USM Partners with My Brother’s Keeper on Important Health Research Award

11/20/2023 – 09:08am

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) will provide research assistance in health-related
issues as part of a collaboration with My Brother’s Keeper, which recently received
a 2023 National Institutes of Health (NIH) ComPASS Award.

The NIH Common Fund Community Partnerships to Advance Science for Society (ComPASS)
Program is a pioneering community-led research program aimed at investigating ways
to address the underlying structural factors within communities that impact health.
These factors encompass access to safe spaces, healthy food, employment opportunities,
transportation, and quality healthcare.

The NIH’s announcement in late September highlighted 26 award recipients from across the nation.

With this prestigious award, MBK will initiate research into sustainable solutions
that promote health equity, fostering lasting change in Mississippi. MBK is committed
to collaborating as an equal partner with the ComPASS program in this unprecedented

This initiative marks a meaningful collaboration as MBK and its esteemed partners,
including USM, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and the Mississippi State
Department of Health, embark on the Achieving Optimal Sexual and Reproductive Health
(SRH) Project Among Racial/Ethnic and Sexual/Gender Minorities in Mississippi.

The SRH Project has been meticulously designed to address the reproductive healthcare
needs of adults in the reproductive age group (18 to 45 years old) who identify as
racial/ethnic and sexual/gender minorities. The project’s primary objective is to
eliminate the racialized prioritization of needs in our largely rural state. It will
employ more nuanced markers of social vulnerability to identify priority areas.

MBK President and CEO Dr. June Gipson emphasized, “Our approach, a community-based
participatory approach, ensures that the very lives we aim to improve have the leading
voice in this project.”

Dr. Jennifer L. Lemacks, Associate Dean for Research in USM’s College of Nursing and
Health Professions, will serve as the research consultant and will work toward a plan
to leverage the University’s faculty and resources to support MBK in its mission.

“This award is a testament to what authentic community-academic partnerships can accomplish.
Together, we can achieve good health for our neighbors,” said Dr. Lemacks.”

Dr. Lemacks has more than a decade of experience conducting community based participatory
research focusing on marginalized underserved populations with the goal of achieving
health equity in the Deep South. Additionally, she continues to have a longstanding
working relationship with Co-PIs Dr. June Gipson and Dr. Victor Sutton with the Mississippi
Department of Health.

USM Vice President for Research Dr. Kelly Lucas noted, “We understand that ComPASS
is a community-led submission and look forward to offering our faculty expertise and
research resources as well as assisting with implementation, evaluation and dissemination
of structural interventions. We have no doubt that Dr. Lemacks will represent USM
well in accomplishing this community-academic mission.”

My Brother’s Keeper, Inc. (MBK) is a private, nonprofit, 501(c) (3) organization with
three offices in the Jackson, MS metropolitan area, (headquarters in Ridgeland) and
two offices in South Mississippi – Hattiesburg and Gulfport. MBK’s mission is to reduce
health disparities throughout the United States by enhancing the health and well being
of minority and marginalized populations through leadership in public and community
health practices, collaboration and partnerships.

The ComPASS program is generously funded by the NIH Common Fund and is collaboratively
managed by NIH staff from the Common Fund, National Cancer Institute, National Institute
of Mental Health, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, National
Institute of Nursing Research, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the
NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health. Many of the NIH Institutes, Centers, and
Offices have played a pivotal role by providing input and actively participating in
program development and management.

More information about the award can be found on the ComPASS program website:
NIH Award No. OT2OD035877.

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