MSM Awarded $1 Million NIH Grant for COVID-19 Community Engagement Research and Health Communications

(Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta) – October 16, 2020 – Morehouse School of Medicine received a $1 million award from the National Institutes of Health for COVID-19 pandemic outreach and engagement efforts in ethnic and racial minority communities. MSM will form a statewide coalition as one of 12 support teams across the US that are established as part of the NIH Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities.  

We have the opportunity to advance community engaged approaches to outreach, communication and vaccine trials during unprecedented times.”
Dr. Tabia Henry Akintobi

With these funds and the strengths of national network designed to address mistrust, anxiety and misinformation regarding both the pandemic and related vaccines, the CEAL research teams will create programs focused on COVID-19 awareness and education research, especially among African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and American Indians —populations that are disproportionately affected by the virus pandemic, accounting for over half of all reported cases in the United States. These teams will promote and facilitate the inclusion and participation of these groups in vaccine and therapeutic clinical trials to prevent and treat the disease.

“We have the opportunity to advance community engaged approaches to outreach, communication and vaccine trials during unprecedented times,” said Dr. Tabia Henry Akintobi, Professor of Community Health and Preventive Medicine, Associate Dean of Community Engagement and Director of the Prevention Research Center at Morehouse School of Medicine. “The pace of misinformation and the potential for responsive vaccine trials must be met with intentional and strategic engagement of Black and LatinX communities with social and medical vulnerabilities related to the pandemic. Community co-creation of culturally sensitive outreach, health communication and science, from those who are trust worthy, are at the core of changing the path towards reduced hospitalization, sickness and death from related to COVID-19.”

MSM and the eleven CEAL research teams will leverage established relationships between NIH-funded researchers and local community-engaged leaders to help reach underserved communities that might not be located near COVID-19 clinical research recruitment sites.

The Georgia CEAL team lead principal investigators are Tabia Henry Akintobi, Ph.D., M.P.H., working with other community and campus principal investigators: Sedessie Spivey, Ed (Dekalb County Board of Health), David Williams, MD, MPH (Southside Medical Center) and Robert Bednarczyk, PhD, MPH (Emory University). Their collaborative teams will be guided by a Community Coalition Board designed to ensure that research and outreach processes and findings are translated with, co-created by, and relevant to communities.

For more information about CEAL, visit the NIH COVID-19 communities page.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

About Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM)

Founded in 1975, MSM is among the nation's leading educators of primary care physicians and was recognized by Annals of Internal Medicine in 2011 as the top institution in the first study of U.S. medical schools for our social mission based on our production of primary care physicians, training of underrepresented minority doctors and placement of doctors practicing in underserved communities. Our faculty and alumni are noted for excellence in teaching, research and public policy, as well as exceptional patient care. For more information, visit

Shondria Covington 
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