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ENGOAL program creates community of emerging health researchers

ENGOAL Program Creates Community of Emerging Health Researchers
University efforts support older adults in the Rochester community

A new program called Engaging Older Adult Learners as Health Researchers (ENGOAL) brought together eleven older adults (age 55+) to the University of Rochester’s River Campus this month to embark on the early stages of their research projects. On January 17, these emerging health researchers convened in a computer lab of LeChase Hall to work on a key part of their class research project, their literature reviews.

Working alongside the leadership team of ENGOAL (Sandhya Seshadri and Craig Sellers from the School of Nursing, Silvia Sörensen and Joyce Duckles from the Warner School, Doreen Young from the Beechwood Greenhouse Collaborative, George Moses from North East Area Development, and Phyllis Jackson from Common Ground Health) and several Warner graduate students, the ENGOAL participants began to identify existing literature and research on their chosen research topics. The seniors divided into three teams and are now focusing their research efforts on health issues affecting African American older adults, including: mental health, depression, and stress; diabetes and chronic diseases and the lack of communication between doctors and patients; and educating African American families on symptoms, types, and management of dementia.

A two-year Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Engagement Award to the Warner School in 2017 has allowed University researchers to collaborate with the School of Nursing to educate and train older adults from urban Rochester on geriatric health and health research methods. Participation in the ENGOAL program has impacted these local seniors personally—both in the relationships that they have formed here and in their endeavors to advocate for themselves and others.

“This has been an exciting experience,” says ENGOAL participant Addie. “Being here has allowed us to become an extended family.”
ENGOAL program participantsThe program has allowed Addie to become more open as a person and to speak about her own struggle with depression. “I hope to take what I learn to the community to help other African American women who hide from depression,” she adds. “If it wasn’t for ENGOAL, I would’ve never known how bad my depression was. I hope to be able to encourage others to speak up and seek help.”

Addie frequently speaks about her “recovery from depression” and attributes her recovery to the knowledge and skills she has gained and the relationships she has formed as an ENGOAL participant.

While ENGOAL participant Barbara was previously trained in and worked in the healthcare field for years, she realizes that others are not as fortunate as her to have some background knowledge of the medical field. And, what has swept her here is her passion for helping others and making a difference in the community.

“We need to help educate families,” says Barbara who also has faced a number of health challenges over the years, including the loss of a loved one to dementia. “People need help with identifying the symptoms of and diagnosis with early onset dementia. I also hope that our work helps to improve communication between doctors and patients so that they take more of a teamwork approach, collaborating together and coming to mutual agreements about medical treatment.”

The goal of the ENGOAL program is to help older adults become educated consumers of research and to partner with geriatrics researchers in developing community-relevant research questions. The program also helps to develop participants’ health literacy, enabling them to advocate for themselves and members of their communities. The team of University researchers also hopes to increase older adults’ engagement in their healthcare and foster their interactions with health professionals as patients, advocates, and co-researchers. Read more about ENGOAL.

The seniors participating in ENGOAL will present their research projects to the community this spring, with details to follow in the coming weeks.