With an ability to design research to meet urgent community needs—and to directly apply that research to create change—researchers and community leaders are powerful partners for impacting community health needs.

Dr. Colette Auerswald from UC-Berkeley, Dr. Marguerita Lightfoot from UCSF, and our own Sherilyn Adams, Executive Director of Larkin Street Youth Services, are among 15 teams nationally selected as Interdisciplinary Research Leaders, a leadership development program led by the University of Minnesota with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Auerswald, Lightfoot, and Adams will join a diverse group of researchers and community leaders located across the country, to collaborate and innovate to solve persistent health challenges. Together, these fellows will help advance a Culture of Health—one that places well-being at the center of every aspect of life.

Auerswald, Lightfoot, and Adams will examine community factors that impact when, where, why, and how youth experiencing homelessness experience violence. Their aim is to impact the factors that exacerbate exposure to violence and amplify the factors that mitigate it. With more than six decades of combined experience in youth development, homelessness, and public health, the team is well positioned to maximize the opportunity. One of their key aims is to engage youth with lived experience with homelessness in the research.

As part of the Interdisciplinary Research Leaders program will also develop high-level leadership skills through mentoring, networking, and an advanced leadership curriculum. While participating in the program, they will apply new knowledge and leadership in their community and field.

“This is a unique opportunity for academics and a community partner like Larkin Street—San Francisco’s largest nonprofit provider serving youth experiencing homelessness—to work hand in hand to identify and solve entrenched issues like violence exposure among disconnected youth,” said Sherilyn Adams, Larkin Street’s executive director. “The research benefits from direct access to youth with lived experience, and the service field benefits from evidence-based interventions with the best potential to impact change. I am thrilled to be part of this exchange of knowledge and its direct application to my work to prevent and end youth homelessness.”

Additional partners providing training and support to fellows include AcademyHealth, ISAIAH, and Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

Interdisciplinary Research Leaders is one of a number of leadership development programs supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). These programs continue RWJF’s legacy of supporting the development and diversity of leaders. Initially focused on health and health care, the programs have been expanded, because the Foundation knows that building a Culture of Health requires all of us in every sector, profession, and discipline to work together. The next application period for many of these programs will open in early 2018. Additional information is available at www.interdisciplinaryresearch-leaders.org.

Learn more about Larkin Street’s policy and advocacy work on our blog.