Expanding Health Innovation at the Population Health Center

Photo Courtesy of Michelle Thompson

CHHS opens center to expand research and clinical care


The Population Health Center opened its doors on Friday, Oct. 18. The center will be used for clinical care and as the newest research facility for the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS).

According to Allison Cuellar, professor of health and administration policy, this clinical care and research center is a location meant for collaborating with community partners, conducting workforce training and providing a new place to pursue the regular academic mission set by the college.

“We run free clinics led by nurse practitioners and so this is our tenth Mason in [and] Partners Free Clinic site. We provide services in this center regarding women’s health and immunization and physicals, which we do for some of the school’s systems,” said Cuellar. “Kids must have their physicals before they enroll, so we want to help promote getting them into schools and so we provide that service in collaboration with the school system.”

Along with clinical services, research projects led by faculty also take place at the Population Health Center.

“We are currently running the Health Starts Here study. It is a freshman cohort study where people have volunteered to participate in the study and be followed for four years.”

Cuellar continued, “They come to this center where they get their physical, have their blood drawn, we collect their saliva and we do a bone density scan and body composition assessment. We are studying the effect of college on the health of college students.”

With the clinical space and laboratories available at the center, study coordinators and experienced professionals will be able to launch research projects in the future from this site.

CHHS typically focuses on the areas of nutrition, social work and community health when creating a study or launching a long-term research project.

“We are tele-enabled, so we can also adapt to studies where the visit is with somebody remotely. So, somebody on the remote end has some basic equipment but our nurse practitioners and social workers here can examine the individual from afar. That really expands treatment and our capacity to do research,” Cuellar said.

This center was proposed by CHHS Dean Germaine Louis, who argued that the center would bring research of public health closer to students and to showcase what public health looks like.

Some reasons that students would come to the Population Health Center are if they are participating in any one of the center’s faculty-led studies or to be a part of community partnerships on research. There are also educational events held in the center that allow CHHS students to learn and explore more into their field outside of their curriculum.

“We really want to promote the idea that research is fun and interesting. We have a lot of students who come here to get the hands-on experience they need for their major in the CHHS department, and we are also planning to have course offerings that include experience here,” Cuellar said.

Students can also participate in a project or practicum where they carve out a problem they want to tackle regarding nutrition, social work, or community health. The goal for this project is to not only get experience but also to serve the community in a health-related way.

“The main goal of the Population Health Center is to make health visible. That is our tagline,” Cuellar said.