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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Florida International Receives $13.1 Million to Build Florida’s First Health Disparities Research Center at a Minority Institution at Stempel College

Florida International University Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, FIU-BRIDGE won a $13.1 million grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) to build Florida’s first Health Disparities Research Center at a Minority Institution (RCMI). The FIU-RCMI at Stempel College will focus on reducing substance use problems and HIV, and will work in partnership with South Florida communities. This grant is the largest single award in the University’s 45-year history.

[Photo: Dr. Eric F. Wagner]

Dr. Eric F. Wagner, director of FIU-BRIDGE and professor in the School of Social Work, will helm the FIU-RCMI at Stempel College. Since arriving at FIU in 1998, he has led an interdisciplinary group of researchers whose work focuses on reducing substance use problems and HIV/sexually transmitted infections among teenagers and young adults through community-based applied research partnerships.

“We have an extraordinary group of researchers and experts lined up for this effort because we know just how critical it is for the overall health of our Miami community,” said Dr. Tomás R. Guilarte, dean of Stempel College and a key collaborator on the RCMI team. “We are using our insight and research capabilities to solve a complex set of issues afflicting our fellow citizens, but with a decidedly collaborative approach. This award would not have been possible without the dedicated effort of many of our senior faculty.”

In addition to Dr. Wagner, the FIU-RCMI at Stempel College involves 34 faculty members from various disciplines, who are committed to developing and nurturing the new national clinical and behavioral research program devoted to eliminating health disparities.

The team will use innovative methods, and collaborate with underrepresented Miami-Dade communities in greatest need. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has disproportionately affected minority populations, especially those living in low-income neighborhoods. In Miami-Dade County, more than 27,000 people are living with HIV. Moreover, while substance use problems affect all racial, ethnic and income groups, minorities and those living in poverty experience more substance-related adverse consequences and more barriers to effective prevention and intervention services.

“While our problems are long-standing and acute here in Miami-Dade, most of the issues and drivers are modifiable — especially if you work in concert with affected communities. That’s how we designed our RCMI — community partnership is essential to our success,” said Dr. Wagner. “All research efforts are geared toward ending health disparities by learning from and working with communities in building effective solutions.”

The FIU-RCMI at Stempel College includes five cores — administrative, research infrastructure, investigator development, community engagement, and recruitment — as well as a large-scale research project examining the rising use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (aka e-cigarettes) among minority youth and young adults.

FIU-RCMI at Stempel College’s Core Research Team: