The National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, just awarded a $3,073,371 grant to Andrew Plunk, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, the grant’s principal investigator. 

The R37 Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Award is titled “Using Differences in Perceived Legitimacy and Resident Compliance to Promote Fair and Effective Implementation of Smoke Free Housing.” The MERIT Award, which provides longer-term support for promising researchers within the first decade of their careers, is chosen by NIH staff from a pool of R01 applications with exceptional scores. MERIT awardees may obtain up to seven years of support in two periods: the initial five-year award and an extension of up to two additional years, based on an expedited NCI review of the accomplishments during the initial funding period.  

EVMS co-investigators on the grant include Amy Paulson, MPH, Instructor of Pediatrics and Director of the Consortium for Infant and Child Health (CINCH) based at EVMS; and Brynn Sheehan, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and team member with the EVMS-Sentara Healthcare Analytics and Delivery Science Institute. Other co-investigators include faculty members with Harvard School of Public Health, Saint Louis University and the University of Southern California.  

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) mandated that all public housing in the nation be made smoke-free by July 31, 2018. However, the prior work of Dr. Plunk’s team suggests these policies are considered unfair by residents, which undermines compliance and potentially creates negative unintended consequences. The goal of the grant is to verify how these policies can be harmful and propose adaptations to increase their effectiveness. 

Public housing communities in Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Suffolk will be involved in the research. 

“Dr. Plunk has done a superb job of studying and publishing important work in public health and interventions, particularly for our nation’s youth in underserved communities,” says Richard V. Homan, MD, President and Provost of EVMS and Dean of the School of Medicine. “His collective work advances our academic reputation and contributes materially to the vision of EVMS.”