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Remillard Family Community Service Fund awards eight grants to faculty and students

Projects have potential to improve health of Central Massachusetts residents

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

September 23, 2020

The Remillard Family Community Service Fund has awarded eight grants for projects with the potential to improve the health of Central Massachusetts residents, particularly those who are economically or educationally disadvantaged or underrepresented.

Designed to amplify the impact of UMass Medical School on the local community, the endowed fund  provides support for community outreach programs undertaken by faculty, clinical staff, residents and students that are consistent with the education, patient care and research missions of UMMS.

The fund is awarding one-year grants of up to $20,000 each to the following projects:

Improving flu vaccination accessibility amidst COVID-19 within the Worcester Free Care Collaborative proposed by Ashvin Antony, SOM’23:  This grant will establish free flu vaccination stations for patients in marginalized communities served by the free clinics who can’t afford or get access to the vaccine, in order to improve health equity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Companion wellness program: Addressing social isolation and loneliness for hospitalized patients in the local community proposed by Adarsha Bajracharya, MD, assistant professor of medicine: The goal of this initiative is to provide virtual and in-person visits by UMass Medical School student volunteers to English and Spanish-speaking patients who are 65 years or older suffering from or at risk for feelings of isolation.

Worcester Department of Health and Human Services recovery coach initiative proposed by Matilde Castiel, MD, associate professor of medicine: A pilot program which employs a recovery coach to connect marginalized individuals suffering from drug addiction to harm-reduction focused treatment will be expanded, reaching out to incarcerated clients prior to release to better support their transition back into the community.

Project Autism Network: Culture, Healthy Outcomes and Resilience (ANCHOR) proposed by Roula Choueiri, MD, professor of pediatrics: Identifying  and training family navigators from diverse cultures and educating early childhood health care providers to recognize early signs of neurodevelopmental disorders will improve access to diagnosis and services for at-risk children from diverse cultures.

HARMONIOUS: A virtual community-based mental health initiative among Chinese-Americans and Chinese immigrants proposed by Zilin Cui, SOM’23: HARMONIOUS is an online community-based bilingual education and support initiative to reduce cultural stigma, encourage open communication and improve access to and uptake of mental health services among Chinese-Americans and Chinese immigrants.

Drivers education for high risk teens proposed by Robert Gakwaya, MD’18:  Providing free driver’s education leading to licensure for at-risk youth from disadvantaged communities, where underage, unlicensed drivers are more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle collisions, will help keep them out of the juvenile court system and increase their employment opportunities.

A better birth experience: A pilot program expanding access to trained labor support proposed by Kristina Gracey, MD, MPH, assistant professor of family medicine & community health: This pilot program will provide training and technology for perinatal community health workers who provide prenatal and postpartum care management so they can offer virtual labor support, expanding the capacity for both in-person and virtual support.

Brain Bee Bootcamp outreach program proposed by Erica Kwiatkowski, PhD candidate in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences: Now in its second year, this tutoring program to introduce high school students to neuroscience and prepare them for the annual Brain Bee held at UMMS will transition to a free-remote learning/student community platform with loaner Chromebooks and community Brain Bee packages.

Related stories on UMassMed News:
UMass Medical School providing aid to Worcester Public Schools summer learning program
UMass Medical School hosts 14th annual Central Massachusetts Brain Bee
Remillard Family Community Service Fund awards new grants to improve local health
Worcester Public Schools and UMass Medical School unveil family support services initiative
New Remillard Family Fund at UMMS supports community service