Dr. Deepak Kumar, director of North Carolina Central University’s (NCCU) Julius L. Chambers Biomedical Biotechnology Research Institute and the Principal Investigator of the Research Centers in Minority Institutes (RCMI) Center for Health Disparities Research, has spent years working with community leaders to support the medically underserved. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Dr. Kumar and his team got to work to assess the impact the pandemic would have on rural North Carolina. This work resulted in the Advanced Center for COVID-19 Related Disparities (ACCORD).
Led by Dr. Kumar, the ACCORD team has conducted COVID-19 testing and informational surveys in nine rural counties across the state. Through a combination of surveys and community forums, the team learned that vaccine accessibility was a major concern, and that community members wanted to receive the vaccine closer to their homes or workplace and in a comfortable setting.
“We’ve informed our public health partners to ensure they have this data,” Dr. Kumar said in an article for the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) website. “Now we’re conducting surveys at vaccination sites and providing data to vaccine providers to improve the appointment process and identify what motivates people to get vaccinated.”
In addition to their work on COVID-19, the ACCORD team’s efforts will impact other RCMI research. ACCORD has funded twelve pilot research projects to further understand the impact of COVID-19 in rural North Carolinian communities. These projects will look at issues such as the impact of parent-child relationships, barriers to contact tracing in African-American communities, and the impact on food insecurity.
Dr. Kumar is also a longstanding member of the Duke CTSI’s research and career development partnership with NCCU working to create opportunities for multidisciplinary collaborations and ensure that faculty, investigators, and trainees at all career levels have access to core resources and services to do innovative research.
“Addressing health disparities is very important for us,” said Dr. Kumar. “Through our partnership, we are able to facilitate new collaborations between NCCU and Duke faculty and leverage existing NIH-funded programs such as the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) at Duke and Research Centers at Minority Institutions (RCMI) at NCCU for broader impact on health disparities.”
Learn more about ACCORD.