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Community Engagement

Community Engagement

The Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) is a National Institutes of Health sponsored effort designed to translate scientific advances into better medical care. The mission of CTSI and Community Engagement Program is to foster strong relationships between academic researchers, clinicians and local partners with the goal of using these advances in science to improve overall community health.

These Citizen/Scientist partnerships create vital relationships and provide the infrastructure needed to address health disparities by engaging with our communities in a bi-directional dialogue about science and health priorities.

A primary focus of the Community Engagement Program is to overcome obstacles to community involvement in translational research, such as difficulty engaging the community in setting research priorities that affect patients; absence of trust of medical research by the community; lack of systematic methods to inform research of community perspectives before, during, and after the research process; and lack of coordinated recruitment for clinical and translational research through an informed community.



The Community Engagement Program is guided by four core principles:


    Bringing together basic science, clinical, and population health researchers with community leaders to work together on translational research


    Educating communities about the benefits of being informed medical consumers and participating in clinical research, and educating CTSI investigators about community sensitivities and dissemination of information to lay audiences


    Providing meaningful vehicles of engagement for scientists, clinicians and their community partners to work together


    Producing a shift from the traditional unidirectional approach of bench to bedside with no involvement of community to an engaged partner approach with bidirectional efforts

The Community Engagement Program uses a collaborative leadership model with co-directors representing MCW, UWM-Milwaukee, MSOE, and the City of West Allis. The co-directors lead the implementation of the Community Engagement priorities with regular input from a diverse Citizen Advocacy Council representing diverse community interests and strong collaboration with fellow CTSI Program teams. Administration of the Community Engagement Program is provided through MCW’s Institute for Health and Society.

Analogous to the best quality improvement research, evaluation of the Community Engagement Program includes a mixture of process measures (e.g., conducting favorably evaluated training sessions) to more “clinically significant” outcomes (e.g., number of health science focused op-ed pieces in specific community newspapers and the dollar value of community based research funding from sources outside the member institutions).



  • Assess existing scientific literacy through surveys and focus groups with broad representation from the community including the lay public, clinical trial participants, community-based organization leaders and their constituents, media, public health providers, and public representatives
  • Establish programs and communication tools to increase the public’s scientific literacy including Science Café, Community Issue Forums, and other programs to be identified through assessment and focus groups
  • Bring researchers from all of the CTSI partnership institutions and the lay public together to discuss key issues in understanding and participating in clinical research and making informed decisions
  • Facilitate identification of mutual health and research priorities among all partners
  • Test innovative programs to support community engagement in research
  • Assess best methods for community participation in setting research priorities
  • Sponsor annual briefing on community-based participatory research and Clinical and Translational research
  • Disseminate articles on inter-relationships between research, policy and practice in MCW campus publications and community-based newsletters
  • Develop and implement an interdisciplinary training program for community-based participatory research (CES/CBPR)
  • Educate the Rank and Tenure Committee about CES/CBPR
  • Develop innovative tools and strategies for measuring and demonstrating excellence in CES/CBPR
  • Integrate community engagement across the other Programs


Specific Goals

The specific goals of the Community Engagement Program are designed to fulfill its mission and overcome barriers to community engagement in research:

  • Engage communities as Scientific Citizens by increasing scientific literacy
  • Engage CTSI investigators as Citizen Scientists by improving community engagement strategies and skills
  • Expand community-based research networks

The Community Engagement Program uses MCW’s partnership model, which focuses on “working with” our communities in southeast Wisconsin to improve health, rather than “doing for” them. The model builds upon our strengths to create an organizational framework that cultivates a vital, robust community of clinical investigators, including those from our partner institutions, basic scientists, and community members who recognize their contribution to research as a personal responsibility and civic deed.

The framework supports bi-directional communication, shared expertise, and leveraged resources, while encouraging innovative new approaches to overcome barriers and speed the translation of scientific discoveries into treatments and cures for better human health.


Collaborative Relationships

The Community Engagement Program approach supports interrelated, collaborative relationships between each of the Programs of the Institute’s structure and provides new opportunities for faculty, students and staff to expand work with communities to translate research into practice by:

  • Providing opportunities for public participation
  • Ensuring community engagement initiatives are aligned to leverage internal and external collaborators and resources
  • Providing sufficient opportunities for input and consideration of department, center and faculty stakeholders
  • Ensuring that the CTSI Community Engagement initiatives are strategically aligned with other Programs to maximize leadership and growth for the next five to ten years. For example, Community Engagement, Bioinformatics and the CTSI Administration are working together to ensure appropriate representation in the development of web-based communication and collaboration tools that support translational research activities



Working together, scientists, clinicians and community advocates can improve the health of our community and bring research discoveries to the patient bedside and community.

Become an advocate and help:

  • Increase scientific literacy
  • Develop strategies to engage the community in setting research priorities
  • Provide researchers with a community perspective
  • Improve diversity of recruitment for important clinical trials
  • Make informed decisions about research participation

Citizens Advisory Council

The Citizens Advisory Council as a part of the Community Engagement Program and supports interrelated, collaborative relationships between the key functions of the CTSI structure and provides new opportunities for faculty and students to expand work with communities.

Learn More ›

Science Cafés


The purpose of the Science Café program is to strengthen science literacy by engaging the community and translational scientists in an informal setting through bi-directional dialogue of current scientific and medical issues and their translational impact on our culture and society.

Learn More ›

Community Impact

Learn How Translational Science Impacts Your Community

CTSI’s Community Engagement Program has produced a series of videos to showcase how Translational Science impacts our community.

Learn More ›

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NIH Funding Acknowledgment: Important Reminder – Please acknowledge the NIH when publishing papers, patents, projects, and presentations resulting from the use of CTSI resources by including the NIH Funding Acknowledgement.


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