August 10, 2022

Looking at Heersink’s four new research focus areas, Part 2: Health Equity

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iStock 806665140. resixedAs the Heersink School of Medicine grows in scientific discovery, research funding, recruitment, and national influence, leadership recently inventoried our past research focus areas, seeking to understand how we should position ourselves to grow over the next five to seven years.

Through proposals from faculty, crowdsourcing for faculty engagement on the proposals, as well as guidance from the Research Strategic Planning Steering Committee and the AMC21 Research Steering Committee, four new areas were identified earlier this summer: Disruptive Technology Empowering Precision Health (D-TECH), Health Equity, I-4ward (Infection, Inflammation, Immunity, and Immuno-Therapy), and Brain Health and Disease Across the Lifespan.

Heersink communications is deep diving into the new focus areas to learn how the research landscape will be transformed by each one. Last week, the first focus area in our series looked at Disruptive Technology Empowering Precision Health (D-TECH). This week, we look at the new focus area of Health Equity.

Focus area: Health Equity

Health Equity ensures access to quality, affordable health care and the opportunity for a healthy life for all people, including race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, age, socioeconomic status, and geographic location.

Led by Michael Mugavero, M.D., director of the Center for Outcomes Effectiveness Research and Education and co-director of the Center for AIDS Research and Center for Clinical and Translational Science, the focus area of Health Equity will disseminate knowledge and interventions that attenuate and overcome intersectional inequities.

“Aspiring to advance health equity through our scientific, educational, and service endeavors is at the core of who we are as an Academic Medical Center at the Heersink School of Medicine,” said Mugavero.

Currently, many groups and units throughout Heersink partner with people, communities, and organizations to understand the biological, behavioral, clinical, and social determinants of health in our physical/built and sociocultural environment, as well as our health care systems.

“From personalized medicine to population health, investigators study how our communities, health care systems, and lived personal experiences differentially impact health outcomes. It is imperative that we move beyond describing disparities towards understanding underlying drivers and disseminating multi-level interventions that attenuate and overcome the pervasive intersectional inequities that plague the Deep South region.”

Mugavero said it has been a privilege for him to co-lead this focus area so far, along with Caitlin Clevenger, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry, who leads in the area of sexual and gender minority health; Lynn Matthews, M.D., associate professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, who leads in the area of global and rural health; and, Alan Tita, M.D., Ph.D., John C. Hauth MD Endowed Professor of OB/GYN, who leads in the area of women’s health across the Lifespan. Together, they are “working collaboratively to include a diverse range of conditions and communities as part of our overarching scope.”

“As a next step, it is contingent upon our health equity working group to define ambitious and achievable short- and long-term goals, as well as highlighting inclusive platforms to engage as many faculty, staff, trainees, and students as are interested in contributing across the Heersink School of Medicine and UAB campus. As we transition from strategic planning to implementation to accountability, identifying leaders of this focus area going forward is paramount, grounded in the vast scientific portfolio of health equity-focused Centers, program projects, and other large research grants, in order to optimize our collective impact in the years ahead,” said Mugavero.

The Heersink School of Medicine prioritizes cutting-edge research programs that contribute to eradicating health disparities and moving toward health equity. Transformation is required to change the health of our communities. The research focus area of Health Equity will build and grow long-term resources and solutions that impact health outcomes.