‘Blazing a Trail Where No Path Existed’

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Roger Anderson
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The Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences (NUCATS) Institute has appointed Melvin Thompson, executive director of the Endeleo Institute, as its inaugural Community Partner on the NUCATS Executive Council. Photos by Roger Anderson

Not many executive bios begin with a crowning achievement in the eighth grade.

“Graduating as class president from Horace Mann Elementary School was a big deal. My mom was a teacher there and it helped fulfil early dreams she had for me as I matriculated to St. Ignatius College Prep,” says Melvin Thompson, executive director of the Endeleo Institute, a nonprofit focused on creating a culture of health in Chicago’s Washington Heights neighborhood.

For Thompson, health, family and community are intrinsically linked. In service to those priorities, he recently accepted an appointment as the inaugural Community Partner on the Northwestern University Clinical and Translation Sciences (NUCATS) Institute Executive Council.

“Joining the Executive Council seems a natural progression from the community-engaged research that today forms a foundational pillar of our programming work in health, education and community development at the Endeleo Institute,” says Thompson, who is also a member of the Alliance for Research in Chicagoland Communities (ARCC) Steering Committee in NUCAT’s Center for Community Health. “For me, it means blazing a trail where no path existed.”

The NUCATS Institute provides essential infrastructure, resources and services to facilitate translational research to improve patient and community health. Translational research ensures that discoveries in the laboratory applies to studies in humans and that speeds the adoption of best practices into communities. Part of the way that NUCATS does this is to develop community partnerships. ARCC helps NUCATS to build and sustain partnerships with a diverse group of community partners including community- and faith-based organizations, patient advocacy organizations and public agencies. ARCC provides partnership brokering, capacity-building, and funding to support community-engaged research. Community-engaged research is a bidirectional exchange of expertise between academics (scientific experts) and communities (local, cultural, practice, lived experience experts) to increase the research impact for improving health. Community partners like Melvin and others serving on the ARCC Steering Committee help to ensure that NUCATS is doing work that is driven by and responsive to community leadership.

As a member of the Executive Council, Thompson will participate fully in Council discussions and help develop an implementation strategy for the Research Enabled and Accelerated in Community Healthcare (REACH) initiative. REACH will further integrate research into the clinical care system to ultimately ensure that every clinical encounter can be an opportunity for research participation, precision medicine and learning to improve human health.

“Mr. Thompson’s appointment to NUCATS’ Executive Council represents the culmination of his deep engagement and leadership with our Alliance for Research in Chicagoland Communities Steering Committee,” said Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research, the chair and Eileen M. Foell Professor of Preventive Medicine, and director of NUCATS. “He has been a force for making our community engagement activities deeper, broader and much more meaningful. His insightful leadership will now assist us with even broader initiatives, while substantially enhancing the diversity of perspectives on our senior leadership team. He is a remarkable and inspiring individual, and I am so pleased he has agreed to assume this role.”

Read more: https://www.nucats.northwestern.edu/news/2020/thompson-endeleo-ec.html