Two Weldon School faculty receive Indiana CTSI Trailblazer Awards

Fourteen new projects, two of which have ties to Weldon School faculty, have been funded by the 2021 Trailblazer Awards and Planning Grants, which are supported by Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) Community Health Partnerships.

Nan Kong, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Purdue University, and Sherl Moore, National Alliance on Mental Illness West Central Indiana (NAMI-WCI) Chapter, received an award for, “Examining theNan Kong effect of community-based programs in coping with stress during COVID-19 recovery.” Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become extremely difficult for many people to cope with stress. NAMI’s local chapters provide community-based mental health programs for individuals and families, but with limited staffing and funding, many chapters struggle to meet the rapidly increasing demand while maintaining the quality of their support programs. With this grant, they plan to examine the effects of support activities on mental health of distinct cohorts, most of which are rural and/or affected by the pandemic.

Natalia Rodriguez, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, and Kelly Kajumulo, Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, received an award  for, “Examining multilevel determinants of cervical cancer and acceptability of screening innovations to address disparities among Hispanic women in Lake County, Indiana.” Cervical cancer is preventable and treatable if detected early, yet screening rates are concerningly low among marginalized populations, and declining during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lake County has the highest Hispanic population and the highest cervical cancer mortality rates in Indiana. This study aims to understand the barriers to cervical cancer screening and care, the potential for screening innovations to address these needs, and how best to implement these interventions. This study will involve examination of deidentified patient medical records, self-administered patient surveys, and in-depth interviews. The findings will inform future community-based interventions aimed at increasing cervical cancer screening coverage and linkage to care.

The Trailblazer Awards support collaborative, community-engaged research projects focused on topics that have potential to improve health equity in Indiana. Examples of work we are interested in funding include substance misuse, tobacco use, obesity prevention, infant mortality, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as disparities in rural areas and relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.