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U of M investigators now have a simple, structured way to collect community input to inform their health research

University of Minnesota investigators have an easier way to get feedback from patients, community members, and other stakeholders with the launch of CTSI’s Community Engagement (CE) Studio model.

CE Studios are structured guidance sessions that enable the public to share their perspective on important health issues, while arming investigators with insights that can benefit their specific study.

“With the launch of the Community Engagement Studio model, we’re creating a meaningful way for Minnesotans to share their experience with researchers and improve University of Minnesota research,” says Mickey Eder, PhD, a CTSI Associate Director who oversees CTSI’s Office of Community Engagement to Advance Research and Community Health (CEARCH). “Patient-informed and community-centric approaches help to build trust with the communities we serve, while giving investigators an efficient, effective way to engage the public in their research.”

A simple way to get community input

Each Community Engagement Studio session assembles a customized panel of community experts who weigh in on a specific research topic. A session might focus on how a researcher could enhance study design, implementation, or dissemination, or address potential barriers, such as recruitment or retention.

Community experts are selected to align with researcher needs, and could include patients, caregivers, healthcare providers, or other community members. For example, community experts could each have experience with a particular health condition or knowledge of a certain community.

There is no cost to the researcher to hold a Community Engagement Studio, and IRB approval is not needed.

Perspectives that enrich research projects

CTSI began piloting the approach in 2016, when University of Minnesota researchers Stephanie Misono, MD, MPH, and Schelomo Marmor, PhD, MPH, invited commentary from laryngeal cancer patients about how their cancer treatment types were determined, how they perceived that process, and how they felt about their treatment outcomes.  

In a CTSI blog post about piloting the Community Engagement Studio model, Dr. Misono called the experience “humbling” and “inspiring”, adding:

"We were impressed by the enthusiasm and willingness of our community experts to share their insights, and their perspectives provided unexpected information that changed and enriched our research plans."

Tetyana Shippee, PhD, School of Public Health, participated in a Community Engagement Studio earlier this year to help inform her research around quality of life for minority nursing home residents and relationships.

“The studio increased my understanding of the community, sparked ideas on recruiting research participants, and provided feedback on my research questions,” Shippee said. “As a result of the studio, I revised data collection methods for the study, and added more culturally relevant questions for participant focus groups.”

CTSI will hold its fourth CE Studio October 2 at East Side Neighborhood Services with approximately 15 caregivers, family members, and support group members to help inform the Udall Center of Excellence for Parkinson’s Disease Research agenda through community-engaged research.  

The Community Engagement Studio model was initially developed by Vanderbilt University’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. Vanderbilt has used CE Studios to inform dozens of research projects, and the model was published in an Academic Medicine innovation report.

Get started

Researchers can request a Community Engagement Studio on their topic of interest by completing the application at or by emailing [email protected].