The Health Equity Resources and Outreach (HERO) program offers a variety of services to support the effective integration of patients and community experts into health research as study advisors, patients, and collaborators.

  • Individual consultations: HERO staff can advise researchers at any stage of the research process, from proposal planning to implementation and dissemination of findings, on the design of community engagement plans, patient and public advisory boards, outreach strategies, and data access, security and preparation. Consultations are available during regular office hours or by appointment and are free of charge to university researchers and the public.
  • Liaising with community stakeholders: on behalf of researchers, HERO brings community experts and organizational representatives to the table to contribute their expertise and insights on  research questions, study implementation, and outreach plans with the aim of promoting equity and integration of special populations. These sessions often take the form of specialized, community-facilitated focus groups, based on a developed at Vanderbilt University and widely used nationally. HERO staff also broker connections to trusted partners, guide environmental scans of study areas, and orient research teams to local research contexts.
  • Trainings: HERO staff and faculty develop and deliver training designed to build the capacity of research teams and the public to engage in productive dialogue, collaboration, and participation in health research. We do this through conventional lectures and presentations in graduate, post-doctoral, and vocational training programs, as well as through public science academies, mini-medical schools, and public events that integrate the arts, sciences, and storytelling into powerful lessons in the workings of science and the value of diverse voices.

What kind of help can I expect from HERO?

The HERO Program serves as a bridge between investigators and community stakeholders. Consultations are an opportunity to consult with social science, informatics, and public health specialists in a friendly, informal setting on approaches, methods and resources available to study teams designed to support engaging the public in research––as patients, advisors, or collaborators, and at all stages of the research process. HERO supports researchers to:

  • Develop partnerships for research
    • Form an effective partnership with stakeholders around your healthcare research interest
  • Design a community-engaged study
    • Integrate the lived experience and skill of community members into the design or implementation of a research project
  • Build skills in community-engaged research methods
  • Understand the health equity limitations and possibilities of different data sources

How can a HERO consultation enhance my proposal?

Researchers increasingly are called upon to address, engage and involve diverse communities. We advise the study team on how to:

  • Bring stakeholder perspectives into the development of a research question
  • Make clinical research inclusive of special populations
  • Adopt effective recruitment and retention strategies for adolescent and young adults, older adults, and other special populations
  • Identify appropriate data collection tools and approaches
  • Prepare proposal sections related to stakeholder engagement plans and partnerships
  • Disseminate findings to diverse communities

How much does this service cost?

HERO program staff support researchers free of charge.