REACH Initiative

Research & Equity in Academic-Community Partnerships for Health

About the REACH Initiative

Research & Equity in Academic-Community Partnerships for Health (REACH) is an initiative, funded by the Office of the Vice Provost of Research (OVPR) at the University of Pennsylvania and led by Sara Solomon (Deputy Director, Penn Injury Science Center) and Nicole Thomas (Executive Director, Urban Health Lab), to build a bi-directional bridge between community and academia to promote more impactful research that is responsive to community needs.

Inspired by the Penn Community Scholars Program (Penn CSP), a program that has trained and built capacity among over 50 individuals from community-based organizations since 2016, REACH is taking the next step by designing training for academics and co-learning opportunities between academia and community to promote partnerships built on shared values, aligned visions, power sharing, and a commitment to health equity.

With the Penn Injury Science Center and the Urban Health Lab as the primary academic feeder and the Penn Community Scholars Program as the primary community feeder, we leverage our connections to bring both communities and academics to the table to partner and learn from each other.


REACH aims to partner community-based organizations with academics to improve the health of vulnerable and underserved communities by:

1. Building trust within community organizations and individuals

2. Increasing knowledge and awareness of the benefits of community-based participatory research

3. Conducting high-impact, community engaged research that is mutually beneficial to the communities it is intended to serve

4. Disseminating findings to inform practice and policy.


REACH will work to ensure the community, local leaders, and Penn faculty and trainees have the knowledge, resources and opportunities to effectively and efficiently partner in research. As a growing initiative, we will design, implement, and evaluate REACH using a phased, inclusive, and equitable approach. 


Phase 1

Identify the facilitators, barriers, attitudes, knowledge, experiences, and skills to conduct community-based participatory research (CBPR) among both academics and community organizations


Phase 2

Design, pilot, and evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, appropriateness, cost, sustainability, and effectiveness of the REACH intervention

Phase 3

Develop a stakeholder-informed conceptual model and optimized intervention design with a corresponding curriculum and implementation toolkit


Phase 1 complete

Phase 2 in progress

Learn More

Use the buttons below to learn more about REACH or contact the leadership team


Nicole Thomas, MBA


Sara Solomon, MPH, RD


Lucy Tuton, PhD

Associate Director

Andrew Belfiglio, MPH

Project Manager

Eugenia South, MD, MSHP

Faculty Advisor

Zachary Meisel, MD, MPH, MSHP

Faculty Advisor