UM Professor Eager to Use Program’s Lessons to Tackle Obesity

National mentorship series aims to increase diversity in health-related research

Lori Ward

Lori Ward

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi pharmacy professor is working to address one of the state’s primary health issues, obesity, by participating in a program funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Lori Ward, an assistant professor of pharmacy administration, was selected as a research training and mentorship fellow for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program to Increase Diversity Among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research.

Based at the UM Medical Center, the HBCU PRIDE program is an evidence-based, culturally and environmentally relevant research training and mentoring program. Bettina Beech, UMMC vice chancellor of population health, is the contact principal investigator for the study.

The program, which lasts two years, is for minority early-career faculty members who have graduated from or are employed by a historically black college or university with research interests in obesity and health disparities.

“HBCU PRIDE aims to not only increase diversity in obesity disparities research but also to increase community engagement,” Ward said. “Being that Mississippi is ranked first in obesity in the U.S., it is imperative that we develop and implement methods to understand, engage and improve the disparity here in our state.”

Ward, who specializes in health-outcomes research and gerontology, studies health-related events and outcomes that patients with various chronic diseases and conditions may experience. Some of these include medication-use behavior, hospital stays and physician visits, she said.

“The obesity disparities research training and mentoring program has afforded me the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the state of obesity, and how to develop and implement research that will aid in closing obesity disparities research gaps that exist,” she said.

The program consists of four phases. In June, Ward participated in a 10-day, face-to-face course in obesity research, data collection, data analysis, intervention development and research methods.

In Phase II, Ward is participating in “learning communities,” which are small cross-disciplinary groups of participants who will learn through mentor-led online seminars, as well as connecting with program officers at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

In summer 2016, Phase III of the training course will include an intensive five-day educational program in conjunction with the African American Collaborative Obesity Network conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“Phase IV consists of being a part of the alumni network, which will consist of quarterly seminars on career advancement for participants who complete the PRIDE program as well as research opportunities, peer mentoring and social support,” Ward said.

Donna West-Strum, chair of the Department of Pharmacy Administration, applauded Ward’s efforts.

“Dr. Ward is an asset to our department and will contribute greatly to HBCU PRIDE,” West-Strum said. “It is always encouraging to see our faculty members going above and beyond to address critical health issues.”

Ward is looking forward to the opportunities ahead.

“I am excited to be a National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute HBCU PRIDE fellow,” Ward said. “I look forward to the future outcomes of participating in this program over the next two years and growing as a researcher.”