Community Outreach and Engagement Spotlight

May 2022:

Sarah Posten, C-CHW, CPST
Clinical Practicum Coordinator
College of Nursing, Community Health Worker Program

Our program engages with the community through our students and community-based partner organizations. Our students have an opportunity to build relationships with organizations and people. During the student’s practicum, they experience connecting families and communities to resources that could include free birth certificates, social security cards, rental and utility assistance, mental health resources, food, diapers and wipes. Most of our students and partners are there to contribute support by providing a warm place to stay, shower and do laundry, or even just by having a conversation.

Why is engaging the community important to you and your work?

Building relationships and engaging with the community can go a long way when helping with resources. We can learn from the community about what resource gaps we have and how we can work together to add that resource to the community. Being the boots on the ground and working alongside the community can help us recognize the barriers of social determinants of health and adjust the current processes used to help address and eliminate those barriers of access.

What lessons have you learned from the community that have helped you as a university staff member?

There is more to everyone’s story than just what we are working on or teaching. Taking the time to get to know someone and connect with them can not only change their health and outcome, but also change the outcome of the entire community. Focusing on the quality of care of each community member, taking the time to listen, follow up and follow through, the outcome will have an overall effect on the community.

What has been your favorite moment from your community-engagement work?

I love our partners and students. Being in the community is my favorite part of my job: meeting partners and students at local coffee shops, community centers and libraries to learn more about their community and talk about ways we can collaborate to help break down barriers and uplift the community. Another favorite is being able to represent the Community Health Program at local events where we share information about our amazing program, the work our students have done and how impactful the community health worker is to our community.

What advice do you have for other staff members who are interested in getting involved in community engagement?

If you like to help others and your community, you can start by having a conversation and learning more about an individual and their background. Most engagement starts with a smile and a conversation that can lead to volunteering at a local organization. It is more than just donating time, handing out diapers and wipes or food. It is the relationship building, the continued conversation and being able to relate on an individual level that helps build community engagement.


March 2022: Leslie Hill, BS, CHW, CDCA

Leslie Hill, BS, CHW, CDCA
Community Outreach Coordinator, Community Health Worker
Ohio State Total Health and Wellness Primary Care Clinic

Our clinic is actively involved in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19 (and other communicable diseases) by giving away Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) in the form of PPE Care Kits. This is our largest outreach project as the ongoing need for resources exists during this pandemic. Nearly 6,000 PPE Care Kits have been distributed to community agencies, homeless shelters, schools, and public health locations. Our clinic staff assembles each kit with cloth and disposable face masks, disposable gloves, digital thermometers, hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes.  Educational material about COVID-19 as well as the importance of having a primary care health provider is also included.

Why is engaging the community important to you and your work?

It is important for me to gain knowledge and to share knowledge. The best way to gain knowledge about the community is to be out and about amongst the people.  I like to speak with them and hear what their foremost concerns and needs are. I gain knowledge by seeing people in their environment and situations. Sharing knowledge with the community that could offer guidance and resources with the intentions to improve, educate, advocate and uplift; with hopes of lifting any barriers and progress can be made towards overcoming their concerns and needs.

What lessons have you learned from the community that have helped you as a university staff member?

I have learned of social barriers to health care while interacting with the community.  Transportation, jobs, food instability, worries about housing and utilities and health insurance are common needs that are not being met for most of the community that OSU Total Health & Wellness Primary Care Clinic serves.  It helps to learn what resources or services people need access to so that we can work to link them and bridge the gaps for them.

What has been your favorite moment from your community-engagement work?

I love the public! So being around people, sharing information and our PPE Care Kits is a nice way to talk to them, see smiles and build partnerships with other organizations.  My favorite moment was sharing our care kits with a local food pantry who was very happy to finally have face masks to give their patrons.  They had received several inquiries and requests for disposable face masks but could not supply any.  It was a great feeling to see how our outreach helped their mission as well as fulfill an immediate need during this pandemic.

What advice do you have for other staff members who are interested in getting involved in community engagement?

As long as you have it in your heart to help others, there is an opportunity for community engagement. Find a need, start with a small outreach project, and offer it to a community group, an organization, or a school. It could be a few hours of your time or donated items that would help a cause. If everyone does a little bit, it will make a lot of difference for the community as a whole.

January 2022: Sophia Leissa & Jillian Randolph, The Aspire Study

Can you tell us what The Aspire Study is and what your roles are?

The Aspire Study is a NINR funded project seeking to reduce cardiovascular disease risk in young Black and Hispanic adults through a culturally and environmentally tailored mobile health intervention. The intervention employs students from the Nurse Health Coaching Certificate program/Health Wellness Innovation minor to send participants a daily text message incorporating their real-time diet and physical activity data to make suggestions for meals, workouts, and stress reduction.

Sophia L:  I’m the Program Assistant for the study. In my role I develop recruitment strategies and focus on the retention of study participants.

Jillian R:  I’m the Project Coordinator. I manage the daily operations, ethical and budgetary compliance, investigator meetings, and the study’s community advisory board.

Columbus State Community College is a community partner on the study. Can you tell us more about their involvement?

We have established a Community Advisory Board (CAB) consisting of students, faculty, staff, and alumni from Columbus State (CState) to help guide our implementation and ensure our intervention is responsive to student needs. They have helped us create new text messages for local food options and menus, ensured we have a presence at school wide events and on media platforms, and connected us with various student services within the community so that our students are able to thrive in school, our study, and in life. We are also prioritizing mutual benefit with our CAB and with the CState community at large – we are working with our CAB to explore other research/community-based projects of interest to them and will also be planning events in the future to disseminate our preliminary findings and hold discussions on what health and wellness means and looks like in Black and Brown communities.

What has been your favorite moment while doing your work?

Our favorite moments while doing this work has been being able to witness the progression of students throughout their time within the study. Some participants seemingly transform throughout the year they spend in the study. We have both been able to witness participants' self-confidence, overall happiness, and health habits drastically improve over the course of 12 months as they work on their mental health, exercise, and nutrition. It has been an honor for them to allow us this small window into witnessing this progression and being able to cheer them along as they reach many goals they thought would be unattainable at the start of the study!

What lessons have you learned from the community that you would like to pass on to others in this field?

One lesson that we learned from the community that we would like to pass on to others within the field is being responsive to the needs of the community at each stage of the research progress. As we began the process of enrolling students into the study, we found that there was a need for mental health referral services to adequately support participants throughout their time within the study and beyond. This sentiment was echoed by our Community Advisory Board who was able to provide valuable information about the existing services available to students and gaps in resources. After implementing a referral process for students who screened positively for depressive symptoms, we received positive feedback from the students, some even claiming they would have never thought to seek out services prior to participating in the study. We learned how valuable it is to adapt and innovate upon program implementation to address the needs of the community that become apparent at every stage of the research process.

For more information about The Aspire Study please see below:

For questions, email

Sophia LeissaSophia Leissa

Sophia received her BA in Sociology from Willian & Mary in 2019 and is currently working towards her Master’s in Public Health at OSU. Her academic and career interests lie in this intersection, specifically understanding and addressing socioeconomic health disparities.


Jillian Randolph

Jillian Randolph

Jillian graduated from the University of Virginia with a dual degree in Global Development Studies and English Literature in 2019. After graduation, she was a Princeton in Africa Fellow and moved to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to work as a fundraising and grants management assistant for the largest provider of disability healthcare services in the country. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Public Health at OSU and maintains a particular interest in the social determinants of health, health inequities, and knowledge generation and translation. She hopes to use the power of trans local and transnational collaborations as a catalyst to solve systemic health inequities worldwide.

September 2021: Black Health Explained

Faith MetlockBy way of Cleveland, OH, Faith Metlock is a senior at Ohio State studying nursing with a minor in pharmaceutical sciences and certificate in primary care. Outside of the classroom, Faith is president and founding member of Nursing Students of Color, a new student organization in the College of Nursing dedicated to creating safe spaces for minority nursing students.

Last year, in her role as Vice-President, Faith founded the Nursing Students of Color’s Mentorship program, where current nursing students are paired with pre-nursing students to support with pre-requisite courses and the application process for the BSN program. In her free time Faith manages, Black Health Explained, a health promotion platform she founded dedicated to the Black community with hopes of empowering her community to follow healthy lifestyle practices.

Black Health Explained (BHE) provides preventative care education through engaging infographics with simplified information posted regularly on social media and their website. The goal is to use these formats to engage community members and encourage them to follow healthy lifestyle practices that may reduce their risks of developing chronic health conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes, which disproportionally impacts the Black population. Since recently introducing video content onto their page, BHE has already reached over 3,600 accounts.

In the very near future BHE hopes to launch a YouTube channel that will feature videos on health topics with expert guest speakers. Faith also plans to add a searchable Black, healthcare provider directory onto the website.

For more information about Black Health Explained or Nursing Students of Color see below:

Ask a Buckeye Nurse

Faculty members Deborah L. Dawson, DNP, RN, and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Fitzgerald, EdD, APRN-CNS, PMHCNS-BC lead the Ask A Buckeye Nurse (ABN) outreach program that connects volunteer faculty and students from The Ohio State University College of Nursing with local barbershops and beauty salons to provide free health screenings, twice a month, during the academic school year. Volunteers engage with community members on the Near East Side of Columbus, Ohio. The goal of the program is to address barriers to health and wellness and reduce health disparities in African American adults. Additional community partners for the program include The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center East Hospital and Making a Difference, Inc.

Screenings include blood pressure, blood glucose, BMI and stress levels. After screening, if an individual’s results indicate the need for a referral, participants are referred to their primary care provider or assisted in finding a healthcare provider. Health education materials are provided to help patrons gain a better understanding of potential health risks and learn ways to practice healthy lifestyle behaviors. In the spring of 2017, the program expanded its efforts to include two additional barber shops for a two-day “Barbers and Beauticians Who Care” event.

More than 1,100 individuals have undergone a screening through an Ask A Buckeye Nurse event since 2014. Although COVID-19 physical distancing precautions have made it difficult to provide in-person services, ABN has not stopped its efforts to provide resources to community members. The program partnered with the College of Nursing’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement and the American Heart Association to create and distribute 300 packets of cardiovascular health information, along with masks and hand sanitizer for patrons of six partner barber and beauty shops in December 2020. Once able to resume in-person services, the Ask A Buckeye Nurse leaders plan to expand their efforts to include screening for cholesterol levels.

Ask A Buckeye Nurse Leadership

Deborah DawsonDeborah L. Dawson, DNP, RN, is an assistant professor of clinical practice at The Ohio State University College of Nursing, with more than a decade of teaching experience. Her nursing background is in critical care, research and parish/community nursing. She recently earned a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree from Indiana Wesleyan University. Her DNP project, focused on improving cardiovascular health for African American adults, was entitled A Faith-Based Cardiovascular Educational Program to Improve Self-Care Behavior Risk Factors in African American Adults.

Dr. Dawson embraces the Ask A Buckeye Nurse community educational model which supports heart health screenings to communities at high risk for cardiovascular disease. Participation in the Ask A Buckeye Nurse educational model inspired Dr. Dawson to continue the research for her doctoral cardiovascular educational program in African American adults. Her scholarship, practice and service in nursing have been rewarding in allowing her to empower individuals to engage in activities that promote health and wellness in low economic areas.

Lizzie FitzgeraldDr. Elizabeth “Lizzie” Fitzgerald, EdD, APRN-CNS, PMHCNS-BC is an associate professor of clinical nursing at The Ohio State University College of Nursing, where she teaches in the graduate studies program. She is certified as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She is a Fellow in the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and holds the distinction of Scholar in the Transcultural Nursing Society. Her scholarship and practice focuses on improving access to healthcare and striving to attain health equity by addressing multiple layers of a person’s life that reflect social marginalization.

Dr. Fitzgerald has been working with Ask A Buckeye Nurse since August 2014. She became involved because she wanted to engage with a community project to improve the health and well-being of urban community members. She also wanted to join a project that had the potential to be sustained, as trust is so important between academic institutions and communities when doing community engagement efforts. Ask A Buckeye Nurse was a perfect opportunity to serve the community and help to promote health and well-being among persons living in the Near East Side of Columbus.

After four decades of teaching in higher education, Dr. Fitzgerald will be retiring on June 1, 2021. During her retirement, she plans to focus on tutoring English for Speakers of Other Languages who wish to learn or improve their English language skills; promoting the development of intercultural competence among healthcare professionals; and volunteering in Latinx communities to improve health equity in the United States and Latin America.

Timiya Nolan

Timiya NolanTimiya S. Nolan, PhD, APRN-CNP, ANP-BC, is a research nurse who focuses on improving the quality and length of life in the African American community. Her inspiration for becoming a champion of health equity stems from her experiences in research and the nursing field. As Nolan worked and studied, she could not overlook the disproportionate amount of African Americans suffering from cancer, heart disease, obesity, and poor social determinants of health. Her mission to improve the health and wellness of the African American community by developing two interventions focused on disrupting the correlation between race and poor health outcomes.

The first of these interventions, called Y-AMBIENT, (Young African American Breast Cancer Survivorship Intervention), provides survivors of breast cancer with self-management strategies to improve quality of life. Breast cancer survivors are connected with nurse interventionists and coached in developing goals focused on personal concerns, such as diet, exercise, prayer/meditation and socialization. Participants are given information and support based on their choices, ensuring they are in full control of the process. This innovative approach toward regaining health and wellness after such a demoralizing disease has been recognized by the Gulf States Young Breast Cancer Survivorship Network, Young Survival Coalition and Susan G. Komen®.

Nolan is also collaborating with Darrell M.Gray, MD, MPH, and Joshua J. Joseph, MD, from the Ohio State College of Medicine, and the African American Wellness Agency on a project targeting African American men, who are at a higher risk than their counterparts for premature death. This grant-funded intervention was adapted from the highly reputable American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Prevention Program and American Heart Association’s (AHA) Check Change Control program. By providing connections to primary care, individualized counseling and health coaching on the AHA’s “Life’s Simple 7®” metrics (blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol, weight, diet, physical activity and smoking status), this program has the potential to overcome a great number of obstacles toward equitable health established through societal boundaries. Nolan and colleagues have secured an impressive number of partners (e.g., the American Diabetes Association® (ADA), AHA, Columbus Parks and Recreation, Columbus YMCA, Columbus Public Health Department, African American Male Wellness Agency, The Ohio State University, etc.) in this initiative and continue to make great strides in their research and implementation.

Nolan is truly committed to correcting societal failures in health equity and wellness for the African American community. She is a testament to what exceptional dedication, meticulous planning and adaptability can achieve. We are honored to feature her in the College of Nursing Office of Community Outreach and Engagement’s Spotlights.