New Community Advisory Board will guide research at VCU

The Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research welcomes ten Richmond-area community members, researchers and advocates to a new board that will foster communication between members of the community and Virginia Commonwealth University researchers.

The Greater Richmond Community Advisory Board will guide and inform research at VCU by defining research priorities, evaluating projects and asset mapping. The board targets the regional health inequities and disparities of Richmond and the surrounding cities and counties, but the methods developed and information gathered are disseminated nationwide.

“We see now, more than ever, how important it is to get not just community input and perspective, but community leadership when it comes to clinical and translational research,” said Alex Krist, M.D., M.P.H., associate director of the Wright Center and its lead for community-engaged research. “The new Community Advisory Board will be instrumental in doing that – so that VCU researchers can tackle the pressing health equity issues in the Richmond area.”

The board is a collaboration between VCU, VCU Health and the Greater Richmond community and a diverse representation of community members, reflective of the Richmond area.

Risha Berry, Ph.D., is the founder and CEO of Strengths Find Her, LLC, which supports leaders and communities in correcting inequalities through systems-building and outcomes management. She brings over thirty years of experience as a municipal leader in urban services, academia and early childhood. She lives in Henrico County.

Willie Hilliard is a native of Richmond with over 16 years experience in community engagement focusing on education reform, housing affordability and racial health equity. He is honored to serve on the CAB to bring attention to the disparities in the housing practices in this city that threaten the health and well-being of its lower income citizens.

Glynis Boyd Hughes hails from the Bellemeade community of Richmond. She is a higher education practitioner with a foundation built in social justice, equity, and belonging. Prior to her career in higher education, she worked in human services for over 25 years, including 17 years as a social worker for the Richmond Department of Social Services.

Stephanie Flowers represents Richmond and Henrico County. Most recently, she has served as a community health worker for Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, focusing on COVID-19 vaccine education. She has also worked to provide resources and support to those living in low-income and community housing.

Zanda Miller, M.S., represents Petersburg and Colonial Heights. She has worked in the mental health field for over 25 years in Mississippi and Virginia, serving as the director of a group home for adolescent males and with foster care agencies. She currently works as a case manager at Pathways-VA, Inc., a non-profit agency in Petersburg.

Robert Noriega represents the Petersburg area. He has 20+ years of experience in reaching African American, Hispanic and other communities of color with tailored health education messages. In partnership with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, he has developed projects for the aforementioned communities at a national level.

Carol Olson is an advocate and activist in mental health, addiction and trauma spheres, serving in executive leadership roles at local and regional advocacy centers, statewide coalitions and national organizations. She divides her time between leading Project Empower at VCU Health and producing radio shows on women and leadership with Women & Politics at WRIR.

Youssef Roman, Pharm.D., Ph.D., represents the VCU School of Pharmacy in the Richmond area. He is a clinical pharmacist and pharmacologist. The focus of his research is to understand the variability in response to treatments and increase the representation of underserved populations in biomedical research.

Sherrell Thompson represents the City of Richmond. She has worked in low-income communities for the last nine years and is a graduate of Leadership Metro Richmond Class of 2020. She serves on the boards for Northside Strong, Richmond Public Schools HeadStart Policy Council and CHW Association.

Iris Woodson represents Powhatan County, where she enjoys serving others in the community, whether connecting someone to a local business or supporting future leaders through school programs. She’s honored to serve on this board to bring awareness and resources to underrepresented communities and health equity to rural areas.

Board members are chosen for their work and commitment to the Richmond area and paid a stipend for their services.

The Wright Center’s Greater Richmond Community Advisory Board: top row, left to right, Carol Olson, Glynis Boyd Hughes, Iris Woodson, Risha Berry, Ph.D., and Robert Noriega; bottom row, left to right, Sherrell Thompson, Stephanie Flowers, Willie Hilliard, Youssef Roman, Pharm.D., Ph.D., and Zanda Miller, M.S.

  • Community Engagement
  • Clinical and translational research
  • clinical and translational science

Virginia Commonwealth University

CTSA Program In Action Goals
Goal 2: Engage Patients and Communities in Every Phase of the Translational Process
Goal 3: Promote the Integration of Special and Underserved Populations in Translational Research Across the Human Lifespan