Maternal and Child Health Training Grant renewed with added postdoctoral component

| Academic & Student Affairs, CFH, MCH Training Grant, Monday Letter, Our Accolades, Students

The USF College of Public Health’s Maternal and Child Health Training Grant has been renewed for another five-year term with the new addition of a postdoctoral enhancement component.

Within the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health funds 13 Centers of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health.

USF’s College of Public Health has been fortunate enough to be awarded this grant for the second five-year term in a row.  While there are always 13 centers, they are not necessarily the same institutions that continue to be awarded the grant each year.

Dr. Martha Coulter is principal investigator for this grant, and Dr. Karen Liller is co-director of the postdoctoral enhancement component.  Both Coulter and Liller are professors in COPH’s Department of Community and Family Health.



(From left to right) Dr. Martha Coulter, principal investigator, Dr. Karen Liller, co-director of postdoctoral enhancement component, and Chukwudi Ejiofor, project coordinator and MPH student.

“I was pleased that we were awarded the grant again, and especially to receive the post-doctoral enhancement which was only given to three of the 13 centers. The grant was the result of years of work by many people in developing a strong MCH training program and establishing firm community ties,” Coulter said.

Each Center of Excellence demonstrates distinction in research, training and practice and focuses on two main outcomes. The first outcome involves the training of MCH graduate students, and the second focuses on providing support for community maternal and child health programs.

The student training portion of the grant is to create an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to maternal and child health training and leadership. In addition to supporting students and faculty in the MCH concentration, the grant funds five scholars either at the master’s or doctoral level who may be from any COPH department, but are focused on MCH, and gives them significant financial support and additional training.  This yearlong program includes giving each scholar both a faculty and community mentor, along with offering special programs and seminars.

Coulter explained that the grant is of significant benefit for the scholars as it focuses on leadership and preparing the students to be future maternal and child health leaders.

Dr. Melissa Mercado-Crespo, a former MCH leadership trainee, says that the program was a big enhancement toward her doctoral training.

Melissa Mercado-Crespo, PhD

Melissa Mercado-Crespo, PhD

“I believe USF College of Public Health created a comprehensive, rich MCH leadership traineeship that centers on how to best help doctoral students succeed in enhancing their knowledge, polishing their skills, and supporting the communities and families they serve,” Mercado-Crespo said.

The grant also funds activities for the community, like seminars on conflict resolution or the use of data in communities. These seminars are all-day, free of charge and can be attended by students or community members in the MCH field.

There are also some exciting new additions to the grant.

First, the new grant is involved in a deeper collaborative relationship with Reach Up, a federally-funded Healthy Start project. This includes a recruiter position that will specifically focus on recruiting minority students and students from traditionally underprivileged areas.

Another part of the grant is that it provides travel scholarships for the scholars and some MCH faculty to gain experience and professional development at conferences. In addition, it partially covers some travel for the MCH students who are not scholars to assist these students in getting some exposure to the field.

Lastly, and one of the most notable aspects of the new grant, is a postdoctoral enhancement component.  It will fund four post-doctoral students in MCH.

This new addition allows recipients at the postdoctoral level to get assistance with research and receive leadership training, which in turn makes them even stronger MCH faculty.

“It’s so exciting, not only how great it is for the grant, for the department and for the college, but it’s a coup for the university,” said Liller. “It starts a history; you have to start somewhere, and this is our start.”

To learn more about opportunities offered through the MCH Training Grant, visit


Story by AnnaMarie Koehler-Shepley and photos by Natalie D. Preston, College of Public Health