The St. Louis American reported here about Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, graduating their fourth successful group of two dozen volunteer community researchers. Officially called the Community Research Fellows Training (CRFT) program, this graduate-level 15-week program is designed upon a Master’s Degree in Public Health. Master’s Degrees typically need full-time coursework for at least 2 years, showcasing the volunteer’s dedication to their active roles in the community.
The CRFT program is part of Washington University’s larger Program for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities (PECaD), sponsored by the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. The goal is to end cancer disparities throughout St. Louis, and hopefully create a national model in the process by focusing on education, prevention and treatment. By engaging and partnering directly with communities and neighborhoods, the CRFT volunteers are able to take the tools they’ve learned about during the program and apply them to their work and communities as a whole. This includes bridging communication gaps between cancer survivors, clinicians, researchers, advocates and community organizations.
One of the two dozen graduates of the CRFT program this year works at a community organization and advocacy group for people living with AIDS and HIV. He’ll now be able to use the research tools he learned in the program and better apply them to the people he interacts with on the job. When you better understand the scope of a problem within communities under-served medically, it opens the door to gathering the right information and providing it to institutions who can apply that data to their methods, improving health outcomes overall.
Washington University’s CRFT program partners with two other universities in the area: Saint Louis University and University of Missouri – St. Louis. This allows the graduates from the CRFT program to improve research projects through their input from active community roles, collect necessary data, and get the project results out to the community quicker. A Washington University professor explained this program isn’t about how the university benefits, but how the community benefits with healthier outcomes.