Lightfoot named co-director of NC TraCS Community and Stakeholder Engagement (CaSE) program
The behavioral specialist will take over for longtime CaSE leader Lori Carter-Edwards
Alexandra Lightfoot, EdD, Associate Professor of Health Behavior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been named co-director of the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute's Community and Stakeholder Engagement (CaSE) program.
Lightfoot's appointment took effect in November 2021. She has taken over leadership from Lori Carter-Edwards, PhD, MPH, a social epidemiologist, health educator, and expert in community-engaged research who held leadership roles in CaSE for the last ten years. Carter-Edwards left UNC in August to become the first Assistant Dean for Community Engagement at the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine. Mike Kappelman, MD, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics and Epidemiology, will continue in his role as co-director of CaSE.
"Lori Carter-Edwards has been such an inspiring leader with a wealth of knowledge and experienceit's daunting to step into the role she filled so well," said Lightfoot. "I am honored to take on this role to strengthen existing and generate new approaches to community and stakeholder engaged research."
Lightfoot has worked closely with NC TraCS since she joined the UNC faculty in 2008. Until recently, she served as Faculty lead within the CaSE Program.
"I am pleased to see Alex Lightfoot serve as the new CaSE Director," said Carter-Edwards. "Alex is an advocate for equity. Her work both here and abroad consistently speaks to her commitment to the communities she serves. Her thoughtfulness, coupled with engaged action will serve her well in her new leadership role."
Lightfoot is a national award-winning leader in using community-based participatory research (CBPR) to address health disparities in collaboration with communities. She is director of the Community Engagement and Training Cores at the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP), UNC's CDC-funded Prevention Research Center. Through her roles at HPDP and NC TraCS, she has provided technical assistance and consultation to build capacity in CBPR, leveraging community expertise to strengthen research partnerships through a community engagement consulting model known as CBPR Charrettes. The Charrette model was awarded the inaugural UNC Provost's Engaged Scholarship Award for Exemplary Partnerships in 2012.
"Alex's focus on health disparities research and advancing health equity within North Carolina and beyond will be critical for NC TraCS and our UNC community given our mission to conduct high-impact research that ultimately improves the health of all North Carolinians," said Kappelman.
Lightfoot has long had an interest in the intersection of adolescent health disparities and educational inequities. She has extensive experience using participatory and arts-based approaches, including photovoice, to engage youth and their adult supporters in the research process and inform community-driven intervention development, implementation, and evaluation. She has contributed her engagement expertise and knowledge of the CBPR approach to many research studies addressing inequities in cancer, HIV, and, most recently, maternal health and birth outcomes.
Her work has been recognized with the 2015 Thomas A. Bruce Award for Academic Leadership in Community-Based Public Health by the Community-Based Public Health Caucus of the American Public Health Association, a 2016-2018 Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholarship, and the 2019 Innovation in Teaching Award from the Department of Health Behavior. She holds an EdM and an EdD from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Administration, Planning and Social Policy Research.
Since she has assumed the new role of co-Director, Lightfoot has been able to support the development and launch of a new NC TraCS Community and Patient Advisory Board focused on equity in research and in institute-wide strategic planning initiatives. The board will inform the institute's programming and partnerships over the next 7-10 years.
"The qualities that make Alex a successful community-engaged researcher are also what make her a great leader," said Alicia Bilheimer, MPH, Director of Engaged Science at CaSE. "She is intentional, insightful, reflective, and invests deeply in relationship building. She is great at building up and capitalizing on each individual's unique strengths and provides the latitude for those she works with to pursue work that is valuable and meaningful to them."
About NC TraCS
NC TraCS is the integrated hub of the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program at UNC that combines the research strengths, resources and opportunities of the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, partner institutions RTI International (RTI) in the Research Triangle Park, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (N.C. A&T) in Greensboro, and North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
The mission of NC TraCS is to accelerate clinical and translational research from health science to discovery, to dissemination, to patients, and communities. For more information, visit: tracs.unc.edu.