For more than 30 years, Dr. Nina Wallerstein has been involved with Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) including empowerment-based interventions in family, youth and women’s health issues. It’s a lifelong accomplishment she is proud to have pursued.
As an National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), and Native American Research Centers for Health (NARCH researcher, Wallerstein, a professor in The University of New Mexico’s Public Health Program in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, is at the forefront of intervention translational research. She has used a CBPR approach with community partners to integrate evidence-based programs with culturally-centered knowledge to strengthen community ownership and sustainability; at the same time as promoting a science of CBPR, to identify partnering best practices associated with health outcomes.
As the director of the UNM’s Center for Participatory Research (cpr.unm.edu), Wallerstein with her UNM colleagues have partnered with New Mexico tribal communities on multiple initiatives including: the Healthy Native Community Fellowship, a national Native leadership program to promote community wellness; the Family Listening Program, an intergenerational (child/parents/elders) culturally-centered intervention to reduce substance abuse and promote family wellness with three tribal communities; and RezRIDERS, an extreme-sports culturally-mentored program for Native youth.
In recognition of her lifelong work, Wallerstein will be honored with the first-ever, campus-wide inaugural Community Engaged Research Lectureship Award presented by the UNM Office of Vice President for Research, one of the highest honors presented to UNM faculty.
"It’s thrilling to be the first recipient of this award, but I can only reiterate that community engagement is not about one person. It is about partnering and a commitment to working together to improve health over the long-term." – Dr. Nina Wallerstein
“The award is very wonderful and a compliment to highlight the status of community engaged scholarship,” Wallerstein said. “This award isn’t just about me; it’s about our team, a team that includes staff and faculty at UNM as well as all our tribal and other community partners. It’s thrilling to be the first recipient of this award, but I can only reiterate that community engagement is not about one person. It is about partnering and a commitment to working together to improve health over the long-term.”
As part of the honor, Wallerstein will present a lecture titled, “Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR): Walking the Walk for Health and Social Equity” at the UNM Science and Math Learning Center Auditorium on Thursday, April 14 at 6:30 p.m. A reception will be held in the lobby of the Science & Math Learning Center at 5 p.m. prior to the lecture.
The lecture will cover principles, core values, partnering practices, and lessons learned along the path towards reducing health inequities within the state.
The reception and lecture are both free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Science and Math Learning Center is located on the southwestern side of the main UNM Campus, south of Scholes Hall and the Maxwell museum, and slightly southwest of Mitchell Hall. Parking provided for community members at B/P lot located on Northwest corner of University and Central Ave.
In a letter of support from the Tribal Research Team (TRT) for her nomination, members of the three Native communities Wallerstein works with including Jemez Pueblo, Mescalero Apache and Ramah Navajo said:
“Nina has a passion to work in the communities, and believes that the communities have the answers to help themselves which is exactly what this is all about: engaging the community, and empowering the community from within to build capacity. She has created and works with a wonderful team at the University who has worked with us over the years.
“She and her team have given us so many skills and the tools to continue the work that we do almost independently. I believe she did this by giving us the permission to speak from our hearts, honoring and respecting our culture and who we are as a community.”
Her long-term agenda is to enhance the science of CBPR by testing the associations of partnering practices with health and CBPR research outcomes and developing a toolkit and training to strengthen partnership emerging best practices to reduce health inequities and improve population health outcomes.
She recently received a five-year $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to address key gaps in how community-engaged research projects are evaluated. The five-year grant is the next step to promoting a conceptual framework and recommended evaluation tools and measures for community-academic engagement.
Wallerstein, who is also a Senior Fellow at the Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Center, teaches Principles of Public Health and coordinates the annual UNM summer Community Based Participatory Research Institute: Critical and Indigenous Methodologies and co-teaches with three other faculty.
Her work in Latin America has included development of participatory evaluation strategies and she has collaboratively produced a train-the trainer Empowerment, Participatory Research and Health Promotion curriculum (with the Pan American Health Organization and Latin American colleagues), available in Spanish, Portuguese and English. (http://cpr.unm.edu/curricula--classes/empowerment-curriculum.html)
Wallerstein, who received her MPH and Dr.P.H. at the School of Public Health at University of California Berkeley, has been faculty at the UNM School of Medicine since 1989. She was the founding director of the Master of Public Health Program in 1994 serving in that position until 2007.