New Jersey Healthcare Essential WoRker Outreach and Education Study - Testing Overlooked Occupations
The New Jersey Alliance for Clinical and Translational Science (NJ ACTS) at Rutgers University received a $5 million National Institutes of Health grant to launch outreach campaigns and expand access to COVID-19 testing for underserved and vulnerable communities in New Jersey. The award is part of the RADx Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program in the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative.

New Jersey Healthcare Essential WoRker Outreach and Education Study - Testing Overlooked Occupations, or NJ HEROES TOO, focuses on the Black and Latinx communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in places where Rutgers academic medical centers are deeply rooted. NJ ACTS partnered with community and health care organizations in Essex, Middlesex, Passaic, and Union counties to co-design this study.

“With much of the public attention focused on doctors and nurses as frontline healthcare heroes, NJ HEROES TOO focuses on vulnerable healthcare workers and their families, including home health and personal care aides, maintenance staff, housekeeping, and hospital security, groups which are largely Black and Latinx and have concerns about exposing their families, friends and communities.”
-Shawna Hudson, PhD, NJ ACTS Community Engagement Director

“Given New Jersey’s experience as the early epicenter of COVID-19 in the United States, we know just how challenging this disease is and that efforts to educate our residents and provide equitable access to testing is of utmost importance. NJ HEROES TOO is a model program combining simple and convenient home-testing with education and outreach to vulnerable healthcare workers and our communities.”
-Jonathan Holloway, Rutgers University President

 “This is an incredible opportunity to improve COVID-19 awareness in vulnerable individuals across New Jersey. It’s a game changer.”
-Reynold Panettieri MD, Director of NJ ACTS

“Too often community is left out of the research design and implementation. This project strongly values and embraces community expertise and complements the work of its community partners.” 
-Francis Dixon, Executive Director, New Hope Now Community Development Corporation and Community Partner 

To learn more about NJ HEROES TOO, click here.

The NJ HEROES TOO research study brings together researchers and healthcare/community partners in a collaborative effort, led by the following six principal investigators:
Contact PI: Shawna Hudson, PhD; MPIs: Emily Barrett, PhD; Martin Blaser, MD; Diane Hill, PhD; Manny Jimenez, MD, MS, FAAP; Reynold Panettieri, Jr., MD.
These are the NJ HEROES TOO Community and Healthcare partners:
Partnership and Innovation Accelerator Pilot Grant Program
The Partnership and Innovation Accelerator Pilot (PIAP) Program facilitates collaborations between academic researchers (Rutgers University, Princeton University, and/or New Jersey Institute of Technology) and community organizations so they can work together on health research that benefits the community. The researcher / community partnerships facilitated by this mechanism will seed and / or strengthen new or existing partnership projects. These awards, up to $10,000 for one year, support areas of mutual interest, define the relationships and expectations of the partnership, create a structure for the partnership, and define the specific research project, potential funding sources, and expected outcomes for the pilot.  

The Community Engagement Core 2021 PIAP applications will go live in July. Now is the time to schedule a consultation with our team to fine-tune your ideas. Take a look below at the programs we have funded in the past and the services we offer to strengthen working relationships between researchers and community stakeholders.

2020 PIAP Grant Program Awardees

The New Jersey Alliance for Clinical and Translational Science (NJ ACTS) Community Engagement Core announced the selection of two Partnership and Innovation Accelerator Pilot Grant Program (PIAP) awardees in 2020. To learn more about the awarded projects, click here.
An Academic-Community Partnership to Prevent Perinatal Depression Among Low-income and Black Women

Principal Investigator: Slawa Rokicki, PhD, MS
Rutgers School of Public Health
Community Partner: Central Jersey Family
Health Consortium, North Brunswick, NJ

Perinatal depression is a major public health problem that disproportionately affects low-income women and Black women. Evidence shows that perinatal depression is preventable, yet social barriers and mental health stigma among low-income and Black women limit access to preventive care. We are seeking to build a partnership between Rutgers School of Public Health (SPH) and Central Jersey Family Health Consortium (CJFHC) with the goal of developing community-engaged approaches to addressing perinatal depression in central New Jersey communities.

Partnership for Autism Awareness

Principal Investigator: Walter Zahorodny, PhD
New Jersey Medical School
Community Partner: Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN), Newark, NJ

The key to early detection of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), especially in underserved communities, is wide or universal use of a valid ASD screener during the toddler period. To improve the likelihood that children in the Newark region receive timely ASD screening, however, it is necessary to develop effective outreach strategies with community-based service organizations. The NJMS investigators will partner with the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN) for a Newark based ASD screening intervention.
2019 PIAP Awardees

The Community Engagement Core awarded five pilots in 2019. To learn more click here and here.

Diabetes Prevention Program in South Asians
Principal Investigator:
Usha Ramachandran, MD - Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Community Partner:
Sai Datta Peetham Temple
The Diabetes Prevention Program in South Asians seeks to address the high risk of diabetes and its complications in the South Asian community by adapting the CDC Diabetes Prevention Program’s lifestyle change curriculum.

Healthy Air and Healthy Eating: Encouraging a Culture of Health in Elizabeth, NJ
Principal Investigator: Helmut Zarbl, PhD - Rutgers Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute
Community Partner: Groundwork Elizabeth (GE)
This project will strengthen the partnership between the Elizabeth community and scientists at the Rutgers Center for Environmental Exposure and Disease by piloting an innovative integration of GE’s community gardening program to educate about local air quality and its potential effects on asthma.

Needs Assessment of Family Functioning around Food Related Behaviors (NAF)
Principal Investigator: Pamela Rothpletz-Puglia, EdD, RD – Rutgers School of Health Professions
Community Partner: Leaguers, Inc.
Through a Rutgers University and Leaguers, Inc. community partnership, we are proposing to conduct a needs assessment to obtain current food insecurity risk and weight status data, learning from families about their weight related behaviors using a family systems approach.

Exploring diet quality and CVD risk factors among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex (LGBTQI) adults in Newark, NJ
Principal Investigator: Joachim Sackey, PhD, MS – Rutgers School of Public Health
Community Partner: North Jersey Community Research Initiative, Newark NJ
The pilot study will explore the relationship between dietary quality and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors among LGBTQI adults accessing services at the North Jersey Community Research Initiative (NJCRI) and their willingness to participate in a future nutrition education intervention.

Housing and Health in New Jersey’s Capital City
Principal Investigator: Kathryn Edin, PhD – Princeton University
Community Partner: Trenton Health Team and Isles
This project will contribute to the implementation of critical pieces of an ongoing systems-focused health and housing project that THT and Isles are undertaking to improve Trenton’s housing and to implement housing recommendations made in the city’s most recent municipal master plan.
2020 Advancing Health Equity and Social Justice Grant Awardees

The Community Engagement Core administered the selection of three Advancing Health Equity and Social Justice (AHESJ) awardees for 2020. To learn more about the awarded projects, click here.

Identifying Needs, Barriers, and Facilitators in the Care and Rehabilitative Services for Hispanic Adults with Post-stroke Aphasia: Perspectives from Caregivers
Principal Investigator: Jose Centeno, PhD
Community Partner: RWJUH-CHPP and United Community Corporation
In partnership with two NJ community organizations (RWJUH-CHPP and UCC), the proposed mixed methods action research study will set the initial foundation for establishing a sustainable community-university collaborative that simultaneously targets a community health priority and promotes health equity. 

Project VOICE: Vaccination Outreach and Integrated Cardiovascular Risk Education in People Living with HIV
Principal Investigator: Christine Dimaculangan, PharmD
Community Partner: Hyacinth AIDS Foundation
The aim of this community partnership is to expand and enhance the relationship between Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University and the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation to bridge the gap of preventative health through education on CVD risk (i.e. increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, etc.) and benefits of vaccines.

Project Title: Equitable Recovery for the Esperanza Neighborhood:
A Responsive COVID-19 Training Program for Small Businesses and Nonprofits
Principal Investigator: Richard Marlink, MD
Community Partner: New Brunswick Tomorrow
This project is focused on reducing considerable economic hardships and associated inequities by helping small businesses and nonprofits in New Brunswick respond to their significant economic losses, with a special focus on the Esperanza neighborhood, where 38% of residents live below the poverty line.

The NJ ACTS CEC Community Engagement Virtual Salons bring researchers together with patients, community members, and health care stakeholders to actively participate in cross-talk. It provides a forum for generating research questions, identifying evidence gaps, and defining outcomes meaningful to patients. 

If you are interested in participating in a Salon, please contact our team using this
Previously held Community Engagement Virtual Salons:
Mobile Health Intervention to Promote Sun Protection & Skin Cancer Screenings among Latinx Community

Zhaomeng Niu, PhD

October 30th, 2020

Increasing Access to Mental Health: Community-Based Clinics

Youth Development Clinic of Newark

Beth Barbarasch, PsyD;
Jennifer Cruz, PhD; Mark Kitzie, PsyD

December 11th, 2020

The Diabetes LIFEMAP© & Social Determinants of Health (SDOH)

Dr. Shilpa Pai, Dr. David Bleich, and Carmen Wheeler
Rutgers University- Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

March 4rd, 2021
Previously held Healthcare Stakeholder Salon in Action:
One-on-One Consultations
The CEC helps researchers obtain project-specific input from research, healthcare, community, and patient stakeholders to enhance research design, implementation, and dissemination.

The CEC can connect you to experts through our Network of Networks. We help build and sustain long-lasting relationships.

If you're interested in working with us,
click here to learn more.

Our consultations are free and the information you provide is confidential.
If your research has benefited from one or more NJ ACTS resources, please remember to: 
  • Cite our CTSA grant, UL1TR003017, KL2TR003018, or TL1TR003019 in any relevant publications, abstracts, chapters, and/or posters.
  • Submit your publications to PubMed Central (PMC) for compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy.
  • Share your research updates with us by sending an email to:
On the Pandemic:
Ep.6 - Trust: How it affects Testing and Vaccinations

Host Mary Marchetta O’Dowd discusses the issues of trust and how it affects testing and vaccinations for COVID-19 with Shawn Hudson, Henry Rutgers Chair of Family Medicine & Community Health, Professor & Research Division Chief, Department of Family Medicine & Community Health, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and Robert Atkins, Director, New Jersey Health Initiatives, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Associate Professor of Nursing and Childhood Studies, Rutgers University-Camden.

Listen to the podcast here.
Princeton Researchers Study the Many Impacts of COVID-19
Within days of shutting down their laboratories in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Princeton researchers were asking how they could help. “Many members of the Princeton faculty reached out with requests for opportunities to use their knowledge, ideas and skills to assist in combating the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dean for Research Pablo Debenedetti, the Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science and a professor of chemical and biological engineering. To read the full story, please click here.
NJIT Software May Help Scientists Communicate About COVID
Every complex scientific field needs an ontology, and soon the primary one that covers COVID-19 will be easier for medication and vaccination researchers to understand, using new interpretive methods and software developed by experts at NJIT’s Ying Wu College of Computing.
Ontologies are essentially dictionaries and maps of medical terms. Terms with the same meaning, such as cardiac arrest and myocardial infarction, are grouped together. Read the full article, please click here.
Community Spotlight
The NJ HEROES TOO project was co-created and co-design by our community and healthcare partners. We will be featuring all 22 of our partners in this section of our Quarterly Newsletter through March 2022.

The ASPIRA Association is the only national Hispanic organization dedicated exclusively to developing the educational and leadership capacity of Hispanic youth. Since 1961, ASPIRA has been working at the grass-roots level to provide programs that encourage Hispanic students to stay in school, prepare them to succeed in the educational arena, develop their leadership skills, and serve their community. ASPIRA is a very diverse organization working with substantial numbers of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Central Americans, Mexicans, and  Cubans, as well as with African Americans, non-Hispanic whites, and Haitians, among others. 
To learn more, please click here.
Central Jersey Family Health Consortium

Central Jersey Family Health Consortium, Inc. (CJFHC), established in 1992, is a leading private non–profit organization licensed by the NJ Department of Health and part of a regionalized maternal and child health (MCH) system. Their mission is to improve the health of women of childbearing age, infants, and children in the region through the collaborative efforts of member hospitals, providers, and consumers. The primary service area includes Hunterdon, Somerset, Middlesex, Mercer, Monmouth, and Ocean Counties with a special focus on high-risk cities such as New Brunswick, Trenton, and Perth Amboy.
To learn more, please click here.
Communities in Cooperation

Communities in Cooperation a Human Services Organization servicing the Essex & Union County regions of Northern New Jersey was established in 2004. In their infancy, the organization functioned as a Social Services office in Newark, NJ, and has since branched out to locations in Linden, NJ and Roselle, NJ, with the opening of a second Newark, NJ location, where they offer employment services and other general human services for people of all ages. The full range of programs and services available through Communities In Cooperation are designed to collectively connect communities to the services necessary to strengthen families and individuals through a holistic approach. 
To learn more, please click here.
The East Orange Senior Volunteer Corporation

The East Orange Senior Volunteer Corporation's mission is outreach and support to the senior and disabled population in the City of East Orange. They partner with the East Orange Division of Senior Services (DOSS) to provide aid, information, and support to our senior citizens and disabled adults in the community. The mission of the EOSVC is to serve as advocates on behalf of East Orange residents by providing love, quality resources, events, activities, information, and outreach that fulfill the needs of their clientele. To learn more, please click here.
Health Coalition of Passaic County

The Health Coalition of Passaic County (HCPC), founded in 2017, is a collaborative effort of 18 Board members and 50 Community Advisory Board (CAB) members from a wide range of community organizations who share the common aim of improving the health of the underserved in the City of Paterson and the greater Passaic County area. HCPC values grassroots engagement and the elevation of diverse voices from across the community to become the bridge between clinical needs and community resources. They work in strong partnership with Health Systems, Public Health and Governmental agencies, Community Based Organizations, and many diverse community partners to serve at-risk populations, aiming to create a healthier and more equitable Passaic County. To learn more, please click here.
Stay tuned for more Community Spotlights of our NJ HEROES TOO partners in our upcoming Quarterly Newsletter issues.
COVID-19 Resources

The situation around the current spread of COVID-19 is changing rapidly. We have compiled resource links for the general community highlighting local resources across New Jersey, ways to get involved, and mental and physical wellness. Visit our COVID-19 page for resources for individuals and community partners

Check out our YouTube channel and blog to stay up to date with COVID-19 related news across the consortium.
How the COVID Vaccine can Save your Life recently spoke to Rutgers experts Dr. Rey Panettieri and Dr. David Cennimo to get an explanation on how the COVID-19 Vaccine can save lives and then grabbed (digital) crayons to make a comic! To read the full story and the comic, please click here.

Rutgers' Targeted Coronavirus Testing Strategy Helps Suppress Outbreaks

Vicente Gracias and Brian L. Strom share how Rutgers University's targeted coronavirus testing strategy is helping suppress outbreaks and keep the community safe. To read more about the testing strategy, please click here.

COVID-19 Research Studies
The New Jersey Alliance for Clinical and Translational Science compiled resources for translating COVID-19 from bench to bedside. Visit the site

To learn more about funding opportunities and innovation challenges to assist the academic research community in mitigating COVID-19, click here.

RBHS is actively engaged in scientific discovery surrounding COVID-19. To learn more about the RBHS COVID-19 clinical trials, please click here.

Check out the COVID-19 related research across the consortium.

Rutgers Awarded $5 Million NIH Grant to Improve Access to COVID-19 Testing. The New Jersey Alliance for Clinical and Translational Science received funding to launch outreach campaigns and expand access to testing for underserved and vulnerable communities in the state. The Rutgers-led study called the New Jersey Healthcare Essential Worker Outreach and Education Study – Testing Overlooked Occupations, or NJ HEROES TOO, will be funded under NIH’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative, RADx Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program, according to the university. The program supports research that aims to better understand COVID-19 testing patterns among underserved and vulnerable populations; strengthen the data on disparities in infection rates, disease progression, and outcomes; and develop strategies to reduce the disparities in COVID-19 testing, according to NIH. To read the full story.

Rutgers Research Identifies Safe and Effective Method of Delivering Medicines to the Lungs.
A method that could lead to a safe and effective aerosol vaccine to prevent COVID-19 and to treat other respiratory infections has been identified by investigators at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “Targeted pulmonary delivery is needle-free and minimally invasive, an attribute particularly relevant in the administration of multi-dose vaccines or other molecules. Also, because the lungs are constantly being exposed to pathogens from the air, they have a high level of immune defense activity, and therefore may represent an efficient site for complete immune protection against airborne pathogens,” said co-corresponding author Wadih Arap, director of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey at University Hospital and chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. To read the full story.

Researchers are investigating a potential treatment for people recently diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 who have no or mild symptoms. Rutgers is leading a clinical trial assessing the combination of nitazoxanide, ribavirin and hydroxychloroquine to treat people 21 or older who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 and are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. The trial is being conducted with Synavir Corporation, a global health company that works with academia, industry, and government to develop combination treatments for new viral infections. The trial — called Triple Combination Antiviral Coronavirus Therapy (TriACT) — seeks to determine whether treating people who test positive for coronavirus but who do not have symptoms or have mild symptoms with this combination will reduce the amount of virus and their chances of getting sick. To read the full story.

Rutgers Reports First Instance of COVID-19 Triggering Recurrent Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Researchers at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School have reported the first instance of COVID-19 triggering a recurrence of Guillain–Barré Syndrome – a rare disorder where the body’s immune system attacks nerves and can lead to respiratory failure and death. While there have been several reports of Guillain–Barré Syndrome following COVID-19, this is the first in which COVID-19 actually triggered a recurrence of the condition – in a 54-year-old man who had suffered with Guillain–Barré Syndrome twice and had a third occurrence after testing positive for COVID-19, according to the Rutgers case report published in the journal Pathogens. To read the full story.

Study Shows More Centralized, Uniform COVID-19 Response Needed in Prisons and Jails.
A more centralized, uniform response to combating the COVID-19 pandemic in American prisons and jails is required to curb the spread across an especially vulnerable incarcerated population, according to new Rutgers University–Camden research. “The American criminal justice system is really a misnomer; it is not a single system, but comprised of thousands of federal, state, and local systems – and some are doing a much better job than others in slowing the spread of the coronavirus,” says coauthor Dan Semenza, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Rutgers–Camden. To read the full story.
We would like to share your resources with the community. Please email your information to to contribute to our next Quarterly Newsletter issue. 
Upcoming Events
Research Resources Workshop Wednesday (R2W2) 

Every 2nd Wednesday 4-5pm

The Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Research announced their 2021 R2W2 Series, featuring shared resource core facilities available to Rutgers researchers. Learn more about these events here.
Birthing While Black

April 15, 5pm

Hosted by the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Women’s Health Institute.


Charletta A. Ayers, MD, MPH
Vice Chair and Chief of Obstetrical Service, Department of Ob/Gyn
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Pamela Brug, MD
Vice President, N.J. Black Women Physicians Association, Clinical Assistant Professor of Ob/Gyn
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Damali Campbell, MD
Assistant Professor of Ob/Gyn & Addiction Medicine
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Introduction: Juana Hutchinson-Colas, MD, MBA  
Associate Professor of Ob/Gyn, Division Director of Ob/Gyn,
Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Moderator: Gloria Bachmann, MD, MMS
Professor of Ob/Gyn & Medicine, Associate Dean for Women's Health,
Director - WHI, Department of Ob/Gyn
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Learn more and register here.
Cannabis Use and Perceived Risk of Use
Among Pregnant Women in the U.S.

April 16, 12-1pm

NJACTS Special Populations Core invites you to their upcoming webinar event with Assistant Professor Qiana L. Brown, PhD, MPH, LCSW. Learn more and register here.
We would like to share your events with the community. Please email your event details to to contribute to our next Quarterly Newsletter issue. 
New Jersey Alliance for Clinical and Translational Science
This newsletter is supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award number, UL1TR003017 to Rutgers University. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not represent the official views of the NIH.

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