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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Staff Q&A: Grisel MarieRobles-Schrader, MPA, Research Portfolio Manager for Community & Stakeholder Engagement at Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences (NUCATS) Institute

Grisel Marie Robles-Schrader, MPA

Grisel Marie Robles-Schrader, MPA,research portfolio manager and stakeholder engagement for the Center for Community Health and the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences (NUCATS) Institute, partners with scientists to inform research design, implementation and dissemination. She also helps scientists think about different strategies to engage stakeholders in ways that are meaningful and mutually beneficial.

Where are you originally from?   
Born and raised in Chicago, however, my family is from Puerto Rico. Every summer my parents would send my sister and I there to stay with our grandparents. These experiences shaped my identity and connection to the island.

What is your educational background?
My bachelor’s degree is in communications. In 2010, I received a master’s degree in public administration concentrated in metropolitan planning and urban affairs. I obtained both degrees at DePaul University.

Tell us about your professional background.  
In college, I became very interested in HIV/AIDS and sexual reproductive health issues. I pursued a position with the policy department at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, where I had the opportunity to learn about the intersection of public health, community mobilization and public policy. In 2004, I began working on my first research study, with my mentor, Dr. Gary Harper. Connect to Protect®, a multi-site community mobilization study, focused on identifying and achieving structural changes aimed at reducing HIV among adolescents and young adults. Funded by the NIH through the Adolescent Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions (ATN), the project involved 15 sites across the United States and Puerto Rico. Six years later, I transitioned into the role of project director with another ATN multi-site study focused on HIV testing and linkage to care effort for Latinx adolescents and youth adults. When the study ended, I worked as an independent consultant for a few years before coming to Northwestern.

Why did you choose to work at Northwestern?
The Center for Community Health (CCH) announced a new position that would build an infrastructure for the Center’s consultation requests and establish a new program—Stakeholder-Academic Resource Panels (ShARPs) custom panel sessions intended to create spaces for academics and community stakeholders to discuss research. Excited at the prospect of working on engagement efforts across a wide range of health topics and having the opportunity to build projects from the ground up, I decided to apply for the position. Two and half years later, here I am. 

How do you help scientists at the medical school? 
I help scientists think about the many different types of people that can help inform research design, implementation and dissemination. I also help scientists think about different strategies to engage stakeholders in ways that are meaningful and mutually beneficial. The work is not easy but it is extremely rewarding to be in spaces where these dialogues move people to work together and to change the way research work is done. 

In November, Josefina Serrato, ShARP recruitment coordinator and I hosted a ShARP for Namrantha Kandula, MD, MPH, associate professor and Swapna Dave, MPH, MBBS, research project manager, that included 13 panel members at the Skokie Village Hall. Dr. Kandula presented on South Asian Healthy Lifestyle Initiative, a study that aims to reduce heart disease among South Asians. Asma Ali, PhD, of A.A. Associates, served as a community co-facilitator alongside me. Panel members offer feedback on ways to improve the relevance, practicality, and potential value of the research study.  We were excited to learn that the India Post and the India Tribune picked up the session.

It’s important to note, my accomplishments to date are due in large part to my team in CCH. Over the past 10 years they have built a strong foundation of community engaged research programs and services at Northwestern.

What is your favorite part of the job?
I enjoy getting to work with so many different individuals throughout the university and from different community sectors, with diverse personal and professional backgrounds. 

What exciting projects are you working on? 
I’m working closely with Keith Herzog, assistant director of evaluation, NUCATS and Mike Fagen, PhD, MPH, associate professor, Masters in Public Health Program Director, and CCH staff to strengthen CCH’s evaluation infrastructure so that the Center can continue to demonstrate the purpose and value of community-engaged research. 

What do you like to do in your spare time? 
I like to work out at OrangeTheory Fitness (the coaches are fun and extremely supportive!) and I like to read.

Connect with Grisel on LinkedIn.