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2002 Community-Campus Partnerships for Health Award Recipient

Morehouse School of Medicine - Southside Atlanta Partnership

Represented at the CCPH conference by the following individuals (listed alphabetically):

  • Daniel Blumenthal, Chairman, Morehouse School of Medicine Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine and the Partnership leader
  • David Collins, Morehouse School of Medicine, Prevention Research Center Associate Director for Community Liasion, community resident
  • Wayne Jack, Principal, Tull Waters Elementary School
  • Meryl McNeal, Morehouse School of Medicine, Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine faculty and the course director of the Community Health course
  • Ann Scott Poole, South Atlanta community Development Corporation, community resident
  • Ella Heard Trammell, South Atlanta Community Development Corporation, community resident
  • Elleen Yancey, Director Morehouse School of Medicine Prevention Research Center, research and service partner

The Morehouse School of Medicine-Southside Atlanta Community Partnership is a 15-year-old coalition that includes other academic institutions, the Southside's Neighborhood Planning Unit Y, constituent neighborhood organizations, adjacent neighborhoods, and local agencies. The partnership's educational activities include a unique interdisciplinary service-learning course for medical, nursing, and social work students. Research activities are focused on the prevention of HIV infection, violence, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Service activities range from a rodent control project to a community computer access initiative.

Conceptual Framework

The underlying goal of Morehouse School of Medicine's (MSM) community collaborations is community empowerment. While this is an overused term that is often employed loosely, MSM and its community partners take the idea very seriously. Morehouse pioneered and published its model, Community Organization and Development for Health Promotion, over a decade ago. The approach calls for representatives of a health professions school or other health promoter to (1) learn the "community ecology" before entering the community; (2) establish relationships with community gatekeepers; (3) build credibility before proceeding; (4) develop a community coalition board (and, generally, to help it become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation); (5) work with the community coalition board to conduct a health needs assessment; and (6) collaborate with the board to develop, implement, and evaluate one or more health promotion interventions. When the process is successful, the community coalition is able to continue to mount projects and work for community change even after the academic institution has reduced its role or withdrawn; these projects may focus on health, education, economic development, or any other issue.

Historically, "progressive" academic institutions have spoken of a "community classroom" for their educational programs, a "community laboratory" for their research programs, and a "needy community" for their service programs. They do not subscribe to this traditional view, saying instead:

  • The community is not a classroom; to view it this way reduces the people who live there to the status of props for a teaching program.
  • The community is not a laboratory; to view it this way reduces the people who live there to the status of guinea pigs for a research project.
  • The community is not a charity case; to view it this way denies the people who live there their dignity.

Rather, in all 3 domains -- teaching, research, and service -- the community is a partner or a collaborator that joins with an academic institution to develop programs that benefit both.

The Partners

Morehouse School of Medicine - Southside Atlanta Partnership

Community -- The community partners consist of a number of organizations in a section of Southside Atlanta known as "Neighborhood Planning Unit Y" (NPU-Y), as well as adjacent neighborhoods (see attachments for list of organizations and maps). These organizations include NPU-Y itself, which is headed by a slate of elected officers, as well as smaller neighborhood organizations such as the Joyland-Highpoint Community Coalition, the Lakewood Heights Redevelopment Corporation, the Lakewood Heights Community Civic Association, the South Atlanta Redevelopment Corporation, the Thomasville Heights Civic Association, and others. Additional partnerships have been established between the school of medicine and agencies such as the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness, Atlanta Public Schools, the Atlanta Empowerment Zone, and the Atlanta Housing Authority.

Campus - Morehouse School of Medicine is the lead academic partner. It is joined by the MSM Prevention Research Center, Georgia State University (GSU) School of Nursing, Emory University School of Medicine Department of Ob/Gyn, and the Clark-Atlanta University (CAU) School of Social Work. Hence the partnership is a broad-based one, involving several academic institutions and the full spectrum of organizations that collectively represent the community.

History of the Partnership

In 1987, MSM established a partnership with the Joyland/Highpoint neighborhood and worked with community residents to establish the Joyland-Highpoint Community Coalition (JHCC), and, together with this organization, launched several health promotion projects. In 1990, a federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant enabled MSM to partner with two other Southside neighborhood organizations, the South Atlanta Civic League and the Thomasville Heights Community Coalition. Projects in these communities focused on parenting and on recruitment of minority youth into the health professions. A 1992 grant to MSM from the Kellogg Foundation led to the creation of the Southeastern Primary Care Consortium (SPCC), a community organization with a board of directors composed of a majority of Southside community representatives and a minority of academic representatives. The SPCC was instrumental in facilitating a number of community-based health professions education initiatives -- most notably, an interdisciplinary service-learning community health course, described below under Current Activities. In 1996, the SPCC absorbed the faltering Atlanta Area Health Education Center (Atlanta AHEC), a similar organization that had been supported with HRSA funds awarded through MSM, to become the SPCC/Atlanta AHEC.

MSM continued to collaborate with Southside neighborhood organizations on a variety of projects, creating the opportunity to apply successfully in 1998 for a Prevention Research Center (PRC) grant from the Centers for Disease Control. The Center was established under the aegis of a community-dominated policy-making board (click here to view a slide show presentation on the Morehouse School of Medicine Prevention Research Center). With the creation of the PRC, the MSM - Southside Atlanta Partnership became inclusive of all three elements of the academic mission: education, research, and service.

Current Activities

Medical and nursing students engaged in service-learning nutrition project at elementary school.

Education: The interdisciplinary service-learning MSM/GSU/CAU Community Health Course, , originally sponsored by the SPCC and headquartered at Carver High School on the Southside, is now conducted in partnership directly with several Southside neighborhood organizations and agencies. (Click here to view sample course materials.) This is a required course for all first-year MSM medical students and GSU Community Health nursing students. The relationships established through this course laid the foundation for a successful application to the Corporation for National Service for a grant to establish the MSM Center for Community Service and Learning. This unit supports and facilitates the school's service-learning initiatives; its board includes representatives of service-learning sites.

Research: The Prevention Research Center (PRC) is physically located in rented office space on the Southside, about five miles south of the MSM campus. A set of bylaws dictates the composition of the Community Coalition Board that sets policy and establishes research priorities for the Center. Representation on the Board includes the academic partners (MSM, GSU, and Emory), the Fulton County Health Department, the Atlanta Public Schools, the Atlanta Empowerment Zone Corporation, the Atlanta Housing Authority, Southside Medical Center, the SPCC/Atlanta AHEC, and representatives of multiple Southside neighborhoods. Community representatives are always in the majority and the Board Chair is reserved for a community representative. In general, community representatives are selected by their neighborhood organizations.

Service: The partnership conducts a number of service projects -- that is, health promotion projects that are not conducted primarily for the purpose of health professions education or research. For instance, the South Atlanta Redevelopment Corporation is conducting a rodent control project with a grant from the PRC. Another PRC project is the installation of a bank of computers in the Thomasville Heights Community Center. Local residents use the computers to access the Internet and local youth use them to do their homework. A grant awarded by MSM (not involving the PRC) to the Joyland-Highpoint Community Coalition supports low-impact exercise programs at several Southside senior centers. Other projects address environmental issues - greenspace and water pollution.

  • Building the capacity of communities and higher educational institutions to engage each other as partners. Capacity-building is at the core of the Community Organization and Development for Health Promotion model. Using this strategy, MSM has helped establish or significantly strengthen several neighborhood organizations. These grassroots organizations, acting individually or collectively as part of a board of directors, have negotiated grants and contracts with MSM, taught its students, established policy for the school's community-based research, and revised individual research projects. For its part, MSM has learned to work with these organizations as empowered collaborators.
  • Incorporating service-learning into the education of all health professionals. The Community Health course that is an important component of this partnership is required of all MSM medical students and all GSU Community Health Nursing students. Students and community resident feedback suggest that it has made a substantial difference in the way students view communities as well as a difference in the way that many community residents view medical and nursing students. An outgrowth of the course is the new Center for Community Service and Learning that is developing strategies to integrate service learning throughout MSM's four-year curriculum.
  • Recognizing and rewarding faculty for community-based teaching, research and service. At MSM, community-based teaching earns the same credit (toward promotion) as does classroom or clinical teaching. Similarly, community-based research earns the same credit as laboratory or clinical research. Community service is credited on the same basis as clinical service. For instance, a half day per week engaged in community health promotion earns the same credit that is awarded to a clinician for a half day in clinic. This is done with the understanding that community service may have to be underwritten by a grant, since (unlike clinical service), fee-for-service is not an option.
  • Developing partnerships that balance power and share resources among partners. The MSM-Southside Atlanta partnership has put authority and resources in the hands of the community. They view this as the most important outcome of building community partnerships. Ultimately, improvements in health status in low-income minority communities will depend not on medical care but on the ability of the communities to break the cycle of poverty and dependency.

For more information on the Morehouse School of Medicine - Southside Atlanta Partnership contact Daniel S. Blumenthal, or 404-752-1624,


  1. Braithwaite, R.L., Murphy, F., Lythcott, N., and Blumenthal, D.S.: Community Organization and Development for Health Promotion within an Urban Black Community: A Conceptual Model. Health Education 20(5):56-60, 1989.
  2. Braithwaite, R.L. and Lythcott, N.: Community Empowerment as a Strategy for Health Promotion for Black and other Minority Populations. JAMA 261:282-283, 1989.
  3. Blumenthal, D.S., McNeal, M.S., Spencer, L., Rhone, J., and Murphy, F.: An Interdisciplinary Service-Learning Community Health Course for Preclinical Health Sciences Students. In Seifer, S.D., Hermanns, K., and Lewis, J.: Creating Community-Responsive Physicians. American Association for Higher Education, Washington DC, 2000, p. 63-68.
  4. Blumenthal, D.S., Jones, A.R., and McNeal, M.S.: Evaluating a Community-based Multiprofessional Course in Community Health. Education for Health: Change in Learning and Practice 14:252-255, 2001.




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