UC Davis CTSC Invests UC BRAID Funds to
Broaden Support of Underserved Populations

In September 2020, UC Biomedical Research Acceleration, Innovation and Development (UC BRAID) launched the Addressing Health Equity in COVID Research initiative, which provided $100K in support to each of the 5 UC Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) campuses to enhance existing research projects and enable increased inclusion. The initiative was a mechanism to immediately provide support to existing projects (e.g., clinical trials, social/behavioral, and community engagement research) and address the intersecting challenges of COVID-19 and health disparity.

The Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC) has longstanding programs to engage underserved communities to mitigate the inequities that underlie these disparities, including the low rates of participation in research. The CTSC invested the BRAID initiative funds to further broaden participation of traditionally underrepresented groups, especially the Latinx, Black and Native American communities of the California Central Valley and North Valley and low income, urban populations that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

  • Community engagement activities used the funding to increase COVID-19 testing numbers, provide compensation to survey participants, and hire an expert to pilot test cognitive interviews and improve core data collection instruments for the RADx-UP funded ORALE COVID-19 project.
  • Special populations consisting of Asian, immigrant, and refugee communities of South Sacramento, were supported by the local purchase and provision of culturally appropriate nutrition support to over 150 families weekly, sustaining both families and locally owned small businesses at the height of the pandemic.
  • In a local low-income, historically Black community classed as a “food desert” and underserved by public transit, the CTSC established a synergistic relationship between youth training programs in nutrition and food preparation and small farm suppliers to safely deliver produce and coordinated virtual instruction in healthy meal preparation incorporating fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables.

COVID-19 vaccination clinic

Food being prepared for distribution in community

Food being brought to cars

CTSC Team Recognized in 2021 Staff Awards

The UC Davis CTSC responded to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic through Research, Service, and Teaching. Several members of the CTSC contributed their expertise to 1) Research by recruiting and administering COVID vaccines/treatments to study participants, 2) Service by supporting asymptomatic testing protocols in the community, and 3) Teaching by developing materials to reach underserved communities most adversely impacted by the public health crisis.

The Research team, comprised of staff from the CTSC Clinical Research Center and Clinical Trials Office, provided support to department research teams by preparing regulatory documents, developing recruitment materials, contacting potential participants to schedule appointments, administering investigational vaccines/treatments under research protocols, and conducting follow-up visits with participants. These activities were conducted in addition to the regular work assigned and required additional hours, expertise, and commitment to excellence. As a result of their combined efforts, the nominees successfully recruited, scheduled, and dosed volunteers across 30 different protocols (over 2,000 visits) with unprecedented racial and ethnic diversity in record time and far exceeded expectations and projections. These efforts resulted in additional vaccine being made available to UCDH and expanded enrollment which allowed clinical teams to focus their energy on the treatment of patients with severe disease.

The Service team, comprised of a data manager and programmer, supported the implementation of Health Davis Together – a non-invasive testing program to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus in saliva. They developed processes, reporting tools, and ongoing analysis of unique issues without precedent and/or existing structure, reported milestones to project stakeholders, and performed back-end automation of processes to address ongoing reporting needs to leadership and decision-makers. Reports included those mandated by the California Department of Public Health (daily) and Yolo County (daily) and to internal and external stakeholders (daily/weekly/monthly). Their efforts were critical to building, maintaining, and expanding systems to track the asymptomatic testing capability that supported community testing and allowed faculty, staff, and students to return to campus and resume activity earlier than projected.

The Teaching element is provided by a community engagement specialist who came to UC Davis in August 2020. She actively contributes to the development of training materials to educate community health workers (“promotoras de salud”) using culturally and linguistically appropriate best practices under a cooperative grant-funded project with the University of Michigan and University of Florida. Promotoras are trusted members of the community or have an unusually close understanding of the community they serve; sometimes they are embedded within underserved communities. In recent years, they have taken on a critical role in research for their ability to reduce barriers in translation, particularly in in the area of health disparities. This project allows Spanish-speaking community health workers to be trained in critical research like contact tracing to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

While the individual contributions of these nominees are notable, as a team this group of CTSC employees impacted UC Davis through Research, Service, and Teaching in unique, provided notable contributions, and represented UC Davis with distinction. The foundational contributions of each of these nominees supported projects undertaken by University faculty and leadership that have had and will continue to add positive impact to our community and reputation on the local, regional, and national stages.

Staff members recognized are listed below.

  • Rogelio Almario, Staff Research Associate, CTSC
  • April Cuellar, CTO Operations Manager, CTSC
  • Barbara Gale, Clinical Specialist, CTSC
  • Joe Panelo, Clinical Research Nurse, CTSC
  • Melisa Price, Community-Engaged Research Specialist, CTSC
  • Leslie Solis, Research Associate, CTSC
  • Fred Stevenson, Business Systems Analyst, CTSC
  • Chinh ("Jimmy") Thai, Clinical Research Coordinator, CTSC
  • Jeff Trunnelle, Data Systems Analyst, Research IT
  • Josey Wong, Clinical Research Nurse II, CTSC

See full list of awardees.

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