From the Research Desk with Dr. Rebecca Klege

Henry J. Austin Health Center (HJAHC) has over the years been committed to delivering person-centered and high-quality health care to achieve optimal health and well-being. We have been successful in executing this core mission and serving diverse groups in Trenton. Today we can boast of vibrant services including primary care, whole health, and special services. 

As it stands, HJAHC has nine sites located throughout the Trenton area and the health center recorded a total of 18,439patients in 2020 (UDS, 2020). HJAHC is therefore able to interact with residents of Trenton on a daily basis through the provision of quality health care. The daily interaction with patients provides the organization with a unique opportunity to collect key indicators, conduct state of the art research and engage with the community at large to seek solutions to health challenges as well as rigorously test key interventions. Although academic institutions and think tanks tend to dominate such research space, it is our belief that with the right resources and support from top management, clinical pharmacists, nurses, certified medical assistants, community health workers, willingness of patients and community at large, our new research department can equally compete within this space. An initiative that will perfectly complement our core mission of delivering person-centered and high-quality health care. 

Our Advantage: 

  • Availability and easy access to data is vital when conducting research. Unlike traditional research institutions where the success of research projects frequently depends on the ability to find data collection sites, HJAHC with its multisite advantage and through its daily patients’ interaction already have access to potential study participants. This implies that even without external collaborations we can self-sufficiently embark on our own data collection process to answer key health care questions.
  • The goal to include diverse and minority groups in clinical research often poses a challenge for local governments, states and the federal government. Our work in Trenton over the years has built a sense of trust and community among residents. Given the diverse community we serve, we are well positioned to highlight existing disparities while seeking solutions to health problems affecting underserved populations such as Black/African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, low-income groups, immigrants and women.
  • Finally, the ability to commit to evidence based in-house research projects means we will be able to initiate studies that are tailored to address the top priorities of HJAHC, our patients and the community as a whole.

We however acknowledge the capacity deficiency we face at HJAHC and understand that the success of a functional research hub depends on the capacity of its staff and community members. Ongoing and previously conducted research in HJAHC has been predominantly focused on our Pharmacy Services under the able leadership of Dr. Caitlin McCarthy. It is our hope to extend such a vibrant research model to other units within the organization. 

Way Forward 

Thanks to Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) funding, our new research department is here to streamline, collaborate and build the necessary capacity to make HJAHC a competitive research hub. While this is necessary to improve the already existing quality health care services we offer, it will additionally serve as a great avenue to participate and compete for larger grants to expand our services. 

To also bridge the existing knowledge gap within the organization, the department has launched a capacity-building initiative aimed at introducing staff members to Patient-Centered Outcomes research (PCOR) as well as evidence-based research in collaboration with Clinical Directors Network (CDN). This initiative will offer a total of twelve training sessions to staff members. The sessions will enable us to identify  future research projects to embark on.

There is no better time to spearhead our own research affairs than now. Looking forward to a vibrant research collaboration with you all.

Director of Research 

Dr. Rebecca Klege 

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