Maximizing research impact
The Community Scientist Program aims to improve community health and health care through community-engaged research. This program connects researchers with trained patients and community members (stakeholders) to obtain rapid feedback to enhance research projects and programs. Community Scientists are a diverse group of community members from three Texas regions and they provide valuable insights by sharing lived experiences with cancer and/or a chronic illness.
What is Community Scientist?
A Community Scientist is an individual who has lived experience or possesses first-hand knowledge of a particular community or health issue. A Community Scientist has a desire to learn about research, an ability to provide constructive criticism and a willingness to be an advocate for his or her community.
- Serve as a sounding board to ensure research addresses local patient and community stakeholder interests
- Provide advice on the development of culturally appropriate studies and recruitment strategies
- Provide input on research questions and study designs
Interested in becoming a Community Scientist?
If you are active in your community, live in Houston, Northeast Texas, or the Rio Grande Valley, speak English or Spanish, and meet one of the following criteria, please contact us to learn more about becoming a Community Scientist.
- I am a cancer survivor
- I currently have a chronic illness like asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure
- I am a caregiver to a cancer survivor or person with a chronic illness
- I am interested in learning about and supporting community research
Community Scientists are required to participate in a four-hour training and are then invited to provide feedback to researchers during monthly Feedback Sessions. Please note that research staff cannot serve as Community Scientists because of their intimate involvement in the research process.
Community Scientist Feedback Sessions are a one-hour, facilitated sessions designed to provide patient and community input about issues pertaining to study design, implementation, recruitment, retention and other potential barriers to participation. There is no cost to request a Feedback Session.
Feedback Sessions include a brief presentation from the researcher and a discussion with a group of Community Scientists led by a facilitator. Feedback Sessions are held three to four times a month via Zoom or Webex across the three regions.
Researchers are encouraged to utilize Feedback Sessions at any stage of the research process. This includes research studies that are early in development, in progress, or ready for dissemination of research findings. The structure of the sessions seeks to shift the power to prioritize the voices and perspectives of the Community Scientists.
Past topics have included:
- Innovative tool development for simple presentation of clinical trial information
- Community recruitment methods for a lung cancer screening trial
- Reaching diverse audiences for lay science communication
- Refining recruitment materials to attract hard-to-reach populations
- Reviewing interview questions to understand the intensity of heart failure pharmacotherapy among older adults
MD Anderson Departments that have scheduled a CSP Feedback Session:
- Health Disparities Research
- Behavioral Sciences
- Health Services Research
- Radiation Oncology
- Surgical Oncology
- Breast Surgical Oncology
- Breast Medical Oncology
- Gynecologic Oncology & Reproductive Medicine
- Radiation Oncology
Could your research projects or patient materials benefit from input from laypersons' perspectives? Read the article here.
What researchers are saying about Community Scientists:
"The group was very engaged and provided great input on my design examples... It was very helpful to hear from community members who would potentially be participants in a trial what appealed to them, what they found confusing and what they thought could be organized differently."
~Mediget Teshome, M.D.
"Really engaged discussion with the group, our mission is to try to disseminate science in different communities and we received great input on how to do this, both in terms of topics, venues and advertising. Very engaging group full of useful suggestions."
~Kristina Stemler, Ph.D.
"It was a very informative, engaging experience that will have direct benefit to the project. I look forward to participating/using Community Scientists again."
~Mariana Chavez, M.D.
"We got a lot of stellar feedback from the Community Scientist group that we used to enhance our tool, Without that feedback, the tool would not be anywhere near as strong as it is now."
~Jack Banks, Ph.D.
"The meeting with the community scientist helped me reshape the project to answer what my patients would like to ask, not what a researcher would like to ask. As a researcher, it is easy to be distracted while planning the details of the research plans. But the community scientist continued to remind me of the fundamental questions from the patient and community's perspective so that the result could be a true benefit to the community."
~Min Ji Kwak, DrPH