University of Memphis and Meharry launch program driving research collaboration

In December 2020, the University of Memphis, Meharry Medical College and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare announced a collaboration to increase the number of Black primary care doctors across the state and increase research collaborations among the institutions. In accordance with this effort, the University of Memphis and Meharry Medical College created the Program to Enhance Collaborative and Interdisciplinary Research (PECIR). The purpose of PECIR is to stimulate innovative, interdisciplinary, team-based research that involves investigators from Meharry Medical College and the University of Memphis.


The inaugural PECIR call for applications was released in spring 2021 with a $50,000 research award designed to promote new lines of research and provide seed money to give rise to future external funding opportunities.


A virtual “lightning talk” session was held in April to establish and grow collaborative interdisciplinary research networking between faculty members from both institutions. Faculty interested in applying for the PECIR research awards were given the opportunity to share a three-minute presentation about their research and research interests.


Ultimately, 11 teams composed of faculty from both institutions responded to the inaugural PECIR call and six were selected for funding.


The six selected projects and their principal investigators from the two institutions are:


  • “Assessing Vaccine Hesitancy for Flu, HPV and COVID-19 Vaccines in Tennessee”—Seok Won Jin, Ph.D. (U of M); Jennifer Cunningham-Erves, Ph.D., MPH, MAEd, MS and Maureen Sanderson, Ph.D., MPH (MMC)
  • “Inform Future Delivery of Trauma Informed Care in Community-Based HIV Service Organizations (CBO), Faith-Based Organizations (FBO), the Local Health Department (HD), and Federally Qualified Health Care Centers (FQHC)”—Latrice Pichon, Ph.D. (U of M) and L. Lauren Brown, Ph.D., LCSW (MMC)
  • “A Focus Group Study of the Communication and Educational Needs of Parents and Patients with Sickle Cell Disease or Sickle Cell Traits”—Amanda Young, Ph.D. (U of M) and Shyamali Mukherjee, Ph.D., MS (MMC)
  • “Elucidating Mechanisms for the Sexually Dimorphic Response to Diet Induced Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome”—Melissa Puppa, Ph.D. (U of M) and Smita Misra, Ph.D., MS (MMC)
  • “Discovery of Exosome-based Molecular Biomarkers for Predicting Prostate Cancer Impending Metastasis”—Yongmei Wang, Ph.D. (U of M) and Zhenbang Chen, Ph.D., MS (MMC)
  • “Eliminating Socially-Driven Infant Obesity Disparities in Minority Communities of Memphis and Nashville: A Community-Based Intervention”—Angela Antipova, Ph.D. (U of M) and Flora Ukoli, M.D., MPH (MMC)


Funded projects and teams will have one year to build preliminary data, with the intention of the pursuit of external funding to continue the development of their work.


“This is the start of an exciting longer-term research partnership between our two institutions,” said Dr. Jasbir Dhaliwal, executive vice president of research and innovation at the University of Memphis. “Science is inherently collaborative, and it is imperative that we pool our research capabilities to tackle the big health and medical challenges facing our communities. It is my believe that these research teams will be successful in attracting significant competitive research support from the National Institutes of Health given the focus of the projects.”


Dr. Anil Shanker, Meharry’s vice president for research and Innovation, said “These initial pilot research projects between Meharry and U of M faculty members will jump start promising collaborations with potential impact on health equity in the populations we serve.”


The lightning talks in April showcased the research of 19 faculty from the University of Memphis and 18 from Meharry Medical College.


For more information on this collaboration or on the PECIR Program, contact Dr. Nichole Saulsberry-Scarboro at or Jared Elzey at