May 23, 2016

TRI Sets Stage for Community Scientist Academy

On a recent evening, three UAMS researchers went table to table, taking 10 minutes each to explain their work to small groups of people.

Their audience was rapt. The 23 attendees with diverse backgrounds had come to learn something about research at UAMS, including how non-scientists can play a role. Tamiko Johnson, of Benton, recalled afterward her fascination with the heart research conducted by Jean McSweeney, Ph.D.

UAMS’ Victor Cardenas, Ph.D., discussed his work during a May 5 research information session for the public.

UAMS’ Victor Cardenas, Ph.D., discussed his work during a May 5 research information session for the public.

“To learn that we are trying to do more for women with heart disease and that our symptoms are different than men is new to me,” Johnson said of McSweeney’s groundbreaking findings that identified unique heart attack symptoms in women. “I think it’s good to put that information out there so we as women know what to look for.”

Jeff Jenkins, a real estate agent from Sherwood, also enjoyed learning about the different types of research from McSweeney (community-based/survey), Laura Hutchins, M.D. (cancer/clinical) and Joseph Su, Ph.D. (community-based/survey).

“I liked the opportunity of learning directly from the doctors who spoke during the roundtable sessions,” Jenkins said.

The TRI-sponsored event was the first of multiple sessions being planned this spring and summer, including one held May 5, said Kate Stewart, M.D., M.P.H., who leads TRI’s community engagement program. In addition to informing the public about research, the sessions will help get the word out about UAMS’ first Community Scientist Academy being piloted this fall. The Academy will be a multi-week program for participants to develop a knowledge base and help engage the public in UAMS’ many research endeavors.

“We’re looking for people who want to learn even more about our research beyond these information sessions,” Stewart said. “The Academy will create a cadre of community members who can influence research by serving on steering committees, mentoring committees, review committees, research projects, and in other leadership capacities.”

Johnson and Jenkins said they are both interested in building on what they learned in April through the Community Scientist Academy.

“I work at Pulaski Technical College so I would like to learn anything that might help our students, my coworkers and the community as a whole,” said Johnson, a receptionist who has also worked as a medical assistant.

“The information session really opened my eyes to the importance of community involvement in research,” Jenkins said. “I think if more people could attend sessions like this one, UAMS would increase participation in not only the Community Scientist Academy, but also help provide candidates for future UAMS research projects.”