Members of Stanford's Community Advisory Board for Clinical Research

Designing a Successful Community-Based Research Project

When Sandra Winter, PhD, MHA (senior research scientist, Stanford Prevention Research Center) began planning a new project that depended on people in the Bay Area volunteering to join an online registry, she worried about how to recruit 10,000 subjects. Fortunately, her colleague, Jodi Prochaska, PhD, MPH (associate professor, SPRC) had a ready suggestion: ask CAB.

The Community Advisory Board for Clinical Research (CAB) is an 18-month-old part of the Stanford Center for Clinical Research (SCCR); it helps leaders of investigator-initiated Stanford studies with challenging issues. The board was established in January 2016. Nicole Ventre, MS (project manager, SCCR) is one of CAB’s operations co-chairs, along with Katherine Connors, MPH, and they spearhead CAB.

As faculty co-chair of CAB, Prochaska suggested that Winter give it a try. “She knew what CAB was capable of and she knew our project,” says Winter. “We were a good option because she was a bridge between CAB and SPRC. We were the very first project to go before the CAB.”

Winter’s research study is not like a clinical trial where patients are offered an intervention. “Our study is about trying to understand what well-being is,” she says. “So our question for CAB was: How can we add value to individuals and the community when we’re not offering any treatment at the moment?”

Members of CAB are enthusiastic about their participation in ongoing research “from researchers who seek advice on what needs to be done,” according to CAB member Philip Dah. As senior director of a social service agency, Dah works with homeless families and single adults. His CAB service, among a diverse group of young and old men and women, some of them former researchers at Stanford, is, he says, “a really fun project to be a part of. I don’t have a research background so the subjects that come up are new to me, and this gives me a chance to go online and learn more about them.”

Dah talks about the kind of matter CAB gets to discuss with a researcher: “A common issue has been how to ‘sell’ their project to the community. How are people going to receive it? Are they doing a good job of marketing it? How do they get people involved and excited about research? There are a lot of people who are not interested in getting involved in medical research. So the problem is – how to get information about a research project out and how to get people’s buy-in to it.”

It's wonderful to have a board that is engaged and motivated every time with thoughtful consideration and contributions.

“There are a lot of different suggestions from different member of the Board. It’s not one size fits all. All the members of the Board come with different backgrounds, have done different kinds of work; some of the members are retired and they bring different experiences depending on what they have done in the past. There’s always a broad range of suggestions.”

CAB came through for Winter. “One thing that they suggested that we thought was very helpful and are actually implementing was that we work with community partners in a way that benefited the community. We have experts on physical activity and nutrition and tobacco cessation at the SPRC, and we have a lot of materials. What we are doing is curating a library of health promotion materials, which can be shared with the community in a number of ways, for example as an infographic, podcast, webinar, workbook or even a half-day workshop. In this way, community residents will hear about well-being from experts. In exchange, some of them may want to sign up. Ultimately we felt that our added value is our expertise and our ability to provide content through in-person or technology-mediated approaches.”

Ventre points out that interest in the Community Advisory Board among Stanford faculty is increasing. Due to this increase in interest, additional presentation slots will be added in 2018. Additionally, she says, “we might start thinking more about specialty boards, such as pediatrics or cardiology or mental health, in the future.” She concludes, “It is wonderful to have a board that is engaged and motivated every time with thoughtful consideration and contributions.”

To learn more about joining the community-focused WELL initiative, presented to the CAB by Sandi Winter, see: