Diverse Scholars Work to Build a Culture of Health

Diverse Scholars Work to Build a Culture of Health

New Connections Program Director Renee Byng Yancey (Image: Third Eye Productions)
(Image: Third Eye Productions)

Keith Elder grew up in tiny Troy, Alabama, where he saw firsthand how black men living in poverty also had poor health. As a youngster, he couldn’t understand why the men weren’t accessing the healthcare they needed.

Elder studied health at university and wanted to research the health disparities of black men. Although he applied for research grants several times, he didn’t get far until he attended a New Connections Research & Coaching Clinic.

After submitting a proposal he was subsequently awarded a research grant. Elder credits his involvement with New Connections for moving not only his research forward, but also his career: He is now professor and chair of the Department of Health Management and Policy at the College of Public Health and Social Justice at the University of St. Louis.

Elder is one of 138 historically underrepresented scholars to receive grant funding totaling more than $7.6 million through New Connections since 2005.

To learn more about New Connections, BE Smart recently spoke with Reneé Byng Yancey, the organization’s national director.

What is New Connections?

New Connections is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded program housed in Equal Measure, a Philadelphia-based, nationally focused evaluation and philanthropy services nonprofit. Equal Measure serves as the national program office for New Connections.

It seeks to leverage the expertise of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation by training and funding researchers and evaluators that have been historically underrepresented.

The program has provided career development opportunities and a professional network of diverse scholars who are doing interesting work in healthcare fields including public health, psychology, medicine, etc., as well as across sectors the public may not immediately link to health, such as architecture, engineering, and urban planning–because the built environment has an effect on health.

Whether there are walking trails, safe places to be outdoors and exercise, and access to reliable transportation options, matters greatly in building a culture of health, which is a goal of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, our partner and colleague.

How does one join New Connections?

Scholars apply to be part of the program.

The target audience is early and mid-career scholars who are ethnic minorities or from low-income communities–urban or rural–or the first in their family to receive a college degree.

We publish an electronic newsletter that identifies opportunities in research, training, workshops, and research collaboration. We represent a fantastic network of people who are very willing to share information and resources.

It’s notable when you think of how scholars advance to achieve tenure, bring in research dollars, serve as a lead author on a manuscript, refine skills around preparing grant applications, and develop a network of collaborators for the future.

To read more scholar stories like that of Keith Elder, Ph.D., visit the New Connections website, or its new 10-year anniversary site.