WSU College of Nursing receives DMC Foundation award to address medical mistrust, reduce health disparities in Detroit

The WSU College of Nursing received a one-year, $50,000 grant from the DMC Foundation to help increase cultural competence and essential public health skills in its nursing students/clinicians and to reduce health disparities in two underserved Detroit communities: WSU’s campus health center and Detroit’s Virginia Park neighborhood.

The long-term goal of the program is that sustained and repeated positive interactions with health care personnel will lead to improved community trust in the health care system. Through participation in an upper-level nursing methods course/module and with nursing faculty supervision, 160 undergraduate or graduate Wayne State nursing students will provide public health education and COVID-19 contact tracing to local residents.

Both nursing students and community members will benefit from this partnership. Dr. Laurie M. Lauzon Clabo, WSU Interim Provost and principal investigator for the award explained, “Nursing students will learn skills to better interactions with patients who may be wary of health professionals and the information they provide because of historic and systemic racial bias. Community members will benefit by having access to accurate and reliable health information through trustworthy health care workers.” Community members will also gain an increase in COVID-19 prevention, testing and treatment knowledge and be better prepared for a future health outbreak event.

“The COVID-19 virus has disproportionately impacted low-income communities and communities of color, particularly in Detroit,” said Dr. Ramona Benkert, Interim Dean of WSU’s College of Nursing. “Due to historic and systemic racism, many residents do not trust health authorities and systems to provide accurate and reliable information. This crisis is compounded by the fact that Detroit residents have higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma, all of which put them at risk of developing severe complications of COVID-19.”

Nursing students will tailor health information for various patient populations. For example, older patients may choose an in-person discussion while younger patients might prefer social media messaging. Creating these different formats will equally benefit nursing student’s interpersonal and critical thinking skills. 

Dr. Dawn Aziz, an instructional design expert, adjunct faculty member and director of WSU Organization and Employee Development, will lead the development and production of culturally sensitive and appropriate materials in multimedia format, which is critical to the launch of the project. She noted, “The curriculum and online training about competence and mistrust will become a regularly offered upper-level elective course/module not only for nursing students but other health-related professional students at Wayne State as well.”

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering more than 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 27,000 students. Wayne State is one of the nation's preeminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit

The DMC Foundation is dedicated to promoting the welfare of the general public in the metropolitan Detroit area through the support of health-related research, education and activities that benefit the community. The DMC Foundation is a supporting organization of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.        

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