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Community Health & Research

Division of Community Health

For many Hampton Roads residents, the Pediatrics Division of Community Health and Research (CHR) represents the face of EVMS when it comes to children’s health. The Division creates and sustains partnerships to address health challenges in our diverse region in which low income neighborhoods where children have little chance of graduating from high school are adjacent to affluent communities with high achieving students, where inner-city Norfolk children experience as many barriers to receiving quality health care as children on the rural Eastern Shore, where there are barriers to translating the intellectual capital and research of 7 Hampton Roads institutions of higher education into practice.

The goal of CHR is to work with stakeholders from organizations across the region to improve children’s physical and emotional well-being, addressing the social determinants that serve as a barrier to their academic achievement and bright futures.


Instructor Patti Kiger, M.Ed. is the founding director of Eastern Shore Healthy Communities (ESHC), a multi-sector partnership to improve health in this rural underserved area to address nutrition, physical activity, and tobacco as chronic disease prevention, emphasizing the social determinants of health, minority health and health equity. The partnership’s lead initiative is influencing Livable Communities principles; other initiatives include Walkability Workshops; fitness challenges; creating walking trails; wellness policies; student engagement to identify unhealthy advertising; and creating a local Healthy Options Restaurants brand. As part of the national Action Communities for Health, Innovation and EnVironmental changE (ACHIEVE) initiative, leaders from multiple sectors work for policy and environmental change. ESHC has created a Community-Academic Partnerships Work Group linking EVMS researchers with rural stakeholders to develop a Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) agenda. The partnership is funded by NIH, CDC, Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, and Virginia Dept. of Health. Ms. Kiger is the principal investigator on the Hampton Roads Child and Adolescent BMI Data Collection Project funded by Children’s Health System; lead evaluator of a sleep curriculum for medical trainees, and teaches Social Marketing in the EVMS MPH Program. She serves on the Leadership Council for the Eastern Shore Early Childhood Coalition, the Northampton County Education Foundation, the statewide Prevention Connections Board of Directors and Virginia Dept of Health Minority Health & Health Equity Advisory Committee.

Instructor Amy Paulson, M.P.H. is Executive Director of the Consortium for Infant and Child Health (CINCH) whose membership focuses on chronic disease prevention and management, and increasing children’s access to health care. She co-leads the Portsmouth-based ACHIEVE initiative. With support from the American Lung Association she has expanded the Asthma A2 nurse educator program into 20 regional schools enabling nurses to become asthma experts. She also leads a VDH-supported workplace breastfeeding initiative. For her support of the health of children, in 2011 Mrs. Paulson was named WHRO Community Impact Awardee in the category of Regionalism, and Outstanding Volunteer by the American Lung Association. Current CINCH activities include a regional obesity summit to be held at EVMS in March 2013, and numerous initiatives to promote physical activity throughout the region.

Assistant Professor Judith C. Taylor-Fishwick, M.Sc. is Project Director for grants from the Office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) addressing asthma and other health conditions in Norfolk’s low income children. In this capacity she supervises 5 staff members in low income Norfolk neighborhoods, and has developed an advisory board of community health workers from Norfolk public housing. She works closely with CHKD asthma clinicians and primary care pediatricians, fostering a linkage between physicians and community, and is developing a CBPR agenda for Norfolk Public Housing. She was recently awarded a contract by the Norfolk United Way to create a 'Prenatal to Kindergarten' Strategic/Implementation framework. The framework will provide a foundation for a multi-sector city-wide collaboration to improve the health and educational outcomes for children from low incomes families. She serves on National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute committees to disseminate and implement evidence-based asthma clinical guidelines.

Associate Professor Kelli England Will, Ph.D. designs and evaluates large-scale behavior-change programs that benefit the health and safety of children, teens, and young adults. Her areas of research expertise are injury control, health behavior theory, traffic safety, and risk communication. Dr. Will has led teams awarded more than 25 initial and competing continuation grants from federal, state, and private agencies for applied injury prevention research. She's a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, a Nationally Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, and a Delegate of the American Academy of Health Behavior. She is involved in child injury prevention at the regional, state, and national levels, serving on a number of health and safety boards, coalitions, and committees.  Recent projects include:

  • developing a video-intervention and studying the application of effective health risk messages in child passenger safety campaigns
  • expanding youth DUI prevention curricula programs in schools and courtrooms
  • developing and evaluating a school-based safety belt program for 8-12 year-olds (i.e., “tweens”)
  • designing and evaluating an alcohol harm reduction training program for young adults in the military
  • developing a school-based distracted driving intervention program for teenage drivers; and
  • comparing the effectiveness of various message-framing techniques in child occupant protection.


Division Director, Associate Professor Kate Ferguson, Ed.D., M.S. was a microbiology researcher for over 20 years prior to moving into primary care/ community-based research in 2001. She has been the sole or major contributing author for over $15 million in funded grants from federal, state, and private sources. She chairs the Virginia March of Dimes State Program Services Committee which develops statewide initiatives and provides grants to improve birth outcomes, and is co-Project Director (PI: CW Gowen, Jr., MD) on a grant from Health and Human Services BHPr-HRSA to create a Pediatric Public Health Certificate for Residents. She also collaborates with Mrs. Kiger and Mrs. Taylor-Fishwick in developing Community-Based Participatory Research agendas, and represents the Academic Pediatric Association on the Program Committee for the 2013 Pediatric Educational Excellence Across the Continuum National Conference. She conducts workshops in science and grant proposal writing for basic scientists and clinicians, and teaches grant writing, research methods, and statistics.


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