My Community / My CTSI | Improving the Health of our Community
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My Community / My CTSI

from CTSI's Community Engagement Program
Improving the Health of our Community

About Us

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.

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.

Select individual segments below.

ProjectMED: Eyes on the Future
Intro: Capacity Building for CE Translational Science

Community and Academic researchers working together with the strengths of each group. Building capacity in the community to perform scientific research and building capacity among scientists to better understand the needs of the community are critical steps in improving the overall health of our communities.

Overlap between Basic, Clinical, and CEnR

The role of the relationship between academic and community partners is important to ensuring that basic and clinical research efforts can be bridged into community research and applied interventions to improve health.

Role of Community Embedded Research Translationist

Trust between the community and academic partners is key to creating the environment for translational science to occur.

Community Engagement in Study Design

Community involvement in defining problems of mutual interest and conceptualizing the study is key to ensuring that research is relevant to community priorities. Involving the community only after a grant has been funded is not an effective engagement practice.

Researchers & Non-Academics Work Together, as a Team

T4 (Community) translational science works best when investigators involve the community as part of the research team and are willing to learn from the expertise of non-academics in tailoring research questions and interventions.

Research with Difficult to Reach Populations

Work with community in planning research study to get buy in, will lead to greater success in the project, culturally appropriate modifications to research design, and improved access to potential participants.

Decision Making in Community Engagement Partnerships

Strong relationships make for easier decision making with the best outcomes that can be achieved.

Healthy Latino Families Study, a Community Based Intervention

An Example of An Effective, Community Based Intervention

Linking comparative effectiveness research (CER) to community engagement in research (CEnR) is an area of increasing focus for many researchers. The Healthy Latino Families study was conducted at the United Community Center in Milwaukee and reported better outcomes for this intervention than prior research, showing the importance of community and cultural adaptations of interventions to ensure effectiveness in “real world” applications.


Science Cafés

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.

About Science Cafés

The very first Science Café (also know as Café Scientifique) was held in Leeds in the United Kingdom in 1998.The founder of this grassroots movement, Duncan Dallas, describes a Café as “a place where, for the price of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, people meet to discuss the latest ideas of science and technology which are changing our lives.” Since then, the Science Cafés have popped up all over the globe, with over 200 worldwide in more than 40 countries and at least 50 in the United States alone. Our Science Café series is the first in Southeast Wisconsin.

According to the website, a Science Café resource site maintained by the WGBH Educational Foundation, there are several ways in which Science Cafés can have educational impact:

  • Conversations increase understanding. Participating in a discussion gives people the chance to think through new ideas and reformulate them in their own words.
  • Conversations increase interest. The open-ended nature of a science café enables people to explore whatever aspects of a topic, or the scientific process in general, interest them most.
  • Conversations lead to more conversations. People enjoy talking about issues at a science café and are therefore likely to discuss the topic outside of the café with friends and family.
  • Conversations are equalizers. Face to face conversations help to dispel misperceptions and stereotypes of scientists and their work.

For our Cafés, the primary focus will be on translational science. We will be able to utilize translational scientists affiliated with the CTSI partner institutions, which affords us a very wide range of topics.

Our Café Format & Goals


Our approach is similar to the first Science Café. The format involves an expert from a given scientific field who interacts with an inquisitive public in an informal, non-academic environment.

  • The scientist/medical professional will speak on the evenings topic for about 20 minutes.
  • There is a short break to allow participants to mingle and begin discussing the topic with one-another and the presenter.
  • The speaker, with the help of a facilitator, engages in 45-60 minutes of informal discussion with the audience.

Participants are encouraged to ask the speaker anything that they like. The casual atmosphere is conducive for a relaxed and comfortable audience and as a result, participants generally are more likely to ask questions and engage in public conversation.


  • Strengthen science literacy.
  • Transfer knowledge between a translational researchers and an inquisitive public.
  • Demonstrate the important role science plays in society.
  • Demonstrate the important role the community plays in science.
  • Create opportunities for CTSI of Southeast Wisconsin faculty, staff, students and public to engage one another on health related issues in an environment outside an academic setting.
  • Inspire the public to be more comfortable interacting with scientific and/or medical experts.
  • Inspire scientific and/or medical experts to be more comfortable discussing science and health issues with the public.
  • Create environment for community to teach CTSI faculty about issues around community literacy and applicability.

Health and Scientific Literacy

Our foundation is built on two specific concepts: health literacy and scientific literacy.

We choose to define health literacy as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.1 And scientific literacy as the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity.2

1 Ratzan SC, Parker RM. 2000. Introduction. In: National Library of Medicine Current Bibilographies in Medicine: Health Literacy. Selden CT, Zorn M, Ratzan SC, Parker RM, Editors. NLM Pub. No. CBM 2000-1. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
2 National Science Education Standards, pg. 22 assessed on 1/14/2013.

Supported By

Science Cafés are supported by the CTSI Community Engagement Program within the Institute for Health and Society and is funded in part by Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Research and Education Initiative Fund, a component of the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin endowment at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Upcoming Cafés


Milwaukee Central Public Library, Meeting Room 1
814 W Wisconsin Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53233

Please Note

Photography: During the Science Café, we may capture photos that will solely be used for the aims of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and Community Engagement.

Videotaping: During the Science Café, we may capture video of the presentation and a selection of interactions between the audience and speaker.  The video may be posted on various web resources, in presentations, or other educational opportunities that will solely be used for the aims of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and Community Engagement.

Broadcasting: During the Science Café, we may stream the presentation and interactions between the audience and speaker.  Only those in attendance (speaker and audience) will be able to view the interactions.

By attending the Science Cafe, your consent for photos, videos, or broadcasting is implied. If you do not wish to be in photos, videos, or broadcasting please inform a staff or faculty member when checking in at the registration table.

Publication or White Paper: The themes that come from the Science Cafe could be used in possible future publications or white papers. No direct quotations or identifiable information will be used for publication.

Have a question? Contact Us

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

  • 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

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 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, and
  • Ensuring that the CTSI community engaged initiatives are strategically aligned with other key functions to maximize leadership and growth over the coming years.


The following principles and values guide the Community Advisory Council.

  • Recognizes the community as a source of information and experience
  • Builds on the strengths and resources that exist within the community
  • Promotes co-learning and capacity building among all partners
  • Respects and values diversity to meet the needs of the community
  • Supports cultural awareness, humility and respect
  • Values social responsibility and adheres to principles of social justice

Organizations Represented in the Community Advisory Council

Agape Community Center

The Agape Community Center is a leading nonprofit organization serving the northwest Milwaukee, Wisconsin urban community known as Thurston Woods. Founded in 1986 through the financial support and thoughtful vision of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, Agape is the only comprehensive social service agency in our target area, providing a focal point and safe place within the neighborhood.

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IMPACT Planning Council

IMPACT Planning Council works in partnership with community leaders, decision makers, and service providers that are committed to improving the well-being of residents in Southeastern Wisconsin. Our role is to determine best practices; conduct research; evaluate data; and, assemble stakeholders to address issues such as substance abuse, poverty, public health, violence prevention, diversity, teen pregnancy, infant mortality and mental health.

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Silver Spring Neighborhood Center

For 55 years, Silver Spring Neighborhood Center has been a stabilizing presence within Westlawn, Wisconsin’s largest public housing development, and on Milwaukee’s northwest side. Focused on its mission to “build a safer, stronger neighborhood and community,” Silver Spring serves residents with a wide spectrum of wraparound programs to help individuals and families reach self-sufficiency.

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United Community Center

Centro de la Comunidad Unida/United Community Center (UCC) provides programs to Hispanics and near south side residents of all ages in the areas of education, cultural arts, recreation, community development and health and human services. UCC helps people achieve their potential by focusing on cultural heritage as a means of strengthening personal development.

Steady, thoughtful program and facilities growth has been one of UCC’s greatest accomplishments. While providing a dependable source of support for generations of south side families, UCC has carefully expanded its mission and capacity. Established in 1970 as a youth recreation center, UCC has developed many program components in response to important community needs.

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United Neighborhood Center of Milwaukee

The mission of the United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee is to strengthen city neighborhoods by combining and enhancing the assets of our partner agencies to improve the quality of life for urban families.

UNCOM is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working in collaboration with Milwaukee neighborhood centers to create model programs, build organizational capacity, and share expertise and best practices across agencies. Together UNCOM agencies work to utilize the assets of Milwaukee’s diverse communities supporting the growth of healthy, wholesome, and empowered neighborhoods. With eight member agencies and two associate member agencies, UNCOM partners collaboratively reach more than 63,000 Milwaukee area residents each year.

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Our Team

Syed Ahmed, MD, MPH, DrPH, FAAFP

Senior Associate Dean for Community Engagement, Medical College of Wisconsin
Director, CTSI Community Engagement Program

Zeno Franco, PhD

Assistant Professor of Family & Community Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin
Community Engagement Program, CTSI

David Nelson, PhD

Associate Professor of Family & Community Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin
Community Engagement Program, CTSI

Elaine Drew, PhD

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