David Scott Metzger, Ph.D.

Director, Community Research & Engagement Core

Robert Schnoll, PhD

Co-Director, Community Research & Engagement Core

Michael B. Blank, Ph.D.

Core Investigator

Nadia Dowshen, MD

Core Investigator

Steven Meanley, PhD, MPH

Core Investigator

Amy Onorato

Research Project Manager and CAB Coordinator

The Community Research & Engagement Core (Core F) provides a range of services and assistance to catalyze and support high priority, community-based HIV research.  The development of innovative and effective responses to the current challenges of risk reduction, detection (HIV and STI testing), treatment engagement and sustained viral suppression requires research to take place in the community. The HIV epidemic will not be ended remotely. The overarching mission of Core F is to deliver services that provide meaningful assistance to investigators as they conceptualize, design and implement community-based research.

To accomplish its mission, the Community Research and Engagement Core has the following aims:

  1. Synergize and Support Community-Based HIV Research

Provide assistance to investigators as they plan and implement community-based research studies. Provide access to community settings by linking investigators with an established network of community partners. Maintain a fleet of mobile research facilities and equipment able to support recruitment, data collection, retention, and community education in targeted neighborhoods. Provide linkages to other CFAR Cores and  Scientific Working Groups.

  1. Community Engagement

Provide programmatic leadership and administrative support to the Penn CFAR Community Advisory Board (CAB) and the National CFAR CAB Coalition (N3C).  The Core also leads the coordination of 4 other HIV CABs linked to research initiatives of CFAR investigators. Synergize partnerships between CFAR investigators and community gatekeepers and organizations. The Core will implement a program of “community partnerships” that will sustain relationships with individuals and organizations that participate in research conducted by CFAR investigators.

  1. Mentoring and Training

Provide consultation, mentoring, and training to early career scientists and established investigators transitioning to AIDS research from other disciplines. Promote participation in the Penn CFAR Developmental awards program and provide ongoing mentorship to designated awardees. Lead the Penn CFAR in supporting the Mid Atlantic CFAR Consortium (MACC)Scholars Program (in collaboration with Core A) and help to lead implementation with the Hopkins and DC CFARs.

Notable Services

  • HIV Research Support Group (RSG)
  • Community Liaison Services
  • Mobile Research Services
  • Survey Design, Database Management, and Web-based support
  • Community Advisory Board

Core Services

  • HIV Research Support Group (RSG):  The RSG is an informal, monthly zoom meeting that offers investigators assistance with implementing HIV research. Those in attendance provide brief descriptions of the status of their projects and describe the recruitment strategies that are being used. Recruitment strategies are discussed in detail with group members providing feedback and recommendations for changes. Since projects often target similar populations, RSG participants share strategies, challenges, and experiences.  Importantly, the group actively encourages the cross-referral of study participants who may be eligible for other studies. These referral networks have become an important source of study participants for multiple projects. Increasingly, recruitment approaches use social media and web-based strategies, including the Core F-managed web site where recruitment flyers for active, IRB approved HIV research projects are posted “Philadelphia HIV/AIDS Bulletin Board”).
  • Community Liaison Services: The Core supports a total of 10 hours of consultation per week from two well-known and respected community leaders: William Carter and Waheedah Shabazz-El. Mr. Carter is a well-respected advocate for HIV prevention and care services and research both locally and nationally, and Chair of the BEAT-HIV Delaney Collaboratory CAB. Ms. Shabazz-El is a founding member of the Positive Women’s Network, a national community of women with HIV and past Chair of the CFAR CAB and the BEAT-HIV CAB, closing speaker at the XIII International AIDS Conference, and member of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy Working Group. These community engagement consultants participate in the Research Support Group, distribute recruitment flyers to prevention and care programs, and communicate research opportunities to potential participants via their social media presence.
  • Vehicle and Equipment Research  Services:  A key mission of Core F is to provide tools necessary for investigators to conduct HIV research in the community.  Core F now manages a fleet of three Mobile Research Vehicles. The Core also provides access to Chromebooks, Rugged laptops, iPads, Digital recorders and headphones, and Logitech Hybrid Meeting Equipment. Vehicles and equipment are able to be reserved using the following link: https://www.cfarpsce.org/item-details/
  • Survey Design, Database Management, and Web-based support: The demand for use of the Core’s programming expertise (Fiore) has continued to increase throughout this reporting period. 41,43-50 These services have been developed in response to requests from individual investigators and now include REDCap programming, survey distribution, GIS mapping and analyses, database management, participant management systems, website development, and web-based recruitment.
  • Prevention Database: In collaboration with the Clinical Core, we support the Prevention Database which includes data from populations of individuals interested in HIV research participation and often at substantial risk of HIV including uninfected MSM, transgender persons engaged in sexual risk behavior and PWID. This data collection initiative operates under an IRB approved protocol that allows for telephone screening,  behavioral and biological assessments to help match potential participants to research protocols for which they may be eligible.
  • CFAR Community Advisory Board (CAB):  The CAB currently has 11 voting members representing a variety of communities affected by HIV/AIDS including community advocates, service consumers, and representatives from the PDPH health care clinics, City of Philadelphia Office of Homeless Services, community-based organizations, LGBT centers, and AIDS service organizations from across the city.The monthly CFAR CAB meetings provide investigators with a forum to present and receive feedback on planned research and implementation challenges implementation challenges, as well as opportunities for disseminating research findings to the community.

Core Service Contact:

Amy Onorato

Helpful Links