Supporting the Next Generation
of Health Equity Researchers

This year, we launched our Community Partnerships in Research Program, which seeks to promote health equity in the Greater Philadelphia area by building and deepening community–academic partnerships on research projects aimed to improve health outcomes among children and families. Through Joint Pilot Project Awards and Partnership Development Awards, we strive to increase community voice in the research development pipeline and processes at CHOP, grow the number of research partnerships in our community and support the next generation of health equity researchers.

In 2023, we funded four inaugural projects. For example, Joint Pilot Project recipients Rachel Myers, PhD, MS, research scientist at CHOP’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention and research scholar with CHOP’s Center for Violence Prevention, and Ronna Kassel, executive director of Christian Street YMCA, will support, implement, sustain and evaluate the impact of trauma-informed approaches within 16 branches of the Greater Philadelphia YMCA. This project will address how to create competence and confidence among program staff to deliver community-based programming in trauma-informed ways.

White Teen Girl Smiling and Looking To The Side

"Bringing in YMCA team members from the outset ensures the questions we ask about trauma-informed practices are meaningful, the data collection approaches are feasible, and our interpretation of the results is accurate and actionable. Learning from and with the staff and helping them see how research can help tell stories and highlight strengths is a meaningful experience that underscores the power of community-partnered research."

Headshot of Dr. Rachel Myers

Rachel Myers, PhD, MS


"Our partnership ensures those with lived experience are equally responsible for the development and success of the project. We believe this collaboration will lead to meaningful results not only from the research but because from the start, the voices of those who serve youth and teens each day—camp counselors, sports coaches and child care teachers—have been amplified."

Headshot of Ronna Kassel

Ronna Kassel


Advancing Pediatric Sleep Research

The American Thoracic Society presented PolicyLab researcher Ariel Williamson, PhD, DBSM, with the 2023 Carole L. Marcus Outstanding Achievement Award. This award recognizes career accomplishments in pediatric sleep and respiratory neurobiology, a primary focus of Dr. Williamson’s research conducted at PolicyLab.

Currently, Dr. Williamson and her team are working on a project to analyze multilevel socioecological factors, such as neighborhood and socioeconomic status, which are linked to cooccurring sleep problems and sleep disordered breathing in 3 to 5-year-olds. Their goal is to promote sleep health to benefit long-term child well-being and prevent sleep-related mental health challenges.

Baby Sleeping on Side
Headshot of Dr. Ariel Williamson
Ariel Williamson, PhD, DBSM, PolicyLab Faculty Member

Building a Research Portfolio: PolicyLab's Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Asiya Validova

This year, the center welcomed PolicyLab’s first postdoctoral research fellow: Asiya Validova, PhD. Originally from Kazan, Russia, Dr. Validova came to PolicyLab from the University of Texas at San Antonio where she received her PhD in Applied Demography.

In this role, which is a partnership between PolicyLab and Drexel University, Dr. Validova participates in research on child health issues at the intersection of health insurance coverage, health services and social determinants of health. Dr. Validova credits this fellowship with helping her develop a skillset around conducting rigorous qualitative research, grant writing and building research collaborations.

Dr. Validova has a strong interest in continuing her career in academia, conducting policy-focused research, advancing scholarship in the field of child and adolescent health, income inequality and population health, and evaluating policies that mitigate socioeconomic inequities. She views her postdoctoral experience at PolicyLab as an important step in building her research portfolio and becoming an independent researcher.

Headshot of Asiya Validova
“I see collaboration as a core component of the research work at PolicyLab. Working in a team environment at every stage of the research process, including developing ideas, designing analytical plans, conducting analysis and manuscript writing, is an essential part of my current postdoctoral role as well as a great learning experience.”

Promoting Learning & Growth With Our Morning Speaker Series

Each week, PolicyLab hosts our “Morning Speaker Series,” featuring internal and external experts who discuss their research and ongoing projects on a variety of topics including public health, policy, research methods, and more—providing us with opportunities to support our team members’ professional development, identify potential collaborations, and learn from colleagues and partners.

For example, PolicyLab’s Visibility & Voice Committee, who works to uplift the voices of people who are racially and ethnically diverse, hosted the inaugural “Minority Health Month Annual Lecture,” which recognizes the impactful work of individuals promoting equity and inclusion within research and the community. This year’s speaker, University of Pennsylvania’s Florence Momplaisir, MD, MSHP, discussed her research analyzing racial/ethnic disparities in HIV prevalence for women and girls and ways to improve care for this population.

Our “Early Career Researcher Spotlight” showcased projects led by PolicyLab researchers Olivia Quartey and Michelle Reece—who discussed research exploring the impact of postpartum depression on responsive parenting—and Tiffany Tieu and Ayomide Popoola, who detailed work contextualizing the disparate exposure of Black children and families to structural racism and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Florence Momplaisir Presenting Her Research Graphic Including Headshots of Olivia Quartey, Michelle Reece, Tiffany Tieu and Ayomide Popoola
Top: Dr. Florence Momplaisir presents her research as part of the Morning Speaker Series.

Launching Interdisciplinary Projects

Child and Parent Holding Hands

Expanding the Evidence Base for and Supporting Sustainability of HealthySteps

Adult Sitting With Arm Around Teen

Developing and Evaluating Primary Care Interventions to Address Youth Suicide

Black Mother Holding Smiling Baby

Examining the Impact of the Pandemic and Systemic Racism on Mothers and Children

Asian Boy Smiling While Standing Outside Campsite in the Woods

Fostering Resilience in Adolescents with Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain

Two Young White Girls Sitting on Stairs and Talking

Strengthening School Capacity for Evidence-based Mental Health Programming

Three Young Girls Smiling While Sitting Around a Table