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UVI to Participate in Eastern Caribbean Health Study

The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), University of Puerto Rico and University of the West Indies are participating in a study to examine the risk factors and prevalence of heart disease, cancer and diabetes in the eastern Caribbean. The study is made possible by a five-year, $5 million federal grant awarded to Yale School of Medicine Professor Marcella Nunez Smith, M.D. Nunez Smith, an assistant professor of general internal medicine and assistant director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program, will lead the study.

The $5 million grant from the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (part of the National Institutes of Health) establishes the Eastern Caribbean Health Outcomes Research Network (ECHORN). The ECHORN Coordinating Center will be based at Yale. The ECHORN project aims to form a research collaborative across the eastern Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Barbados, and Trinidad & Tobago. Nunez Smith's goal is to help improve health outcomes across the region by establishing a cross-island surveillance partnership. ECHORN will also work to increase research capacity and infrastructure within the region. Data collection should begin by the summer of 2012.

"We plan to expand clinical research with racial/ethnic minority populations in a part of the world that is now threatened by an epidemic of non-communicable, chronic diseases," Nunez Smith said. "We are fortunate to partner with leading institutions in the region including the University of the Virgin Islands, the University of Puerto Rico, and two campuses of the University of the West Indies to achieve ECHORN's stated objectives."

Nunez Smith is also a researcher at Yale's Global Health Leadership Institute. She says the research findings will have direct implications for health policy in the region and for health inequities research and policy in the mainland United States.

Nunez Smith's mother, University of the Virgin Islands Nursing Professor Maxine Nunez, D.P.H., is UVI's site principal investigator for the study.

Nunez Smith is a graduate of the All Saints Cathedral School on St. Thomas and Swarthmore College. She earned her medical degree at Jefferson Medical College and did her residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital. She completed a fellowship in academic medicine at Yale University.