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Annual ATRN Summit brings together researchers from across Appalachia

The West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute recently hosted the Appalachian Translational Research Network (ATRN) annual health summit in Morgantown, West Virginia. This day and a half event brought together researchers, community members, and healthcare providers from across Appalachia to discuss innovative research projects taking place across the region.

The summit kicked off with welcoming comments from Dr. Bri Sheppard, 2023 ATRN chair and co-director of WVCTSI’s Community Engagement and Outreach Core. Following these opening remarks, Dr. Jodi Polaha, professor in the College of Medicine and director of the Institute for Integrated Behavioral Health at East Tennessee State University, provided a keynote address on contemporary areas of health policy development in Appalachia from the perspective of a local elected official who is also an academic, researcher, and healthcare provider.

“The  ATRN annual health summit brought together more than 175 diverse individuals—all dedicated to supporting health equity in Appalachia,” said Sheppard. “The quality and content of research presented was a testament to the breadth and depth of the collaborative work happening to support inclusive engagement across the region.”

During morning breakout sessions, attendees had the opportunity to hear from 15 different speakers covering a variety of topics related to: health challenges and disparities for chemical exposures in Appalachia; clinical research recruitment, retainment, challenges and best practices; COVID-19 challenges in rural Appalachia; and health issues affecting Appalachians.

These breakout sessions led into a plenary lunchtime panel highlighting implementation science, which was led by Dr. Nicole Stout, research assistant professor in the WVU Cancer Institute and School of Public Health. This panel also included Dr. Rob Stansbury, professor with the WVU School of Medicine, and was moderated by Dr. Bill Lewis, associate professor (clinical) in the WVU School of Medicine Eastern Campus and co-director of WVCTSI’s West Virginia Practice-Based Research Network.

Day one of the summit concluded with an additional 37 research presentations and a poster session that included 33 posters highlighting work from across the network.

Topics highlighted in the afternoon breakout sessions included: public health, substance use disorder, health policy, bidirectional learning with community partners, access to healthy food, pediatrics, health informatics, environmental impact, maternal health, and tobacco.

Day two activities included a plenary session on maternal health presented by Dr. Seuli Brill, chief of the Combined Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Section and research director for the Ohio State University Division of General Internal Medicine, followed by 15 additional research presentations across four breakout sessions.

Topics covered in the day two breakout sessions included: training and education, dissemination and implementation, physical activity, and addressing health disparities.

Before the summit closed, attendees participated in a lunchtime plenary session presented by Dr. Deepak Palakshappa, associate professor of general internal medicine at the Wake Forest University Medical Center, titled “Food Insecurity & Health: The Opportunity to Build Clinical and Community Partnerships to Help Patients with Unmet Food Needs.”

The summit closed with the naming of Dr. Rajan Lamichhane, assistant professor and biostatistician in the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, as the new ATRN chair.

A collection of photos from the summit can be found on the WVCTSI Facebook page.