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School of Dentistry recruiting Black, Hispanic participants for HeAR US study

Published: May 31, 2023 by Kyle Rogers

Maria A. Loza, DMD, MS (left), and Claudia Ruiz-Brisuela, DDS (right), stand with their hands in their white coat pockets in a clinical hallway at UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry.
Maria A. Loza, DMD, MS, co-investigator (left), and Claudia Ruiz-Brisuela, DDS, project coordinator, represent the UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry team participating in the HeAR US study. Photo by Brian Schnupp.

UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry is recruiting Black and Hispanic adults to participate in focus groups for a research project, titled “Hispanic, Black, and Pacific Islander perspectives on COVID-19 Outreach Strategies and Patient-Centered Outcomes (HeAR US),” funded by the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE).

The FDA OMHHE has awarded nearly $1 million (OMB 0910-0497) to a national, multi-site research consortium that includes investigators from UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry, Howard University, Indiana University, Meharry Medical College, Nova Southeastern University, Queen’s Medical Center, University of Hawaii at Hilo, and the University of Puerto Rico.

The HeAR US study aims to better understand the perspectives, preferences, and unmet needs about COVID-19 outreach from Black, Hispanic, and Pacific Islander populations.

Starting in June, UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry investigators will assemble and conduct focus groups of Black and Hispanic adults with a range of vaccination status from hard-to-reach communities in Texas. Investigators at other sites will conduct similar focus groups, with modified demographic and COVID-19 vaccination status emphases, in Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.

The School of Dentistry team is led by Maria A. Loza, DMD, MS, co-investigator, and includes Claudia Ruiz-Brisuela, DDS, as project coordinator. Interested parties can email Maria.A.Loza@uth.tmc.edu and/or Claudia.RuizBrisuela@uth.tmc.edu to inquire about focus group participation.

“This is an exciting, multi-site project that will be instrumental in developing better COVID-19 and vaccination communications to reach, engage, and support the well-being of longstanding, underserved populations,” Loza said. “The School of Dentistry is recruiting for two focus groups — Black adults who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated and Hispanic adults who are vaccinated but not boosted.”

The project’s findings will inform existing OMHHE messaging so that FDA communications concerning COVID-19 and vaccinations can reach all populations. Additionally, findings will be used to develop a culturally-tailored communication playbook to serve Hispanic, Black, and Pacific Islander communities.

The HeAR US project builds on 10 years of collaboration through the ENACT Network, an interdisciplinary collaboration of researchers and educators dedicated to building capacity for stakeholder-driven, patient-centered, and comparative effectiveness research. Led by Doug Landsittel, PhD, of Indiana University, the ENACT Network seeks to enhance training and collaborative opportunities at Minority- and Hispanic-Serving Institutions to facilitate high-quality research that reduces health disparities and improves the health of vulnerable populations.

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