Core Staff
VICC Associate Director for Administration,
TSU Administrative Core Staff
Grants and Contracts Specialist
Program Director for Financial Affairs
(grant fiscal manager)
Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools is redesigning its comprehensive high schools around the Career Academy model in which students and teaching teams form focused learning communities. Meharry Medical College is partnering with the Health Career Academies to increase the number and diversity of students progressing along the health workforce pipeline.
Activities support integrating health throughout the curriculum and linking classroom activities to real-world applications via professional development for interdisciplinary teaching teams, student-produced health media content, student-led health outreach, and case-based learning activities.
High interaction with medical and research professionals is the thrust of the program. For example, students take part in:
- A day-long Healthy People Challenge, in which 9th-graders solve problems based upon actual cases.
- Health fairs conducted by the students alongside their teachers and mentors.
- Health media workshops, 4-week summer activities that combine Media Academy students with Health Academy students to produce health literature.
This project is made possible by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) Grant R25 RR026031 from the National Center for Research Resources, a component of the National Institutes of Health.
Cancer is the leading cause of death among Americans aged 40-79. Certain groups, such as African Americans, the poor, or those living in particular geographical areas, experience a disproportionately high burden of cancer for reasons that are only partly understood. This burden includes having a higher probability of getting cancer or a higher chance of dying from cancer once diagnosed. These types of health disparities could have many causes—some rooted in environmental exposures within and beyond one’s control and some biologically or genetically based. It is likely that a combination of factors is involved and that the reasons for differing cancer burdens vary for each type of cancer.
The Southern Community Cohort Study (SCCS), funded by the National Cancer Institute and initiated in 2001, was established to address many unresolved questions about the root causes of cancer health disparities, with its findings expected to help prevent and reduce the burden of cancer among all populations. This prospective cohort study of approximately 86,000 adults in the southeastern United States has one of the highest representations of African Americans (two-thirds) among existing U.S. cohorts and a large biorepository poised to address scientific questions about the causes of both common and rare cancers (as well as of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease).
The SCCS is conducted by a collaborative team of scientists at Vanderbilt University, Meharry MedicalCollege, and the International Epidemiology Institute. Outside scientific collaborations are welcome and encouraged.
Particularly related to lung, prostate, breast, and colorectal cancer, the Cohort’s research is focused upon:
- Vitamin D, an important hormone created in the body from sunshine exposure that has been linked to lowered risk of various cancers and other diseases
- Inflammation, a normal and important immune system function that, when chronic, may provide an enhanced setting for cancer development
- Energy balance, factors such as physical activity, diet, and obesity, which may be related to cancer through various mechanisms
- Diet, which, with its numerous and varied components, holds promise to identify readily modifiable risk factors for cancer
- Tobacco carcinogens, which we may metabolize differently, explaining the differences in lung cancer rates associated with smoking
- Genetic propensity, which will be examined both through genes involved in key exposure pathways as well as those identified through ongoing genome-wide scans
- Health services utilization, including cancer screening practices, which impact how and when cancers are diagnosed and the subsequent prognosis
Read more about the projects and partnerships of the Southern Community Cohort Study at www.southerncommunitystudy.org.
There is a shortage of medical care among rural communities and the urban poor and as a result, a higher burden of illness and mortality. The mission of the Tennessee Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Program is to improve the supply and distribution of health care professionals in these communities with an emphasis on primary care.
The effort combines the talents of health care practitioners and school systems in Tennessee to attract young people to the sciences, nurture them through their biomedical studies, place them in rural settings, and support them as professional health care providers with ongoing educational opportunities.
The Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (an office in the National Cancer Institute) has established 23 Community Networks Program Center (CNPC) National and Regional Centers for Reducing Cancer Health Disparities. These centers emphasize high quality intervention research involving controlled and rigorous studies aimed at reducing cancer health disparities.
The Meharry Medical College (CNPC) is a component of the Meharry Center for Optimal Health. Its purpose is to reduce cancer health disparities among African Americans by conducting community-based participatory research, education, and training in three urban communities in Tennessee (Nashville, Chattanooga, and Memphis). Overall program goals are to significantly improve access to and utilization of beneficial cancer interventions in these three CHCs communities and provide a cadre of well-trained researchers who will continue to reduce disparities in these communities.
CNPC is administered by Margaret Hargreaves, Ph.D., professor, Department of Internal Medicine. A nutritionist by training, her research interests have expanded into the study of health disparities for key chronic diseases, including cancer prevention and control. Research activities include the assessment of associated risk factors and the development and implementation of intervention trials based on models of health behavior change. A major area of interest is the application of community-based participatory research methodology to foster changes in health behaviors among low-income African Americans.
The Community Networks Program Center (CNPC) aims to reduce and eliminate cancer and co-morbid health disparities through community-based research, education, and training. The CNPC focuses on five types of cancers: breast, cervical, colorectal, lung, and prostate.
Our goals are to improve screening rates for cancer in minority groups and promote access to and use of cancer prevention strategies and treatments.
Services and Activities Provided
- Networking opportunities with local agencies and community organizations in Chattanooga, Memphis and Nashville
- Community Speaker’s Bureau that provides cancer awareness and prevention presentations on the 5 target cancers
- Community Health Fairs
- Cancer Prevention Education and programs in partnership with the Community Health Centers: Cancer Screenings, Physical Activity,
Nutrition, Smoking Cessation
- Community-Based Participatory Research Training
Phases of the CNPC:
- Forming partnerships and collaborations within the partner communities.
- Creating community-based cancer disparities research and training.
- Establishing community-based cancer prevention programs that work.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What is the Community Networks Program Center? The CNPC aims to reduce and eliminate cancer and co-morbid health disparities through community-based research, education, and training.
- What are Cancer Health Disparities? Cancer health disparities include racial and ethnic differences in how many people have cancer, how they are treated, and how well they survive.
- What are the Goals of the CNPC and how are they achieved?Our goals are to: 1) Improve screening rates for cancer in minority groups 2) Promote access to and use of cancer prevention strategies and treatments.To achieve these goals, the CNPC has partnered with Community Health Centers (CHCs) across the state of Tennessee including Southside/Dodson Community Health Centers in Chattanooga, Memphis Community Health Center, and Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center in Nashville.
- Who does the CNPC reach? The CNPC reaches African Americans and other minority groups in three urban cities in Tennessee: Chattanooga, Memphis, and Nashville.
Development of an HPV vaccine and cervical cancer screening provider intervention
Funding Source: National Cancer Institute
Project Summary: Despite increases in cervical cancer screening in the past few decades, African American and Hispanic women have substantially higher rates of cervical cancer incidence and mortality than White women. We propose to examine the association between receipt of the HPV vaccine in daughters and subsequent HPV prevention practices and cervical cancer screening in mothers and daughters. We hypothesize that women and their daughters may be less likely to use HPV preventive measures and to be screened appropriately for cervical cancer if the daughters are vaccinated against HPV. The specific aims of the proposed community-based participatory research (CBPR) project are: 1) to develop a culturally-tailored provider intervention to increase uptake of the HPV vaccine among African American and Hispanic adolescents aged 9-18 years while encouraging appropriate HPV prevention practices and cervical cancer screening, 2) to deliver a culturally-tailored provider intervention to increase uptake of the HPV vaccine among African American and Hispanic adolescents aged 9-18 years while encouraging appropriate HPV prevention practices and cervical cancer screening, and 3) to evaluate the extent to which a provider intervention that encourages parents to have their daughters vaccinated against HPV results in HPV vaccination of the daughters and impacts subsequent HPV prevention practices and cervical cancer screening of the women and their daughters. This CBPR is a collaboration between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University (VU), three community health centers in Nashville, Memphis and Chattanooga, and a Community Advisory Board (CAB). The academic and community partners will collaboratively develop a provider intervention, which will be delivered to parents/patients at the three community health centers and at Meharry to encourage receipt of the HPV vaccine, and continued HPV prevention practices and cervical cancer screening in African Americans and Hispanics.
Knowledge, attitudes, and practices among African Americans for Biospecimen Collection
Funding Source: National Cancer Institute
Project Summary: Human bio-specimens are an invaluable resource for addressing cancers and other chronic diseases. Molecular and genetic studies of the bio-specimens contained in these biobanks can provide groundbreaking information about the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of these disease entities. African Americans are underrepresented in biobanks, are less likely to donate bio-specimens, and less likely to participate in clinical research. This is problematic because African Americans frequently experience a greater incidence and mortality for many types of cancers. The primary goal of this project is to assess and improve the knowledge, attitudes, and behavioral intent of the African American community with regard to donating bio-specimens for cancer research.
The Research Centers in Minority Institutions program is managed by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, one of the 27 institutes and centers in the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The goal is to expand the research capacity of the nation by improving the human and physical research resources at doctoral degree granting institutions that have a 50 percent or greater enrollment of students who are racially/ethnically underrepresented in the biomedical sciences.
Meharry Medical College successfully competed for one of the first RCMI awards in 1985 and since then has had more than 20 years of uninterrupted funding. The RCMI Program supports the infrastructure of shared resources across the campus including the Office for Research, the library, information technology, and various research core facilities. Of the current Meharry faculty, 18 were hired through the RCMI Program.
The RCMI program also has supported Meharry’s research infrastructure in multiple scientific areas including neuroscience, cancer cell biology, environmental health and toxicology, infectious diseases, and oral biology. The current research focus of the RCMI program at Meharry is women’s health in the Center for Women’s Health Research and neurological health in the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience.
A major component of the mission of Meharry Medical College is to conduct research that fosters the elimination of health disparities while contributing significantly to the diversity of the next generation of health care providers, as well as, biomedical scientists and physician-scientists. The research resources (personnel and physical) of the RCMI grant greatly facilitate the accomplishment of these goals.
The goal of the RCMI program is to expand the research capacity of the nation by improving the human and physical research resources at doctoral degree granting institutions that have a 50% or greater enrollment of students who are underrepresented in the biomedical sciences. The RCMI program was transferred to the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) following the passing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012, which dissolved the National Center for Research Resources, the former home of the RCMI program.
Meharry Medical College successfully competed for one of the first RCMI awards and since then has had over 29 years of uninterrupted funding.The RCMI Program at Meharry has supported the infrastructure of shared resources across the campus including the Office for Research Support Services, Information Technology, and various research core facilities. Of the current Meharry faculty, 18 were hired through the RCMI Program.
Through its 29 years of funding, the RCMI program has also supported Meharry’s research infrastructure in multiple scientific areas including neuroscience, cancer, cell biology, environmental health and toxicology, infectious diseases, and oral biology. The focus of the current proposal is women’s health.
The three components funded by the RCMI program are: 1) Recruitment Core, 2) Pilot Projects, and 3) Core Facilities. Pilot grant proposals were solicited from Meharry faculty whose research focused on women’s health research. To be considered for pilot funding, faculty were asked to write a brief letter of intent. Upon consideration of the letters of intent by the Research Council (IAC), those deemed competitive were then asked to write full proposals that were sent out for external pre-review. Finally the most competitive applications were included in the Parent Application.
The long range goal of this RCMI program is to expand and improve the capacity for women’s health research, including HIV/AIDS at Meharry Medical College (MMC), placing particular emphasis on those diseases that disproportionately impact women of color. Numerous reports have documented differences in health status between Caucasian women and women of color, particularly African American (AA) and Hispanic Women. In the current application we seek to increase the capacity for women’s health research at MMC by providing ongoing support for two recently hired RCMI investigators. Dr. P. Gangula will continue his studies on diabetic gastroparesis, which has a 4-times greater incidence in women, and Dr. N. Ismail will study immune regulation of human monocytic ehrlichiosis during pregnancy. We plan to recruit three mental health/behavioral science investigators to add this dimension of women’s health research. In the pilot project core: Dr. X. Dong will study HIV-1 assembly, Dr. S. Halder will study Vitamin D deficiency and uterine fibroids in AA women and Dr. C. Thota will seek to correlate gene polymorphism and hypovitaminosis D in preterm birth. A strong team of senior scientists will facilitate a robust mentoring and faculty development experience for all RCMI Investigators.
The RCMI Program supports five core facilities used by investigators in their research activities:
- Molecular Biology Core
- Fluorescence-Activated Cell Sorting (FACS) and BSL-3 Core
- Female Tissue Acquisition Core
- Molecular Imaging
The specific aims of the current application are:
to exceed a 3 year average of 2 peer-reviewed publications/year/RCMI Investigator by the end of the award period;
to facilitate submission of investigator-initiated grant applications by all RCMI Investigators prior to their 3rd year of support;
to exceed 50% of RCMI investigators acquiring investigator-initiated support by the end of the award cycle; and
to have documented evidence that RCMI supported core facilities, bioinformatics support, as well as RTRN support were appropriately leveraged to achieve the above successes.
- Contribution of Host Factor to HIV Assembly – Xinhong Dong, PhD.
- Vitamin D Deficiency and Increased Risk of Uterine Fibroids in African American –Sunil Halder, Ph.D.
- Gene Polymorphism and Hypovitaminosis D in Health Disparities of Preterm Birth – Chandrasekhar Thota, PhD.
Matthew C. Morris, Ph.D.
Dr. Matthew Morris was initially recruited as a post-doctoral fellow in the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Center (CMBN) and then became a faculty member in the Department of Family and Occupational Medicine in July 2013 supported by the RCMI program. Dr. Morris successfully obtained a mentored career development award (K01 MH101403) in July 2013. His work is focused on the neurobiology of stress – related psychopathology and gender disparities in these psychiatric disorders. Dr. Morris developed a second pilot project and obtained funding from Meharry Clinical and Translational Research Center (MeTRC; U54 RR002614/MD007593). The study is focused on the trajectories of changes in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity, coping factors, and diurnal neuroendocrine secretion over time following exposure to interpersonal violence in African-American women.
Akiko Shimamoto, Ph.D.
Dr. Akiko Shimamoto, Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology was recruited to Meharry in January 2014. Her research focuses on stress and drug addiction. Particularly, she examines how chronic stress can alter later addictive behaviors in both males and females. She uses an animal model of chronic stress, which shows some cardinal features of depression, to test their drug taking behaviors. In addition, she measures neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, glutamate and GABA. These molecules are thought to be associated with reward processing, which are responsible for complicated drug taking behaviors. She examines how these molecules can contribute to chronic stress-induced drug taking behaviors.
External Advisory Committee
A distinguished committee of researchers and practitioners offer invaluable contributions to the RCMI Program at Meharry Medical College. The growth of the depth and breadth of research at Meharry is due in large part to their ongoing counsel.
Cesar D. Fermin, Ph.D., Chair
Dean Grad. Studies & Research
CAS, Kenney Hall 44-320
Tuskegee, AL 36088
Research Specialty: Expertise in neurobiology of vertebrates’ vestibular complex & HIV/AIDS
Steven Brant, M.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine
Director, Meyerhof Inflammatory Bowel Disease Genetics Laboratory
Johns Hopkins Hospital
1503 E. Jefferson Street
Baltimore, MD 21231
Research Specialty: Bowel Disease, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
Wonder Puryear Drake, M.D.
Associate Professor, Medicine
Associate Professor, Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Department of Medicine/Infectious Diseases
1161 21st Avenue, A2200 MCN
Nashville, TN 37232-2582
Research Specialty: Sarcoidosis, Bacteria, Infectious Disease and Microbiology
Walter R. Frontera, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Department of PM&R
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Medical Director of Rehabilitation Services
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
2201 Children’s Way – Suite 1014
Nashville, TN 37212
Research Specialty: Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Jerry Guyden, Ph.D.
Department of Biology, Room MR-526
City College of New York 138th Street & Convent Avenue
New York, NY 10031
Research Specialty: Molecular Immunology
Susan Halabi, Ph.D.
Duke University School of Medicine
Biostatistics and Bioinformatics
2424 Erwin Road,
8019 Hock Plaza
Durham, NC, 27705
Research Specialty: Biostatics and Bioinformatics and Cancer Epidemiology
Robert A. Kirken, Ph.D.
Professor and Dean
University of Texas El Paso
500 West University Avenue
Bell Hall, Room 226
El Paso, TX 79968-0519
Research Specialty: Molecular Immunoregulation and Autoimmune Disorders
William M. Southerland, Ph.D.
Professor of Biochemistry
College of Medicine
520 W Street, N.W., Room 436
Washington, DC 20059
Research Specialty: Simulation of Biomolecules and Translational Bioinformatics
The Nashville Urban Partnership Academic Center of Excellence (NUPACE) was established in 2006 to promote a partnership between academic institutions and communities to integrate prevention science and community action to reduce violence among youth in Nashville, Tennessee.
For more information contact Vicente Samaniego, MPH from the Department of Family and Community Medicine at 615.327.5997 or via email at: email@example.com