Problem Engaging communities in research increases its relevance and may speed the translation of discoveries into improved health outcomes. Many researchers lack training to effectively engage stakeholders, whereas academic institutions lack infrastructure to support community engagement. Approach In 2009, the Meharry-Vanderbilt Community-Engaged Research Core began testing new approaches for community engagement, which led to the development of the Community Engagement Studio (CE Studio). This structured program facilitates project-specific input from community and patient stakeholders to enhance research design, implementation, and dissemination. Developers used a team approach to recruit and train stakeholders, prepare researchers to engage with stakeholders, and facilitate an in-person meeting with both. Outcomes The research core has implemented 28 CE Studios that engaged 152 community stakeholders. Participating researchers, representing a broad range of faculty ranks and disciplines, reported that input from stakeholders was valuable and that the CE Studio helped determine project feasibility and enhanced research design and implementation. Stakeholders found the CE Studio to be an acceptable method of engagement and reported a better understanding of research in general. A tool kit was developed to replicate this model and to disseminate this approach. Next Steps The research core will collect data to better understand the impact of CE Studios on research proposal submissions, funding, research outcomes, patient and stakeholder engagement in projects, and dissemination of results. They will also collect data to determine whether CE Studios increase patient-centered approaches in research and whether stakeholders who participate have more trust and willingness to participate in research.
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