The Detroit URC: fostering health equity through 
community-based participatory research (CBPR)
for more than 20 years

CBPR Partnership Academy Instructors & Mentors

Alex J. Allen, III, MSA, is Executive Director of the Chandler Park Conservancy. Previous roles have included Executive Director of the Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative, Vice President of Community Planning & Research at Isles, Inc., and Director of Butzel Family Center. Mr. Allen was a founding member of the Detroit URC and of the Healthy Environments Partnership, where he currently serves as a member of the Steering Committee. He has over 20 years of experience with CBPR, and in community development and is passionate about creating active greenways that connect people and communities.

Shannon Brownlee, MPH is a Public Health Educator at the Oakland County Health Division and a lecturer at the University of Michigan Flint. Her current work focuses on Healthy Eating and Active Lifestyles. Prior to joining the Oakland County Health Division, she worked as a Community Health Analyst at the Genesee County Health Department in the area of Maternal and Child Health. Devoted to working towards achieving health equity and social justice, her work emphasizes a focus on health disparities and social determinants of health.

Wilma Brakefield-Caldwell, BSN, is a founding member of the Detroit URC Board and since 1998 has been a health department and community representative on the Community Action Against Asthma's (CAAA) Steering Committee, an affiliated partnership of the Detroit URC. She is former Public Health Nursing Administrator at the Detroit Health Department, and has extensive experience participating in Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) partnerships.

Barbara Brush, RN, PhD, FAAN, is the Carol J. and F. Edward Lake Professor of Population Health, U-M School of Nursing, past faculty Director of Michigan Institute of Health and Clinical Research, and Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing. Her research with homeless families in urban communities uses principles of CBPR to guide study design, implementation, analysis and dissemination and operates under a theoretical framework that recognizes the compounded disadvantages shaping families’ lived experiences. A nurse practitioner and historian with policy training through the UM Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation, Dr. Brush’s work informs policy and practice at local, national, and international levels.

Rebecca Cheezum, PhD, MPH is Assistant Professor in the School of Health Sciences and Associate Director of the Master of Public Health Program at Oakland University. She is co-founder and principal investigator for the NSO/Bell-Oakland University. She has a PhD in Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of Michigan School of Public Health where she trained with Barbara Israel and had the opportunity to work on research studies affiliated with the Detroit Urban Research Center.

Chris Coombe, PhD, MPH, is Assistant Research Scientist in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education in the University of Michigan (U-M) School of Public Health (SPH). Dr. Coombe has more than 25 years of experience developing, implementing, and evaluating collaborative research and interventions using CBPR. Her work focuses on understanding how urban social and physical environments contribute to racial and socioeconomic inequities, and translating that knowledge into policy interventions to promote health and equity.

J. Ricardo Guzman, MSW, MPH, serves as a consultant for Community Health and Social Services Center, Inc. (CHASS), a federally qualified health center in Detroit which provides health care to underserved residents (primarily Latino, poor and underserved). He is a founding and current member of the Detroit URC Board, and he served at CHASS for 45 years. He has played a leadership role in increasing access to culturally appropriate, high-quality, affordable, comprehensive health services  and is currently chairman of the board of directors of the National Association of Community Health Centers headquartered in Washington DC.

Barbara Israel, DrPH, MPH, is Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education at U-M SPH and Director of the Detroit URC. She has been the Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator on a number of Detroit URC affiliated partnerships, including the Healthy Environments Partnership, Community Action Against Asthma, and Community Action to Promote Healthy Environments, focused on understanding and addressing the social and physical environmental determinants of health inequities. She has published widely on multiple aspects of CBPR, and teaches a graduate level course in CBPR . She has served as lead faculty member for the Summer Epidemiology Program's CBPR short course since its inception in 2006.

Edith C. Kieffer, MPH, PhD, Professor, School of Social Work, University of Michigan, conducts community-based participatory research addressing health disparities. In addition to longitudinal epidemiological studies and qualitative formative research in community and health care settings, she and collaborators conduct and evaluate the effectiveness of community health worker (CHW) programs. She is conducting community studies evaluating the impact of Medicaid expansion in Michigan. She is a founding member of the URC Board, and of the Michigan Community Health Worker Alliance, which promotes sustainability of CHW programs and careers through policy change and workforce development.

Toby Lewis, M.D., MPH, is Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, U-M School of Medicine, and Associate Professor, Environmental Health Sciences, U-M SPH. Dr. Lewis is a pediatric pulmonologist with expertise in the epidemiology of childhood respiratory disease; she has conducted community-based participatory asthma intervention research with CAAA in Detroit since 1999, and serves as Principal Investigator of several intervention projects carried out by CAAA.

Graciela Mentz, PhD has served for more than 10 years as the Senior Programmer and Data Analyst for two Detroit UCR-affiliated partnerships: Healthy Environments Partnership (HEP) and CAAA. She has extensive expertise in the management and analysis of complex data, particularly with intervention research designs. She serves as a mentor to a number of doctoral students, post-doctoral scholars and faculty on research design and statistical analyses.

Gloria Palmisano, MA REACH Detroit Partnership Manager, is based at Community Health and Social Services, Inc. (CHASS). She has more than 30 years of experience in program implementation related to public health, education, and employment and training. She has developed and coordinated training programs for Community Health Workers (CHW) and is actively involved in national efforts to promote the use of a CHW model within the context of a CBPR approach.

Angela G. Reyes, MPH is founder and Executive Director of Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, which works in partnership with organizations, residents, and youth for the betterment of neighborhoods. She is a founding Board member of the Detroit URC, is on the Steering Committee of three affiliated partnerships, is a leader in the National Community Partners Forum, and has served as faculty for the present short course since its inception.

Zachary Rowe, BBA, a founding Board member of the Detroit URC, is Executive Director of Friends, a grassroots community-based organization that provides youth, employment, health and safety, and computer learning programs for Detroit residents. Mr. Rowe is a Steering Committee member of several Detroit URC-affiliated partnerships and has served as faculty for the CBPR short course since its inception.

Amy J. Schulz, PhD, MPH is a Professor of Health Behavior and Health Education at U-M SPH, Associate Director for the Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health, and Co-Director for the NIH-funded "Promoting Ethnic Diversity in Public Health". She has published extensively on community-based participatory research and social determinants of health in urban communities. She is the Principal Investigator of the Healthy Environments Partnership, an affiliated partnership of the Detroit URC focused on examining and addressing social and environmental factors associated with cardiovascular inequities in Detroit.

Richard Lichtenstein, PhD, MPH is an Associate Professor of Health Management and Policy; and Director of U-M's Summer Enrichment Program. Research interests include CBPR; racial and ethnic disparities in health; barriers to health insurance coverage for low-income children; effects of discrimination on access to health care; and, efforts to increase diversity in the health workforce. He has been the Co-Director of the Detroit URC since it began, and has directed several CBPR affiliated partnerships.


The Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center
University of Michigan School of Public Health (U-M SPH)
1415 Washington Heights
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
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