Olajide Williams and Rachel Shelton Named Co-Directors of the Irving Institute’s Community Engagement Core Resource

August 5, 2021

Olajide Williams, MD, MS, Professor and Chief of Staff of the Department of Neurology at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Rachel Shelton, ScD, MPH, Associate Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health, were named Co-Directors of the Community Engagement Core Resource (CECR), effective June 1. They join Rafael A. Lantigua, MD, Professor of Medicine, in Co-Directing the Irving Institute’s community engagement initiative.

Dr. Williams is an expert in stroke disparities, community-based behavioral interventions and implementation science with a focus on minority populations. Dr. Williams is also the developer of InTOuCH, a faith-based Community Health Worker Training Institute serving the Harlem community, which is funded intramurally by Columbia University (CU). He is the Co-Director of the University's Wellness Center, along with numerous other affiliations both inside CU and beyond.

Dr. Shelton is a social and behavioral scientist with expertise in implementation science, cancer prevention/control, health equity, and community-based participatory research. Dr. Shelton’s research focuses on the implementation and sustainability of evidence-based interventions to address health inequities, and she has conducted research nationally in partnership with Community Health Worker programs for over ten years. Under the auspice of the Irving Institute, Dr. Shelton has co-led a new university-wide Implementation Science Initiative at Columbia to build research and training capacity in this area. Her research and training are prolific within the University, nationally and internationally.

Drs. Shelton and Williams will work closely with Dr. Lantigua to continue the integration of community-partnered research approaches across CECR services and activities. They will also continue to provide leadership in implementation science to ensure its integration in academic, clinical and community partnerships and settings.

Elizabeth G. Cohn, RN, PhD will transition from CECR Co-Director to Community Engagement and Research Liaison working across CTSAs at Cornell and Columbia, as well as the national All of Us Research Program to further bolster participation of underrepresented populations in genetic and genomic research. Dr. Cohn provided overall direction and implementation of novel, bi-directional, community engagement programs during her tenure as CECR Co-Director. Dr. Cohn joins the Office of the Provost at Hunter College as Associate Provost for Research.

Dr. Sidney Hankerson and Dr. Alejandra Aguirre will continue respectively as Associate Director and Assistant Director of CECR.