MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute (WVCTSI) recently held three public town hall meetings in the Greenbrier Valley, New River Valley, and the Mid-Ohio Valley. These public forums provided community members with an opportunity to discuss the health concerns they feel are most important in their communities and the role research can play in addressing those concerns.
At each of the three events, attendees spoke to the many health disparities affecting West Virginia. Common challenges raised by community members were cancer, drug abuse and chronic pain management, access to healthcare, and geographic isolation.
“At WVCTSI, we have a responsibility to foster research that directly impacts the people of West Virginia,” said Sally Hodder, M.D., director of WVCTSI. “Engaging people with diverse perspectives from these communities is essential for us to perform this duty.”
“We already had, in this first meeting, quite a few sectors represented,” said Melanie Seiler, executive director of Active Southern West Virginia. “That’s what we need, everybody at the same table working towards the same mission of improving the community’s health.”
Several community members believe this type of inclusive discussion is rare, but crucial to improving the health profile of West Virginia.
“If anything major is going to be changed in West Virginia, it’s going to happen in these communities. It’s those champions who know the culture of the community and can be their advocates,” said Stamatiki “Matina” Clapsis, youth activities coordinator with the Family Refuge Center in Greenbrier County.
During the Mid-Ohio Valley Town Hall event, Drema Mace, Ph.D., M.S.P., executive director of the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, shared the outcomes of their recent needs assessment survey and improvement plan to provide background for the conversation.
Some of the ideas raised to address the identified challenges included increasing the focus on youth prevention initiatives, improving rural access to clinical trials, and expanding genomics to better understand pre-dispositions to common health issues.
After the success of these events, WVCTSI will continue to create more ongoing conversations and partnerships throughout the state.
“The perspective we gained from engaging these diverse voices is invaluable as we continue to support research that can truly help the people of this state,” said Hodder.
In August 2012, the WVCTSI was awarded a $19.6 million IDeA Clinical and Translational grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences titled “West Virginia IDeA CTR” [Institutional Development Award for Clinical and Translational Research, 1U54RR033567-02; Hodder (Principal Investigator)] to support WVCTSI’s mission of building clinical and translational research infrastructure and capacity to impact health disparities in West Virginia.
This grant was matched by a $33.5 million commitment from several West Virginia entities to create a total funding of $53.1 million to recruit 24 clinician scientists and provide infrastructure core support in biostatistics, bioinformatics, community engagement and outreach, clinical research education and mentoring, ethical and regulatory knowledge support, and pilot grants to grow clinical and translational research in the state.
West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute