ICTR and WPP Fund 14 Community-engaged Pilot Projects

The Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR) Community Engagement Pilot Awards Program, funded by a Strategic Wisconsin Partnership Program (WPP) grant to ICTR, helps researchers generate collaborations and pilot data that can inform larger projects. The awards provide resources to support the translation of research into practice, reduce health disparities, and foster system changes needed to promote long-term sustainability in Wisconsin. Find more details about this portfolio and other ICTR funding opportunities on the ICTR website.

This year’s funding cycle saw a record number of proposals from the most diverse applicant pool in the program’s history, affirming the growing need for funding and support of pilot projects as catalysts of rigorous and innovative clinical and translational research (CTR) to advance health equity and impact.

ICTR is grateful to the over 70 independent reviewers who provided scores and critiques for each submission. To ensure rigor, innovation, and impact, each highly scored proposal underwent a thorough review process by an ICTR Community Engagement Scientific Review Committee as well as an External Community Review Committee. These committee chairs and members enabled us to select the most responsive projects.

ICTR is proud to support the following 14 projects. Please join us in congratulating the following investigators, mentors, and teams on their awards!


The Advancing Health Equity and Diversity (AHEAD) Award supports postdoctoral scholars interested in health equity research who seek to gain CTR skills and participate in career development experiences. This mentored award allows postdocs to build on their own research interests, under the guidance of a faculty mentor, and build relationships with collaborators on campus and in the community.

Postdoctoral Scholar Lupe Aguilera and Mentor Kristen Sharp:

Multigenerational Medical Record Data Linkages for an Analysis of the Healthcare Use and Health Outcomes of Siblings of Stillborn Babies–A Comparative Design, Wisconsin and Utah.

Using data from the Wisconsin Stillbirth Service Program (WiSSP), the Utah Population Database, and associated medical and genealogical records, this work seeks to uncover evidence on the long-term health outcomes of the siblings of stillborn babies. These findings will contribute to Dr. Aguilera’s ultimate career-long goal of developing pragmatic adaptations to current systems of care that are geared toward the needs of parents and children with a maternal history of stillbirth.

Postdoctoral Scholar Trisha Chanda and Mentor Lonnie Berger:

Healthcare Coverage in Nontraditional Families in Wisconsin: An Assessment of Needs and Challenges.

This work seeks to understand the healthcare coverage needs of families with nontraditional household structures (i.e., separated, single-parent, cohabiting, non-heterosexual, non-biological, etc.), and to examine how coverage policies impact medical debt holdings for these families. These findings will inform future grant applications for research related to healthcare coverage in nontraditional family structures and its association with specific health outcomes for individuals, particularly children.

Postdoctoral Scholar Colette Nickodem and Mentor Jessica Hite:

Linking on-farm occupational exposures to shifts in antimicrobial resistance and the microbiome of underserved farmworkers.

This project aims to investigate links between on-farm exposure to antimicrobials and biocides and the prevalence of antimicrobial resistant pathogenic infections in the gut microbiome of underserved farm workers. The collaborations with community partners and research methodologies that will be developed over the course of this work will inform future proposals for additional work on health complications that are unique to underrepresented farm worker communities.

Postdoctoral Scholar Lauren W. Yowelunh McLester-Davis and Mentor Carey Gleason:

Tribal Institutional Review Boards: A Model for Indigenous Health Equity.

This award supports the long-term goal of creating a Tribal Institutional Review Board (IRB) with the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, which would allow tribal sovereignty over health research and data collected with the Tribal Nation’s citizens. This IRB will open the door to future tribally based participatory research initiatives, aimed at studying health outcome disparities and enhancing health equity among Tribal Nation communities.


The Clinical & Community Outcomes Research (CCOR) Award supports community-partnered health research that directly addresses community challenges and works to translate scientific knowledge into advancements in clinical practice, community programs, and/or health policy.

Investigators Olufunmilola Abraham and Lisa Cadmus-Bertram with community partners Life Center Madison, Eagle Heights Community Center, and Northside Elementary of Sun Prairie:

Improving Mental and Physical Wellbeing of Children and Adults of African Descent through Implementation of a Culturally Responsive and Tailored Fitness Program: Gospel Afrobeat Dance MEdicine (GAME).

This interdisciplinary collaboration consists of a new partnership between the School of Pharmacy and the Department of Kinesiology. The project aims to address high rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide, particularly among African American/Black immigrant children, using a fun and culturally relevant fitness program for families that is rooted in Afrobeat dance and gospel music. This study emphasizes the importance of intersectoral collaboration to effectively address the complex challenges related to culturally inclined wellbeing.

Investigator, Melisa Carrasco McCaul and Haley Vlach with community partner Abecedarian Education Foundation:

The Hybrid Abecedarian Approach (Hybrid AA) for Cognitive Rehabilitation of Infants Living in Wisconsin Rural Communities Following Perinatal Brain Injuries (PBIs).

This collaborative team of neurologists, educators, and rural care providers aims to address the lack of cognitive interventions for very young children living with PBIs in rural settings. With guidance from an advisory board of rural pediatricians (Baraboo, Beaver Dam, and Tomah), this transformative initiative will study the feasibility of hybrid (virtual/in-person) delivery of an existing program that was designed only for in-person participation, thereby greatly expanding access.

Investigator Amanda Margolis with community partner VA Madison.

Improving Medication Use Among Veteran Patients with Inflammatory Conditions via Specialty Pharmacy Services.

This project aims to assess patient-oriented outcomes and structural elements of a Centralized Specialty Medication Management (CSMM) program that provides at-home access to life-changing biologic medications for Veterans with inflammatory conditions. Data collected from patients, specialty providers, and pharmacists will be synthesized to create tools to study patient-centered outcomes from CSMM for a competitive VA Merit application from the VA Office of Research and Development to test and disseminate the CSMM model.

Investigators Julie Keating and Nasia Safdar with community partners at rural hospitals in Wisconsin.

Staphylococcus Aureus Bacteremia Electronic Reminder Adapted for Rural Settings: the SAVERUS Project.

This project aims to address the rural-urban health disparities in care provision and patient outcomes related to S. aureus bacteremia by adapting SABER, the current electronic health-record integrated clinical decision support tool, for use in lower-resourced healthcare settings that may lack capacity for timely on-site Infectious Disease consultations. Future work will study the generalizability of the adapted toolkit in a variety of settings and geographic locations, as well as associated improvements in patient outcomes.


The Collaborative Health Equity Research (CHER) Award supports the work of early-career investigators who are partnered with a senior co-investigator mentor and community collaborators. Together, these teams address health equity challenges directly in the impacted communities.

Investigator Jill Denson and Mentor Paja Charles, with community partners JustDane, Project Respect, Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness, Regal Aspire, Essentially Empowered, and FREE:

Where Do the Babies Go? Infants of Incarcerated Mothers and Their Caregivers.

In collaboration with numerous local organizations and community advisory boards, this project seeks to address the dearth of research on who cares for the babies of incarcerated mothers after they are separated and shed light on the characteristics of the caregiver arrangements or the transitions that infants, mothers, and caregivers experience. This research has the potential to influence the development of human rights-focused programs and policies for incarcerated mothers that promote parent-child bonds and decrease harm and reproductive health disparities.

Investigator Krisjon Olson and Mentor Catherine Allen, with community partners Adult Congenital Heart Association and Conquering Congenital Heart Disease – Wisconsin:

Feasibility and Acceptability of Accessible Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) Survivor Transition Readiness for Long-Term Health (ACHD STRONG) Pilot.

This project aims to utilize provider and patient input to design and determine the feasibility and acceptability of an educational intervention focused on supporting the transition from pediatric to adult care for patients with congenital heart disease. This model will be iteratively co-designed with patients with CHD-related disabilities, which will directly impact survivorship. Data collected as a part of this pilot will inform the optimization of the model and be fundamental to future proposals to test feasibility and acceptability as well as identify modifiable barriers to implementation in clinical environments and policies.


The Stakeholder & Patient Engaged Research (SPER) Award supports direct patient engagement in health research, which elevates the patient experience as a critical factor in healthcare delivery improvements. This award catalyzes work that has strong potential to build into future applications for external funding mechanisms that require strong patient engagement methodologies.

Investigator K.J. Hansmann:

Engaging Patients with Dementia and their Care Partners in Decisions about the Transition to Non-Driving.

This project addresses the urgent need for interventions that facilitate the ability of patients with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD) to participate in shared decision-making about the transition to non-driving. Perspectives gathered from a diverse cohort of older drivers with ADRD and their care partners as well as community and clinical advisory boards will inform the design and future implementation of such an intervention.

Investigator Kristen Pecanac:

Co-developing a Communication-Training Intervention to Improve Surrogate Decision Making.

This work builds on evidence that Black surrogate healthcare decision makers report higher levels of decisional conflict and provider distrust from poor provider communication during life-or-death decision-making conversations than their white peers. Experiences described by former surrogates who identify as Black and evaluations of provider communication strategies will inform the co-creation of an intervention by Black community members for providers for use in surrogate decision making conversations. Future work will further test this intervention and refine it for scalability and sustainability.

Investigator Zoua Vang:

mat-CHW: A Co-designed community-based Intervention with WI Refugees to Improve Maternal Child Health & Wellness.

The overall goal of the study is to partner with stakeholders and refugee communities to co-design and pilot a specialty curriculum focused on maternal-child health for community health workers. Findings from this work will inform future curriculum testing and policy recommendations around the utility of community health workers as culturally relevant resources for increasing access to health care services and improving health outcomes for underserved populations.

Investigator Matthew Kalscheur:

The Digital Living Well with Atrial Fibrillation Clinic.

This study aims to develop and pilot a mobile app that will provide a person-centered approach to allowing patients to improve their cardiovascular health and reduce negative health outcomes associated with atrial fibrillation. The app will be co-designed by a local patient advisory council that will include residents of rural, suburban, and urban areas of Wisconsin. Future work will focus on dissemination and implementation of the app and expanding delivery of care to people living with atrial fibrillation.


These projects were made possible by the UW-Madison Institute for Clinical & Translational Research (ICTR) with support from NIH-NCATS Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) 1UL1TR002373 and funds through a grant from the Wisconsin Partnership Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health Program, Wisconsin Partnership Program (WPP 5129).