MCH Center of Excellence in Education, Science and Practice receives funding for another term

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The USF College of Public Health’s (COPH) Center of Excellence in MCH Education, Science and Practice was recently awarded funding for another five years (2020-2025) from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), housed within the Health Resources and Services Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services. The COPH, with a longstanding MCH training legacy, is only one of 13 public health colleges and schools in the U.S. to be selected for a MCH center designation.

“Having the center at the college is a testament to the dedication our faculty, staff, students and community partners to making a meaningful difference to the health and well-being of women, children and families,” said Dr. Cheryl Vamos, director of the USF Center of Excellence in MCH. “Not only does the center focus on training the emerging workforce through classes, seminars, and experiential learning, faculty also work tirelessly on a range of MCH-focused applied research, evaluation and quality improvement projects, provide technical assistance and collaboration to a range of partners and stakeholders, and assure findings are disseminated and translated to inform policy and practice. We are also so fortunate to have a strong, long-standing collaborative network of partners locally, statewide, regionally, and nationally. Such expertise and environment provides an exceptional training experience that extends to students across all concentrations and programs who are passionate about MCH.”

Vamos said that it’s important to note that this grant exists to recognize the persistent and emerging health disparities. It’s about making sure that there is a passionate, dedicated, competent and interprofessional workforce to address issues that occur over a life course and the systems related to women’s health, infant and maternal health, child health, family violence, among many others.  

Dr. Cheryl Vamos (Photo by Caitlin Keough)

One of the major goals of the center is to provide didactic and experiential public health training in MCH that leads to masters and doctoral graduate degrees and advances MCH workforce capacity, as there is a critical need for highly effective and diverse MCH professionals.

Dr. Abraham Salinas, Associate Director of the Center of Excellence in MCH, highlighted that an important element of the center is the signature MCH scholar program.

“In addition to providing tuition and stipend support, a select cohort of scholars receive specialized training in leadership, academic and community mentorship, research emersion opportunities, and travel support to engage in state, regional and national professional and networking activities,” Salinas said.

On behalf of the USF Health leadership team, Drs. Charles Lockwood, dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, and Donna Petersen, dean of the COPH, said, “We have significant strengths to support the program’s activities: strong interprofessional linkages across colleges at USF and the state; renowned faculty that engage in countless teaching, research, technical assistance and other collaborative activities; diverse student bodies and student organization groups for recruitment and peer mentoring/networking; solid partnerships with health/social services and community agencies for field mentoring and practicum opportunities; and academic/student services to support student retention and success.”

As part of the parent application, the center also received an MCH Epidemiology Doctoral Supplement, which will fund and support five doctoral students who will conduct state or local level analyses on a public health topic important to MCH populations as the foundation of their dissertation over the five-year project cycle.

Lastly, the MCHB has released another competitive supplement opportunity available to only those 13 Centers to provide MCH Postdoctoral training, in which the COPH’s Center of Excellence is now actively preparing for submission.

Of note, the COPH is also one of six schools across the nation who has received the MCH Pipeline Program (also known as MCH Train-A-Bull). The goal of the MCH Pipeline Program is to recruit, train, mentor and provide enriching experiences to guide undergraduate students from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds and underrepresented racial/ethnic groups into MCH-related health fields. This solidifies the COPH’s commitment to MCH training across the academic and professional trajectory, reaching undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and those in the workforce.

“Being awarded the Center grant is an honor.” Vamos said. “The grant recognizes all the great work the college does and we’re excited to continue on with this legacy of training.”

Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health