Research Divisions

The Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences at Wayne State University is dedicated to leading in research and advancing family medicine and public health sciences. This commitment is exemplified in all aspects of our work, from the scholarly efforts that we require of our residents to the many research studies in various disciplines conducted by our faculty. We are involved in nationally funded research in many areas, including behavioral science, medical education, occupational/environmental health, practice-based research, community-based research, and epidemiology. The DFMPHS is the academic home of the metropolitan Detroit-based practice-based research network, MetroNet.

Past publications and grants may be found in previous Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences Annual Reports.
An excerpt from Wayne State Alumni Newsletter: Public Health Partnership and Community Health Outreach


Current Department Research 

Walking for me and my baby: Pilot testing an intervention for pregnant Black women

Dr. Dawn Misra is a co-investigator on this Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan funded project that began in September 2016. The objective of this project is to learn more about Black women's barriers to physical activity in pregnancy and to pilot a walking intervention, developed with older Black women in Chicago. In earlier work we demonstrated that physical activity in pregnancy appears to reduce risk of adverse birth outcomes for Black women.  This study will help us move towards a large scale randomized intervention on physical activity in pregnancy.

Developing a Preschool Obesity Intervention for Families Enrolled in WIC (Project Grow Strong)

Dr. Towner is the PI on this NIH-funded pilot randomized controlled trial that examines the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of a community and home-based preschool obesity intervention compared to standard of care for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). This project is a partnership with the Michigan WIC program and Dr. April Carcone (also FMPHS faculty) is a Co-Investigator. The intervention being tested was developed based upon our formative work where we interviewed WIC families with overweight and obese preschoolers to determine their needs and preferences in a program that targeted healthy lifestyle behaviors and weight in early childhood. 

Development a Smartphone Intervention Targeting Healthy Food-Related Budgeting, Purchasing, and Routines to Address Obesity in Early Childhood.

Dr. Towner is the PI on this Targeted Research Award grant from the Society of Pediatric Psychology (Division 54 of the American Psychological Association). This project is also being conducted in partnership with the Michigan WIC program and Dr. Mark Greenwald (Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neurosciences) are Co-Investigators. The aim of this project is to identify food-related purchasing patterns, budgeting skills, and routines that differentiate caregivers with preschoolers who are obese from those with preschoolers who are of a healthy weight. Outcomes will inform development of a smartphone Just-In-Time Adaptive Intervention (JITAI) targeting those behaviors the project identifies as increasing preschooler obesity risk. 

Promoting a Healthier Urban Community: Prioritization and Community-aware Visualization of Risk Factors for Pediatric Obesity

Dr. Towner is a Co-PI with Drs. Ming Dong and Dongxiao Zhu (Department of Computer Science) on this grant funded by the National Science Foundation. The primary aims of this study are to develop and beta-test an innovative algorithm that integrates multiple data sets spanning child, family, and community levels to identify an individual preschooler's unique risk factors for obesity. Long-term, this algorithm will be integrated into a larger health informatics technology system that aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of screening and implementation of Stage 1 treatment of preschool obesity in primary care settings. 

Motivational enhancement system for adherence (MESA) in youth starting ART    mesa logo

Dr. Outlaw is Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI) of this National Institutes of Health (NIH/NIMH) funded project that began in August 2015. The objective of this project is to test a brief, 2-session, computer-based motivational intervention to prevent adherence difficulties among youth newly beginning antiretroviral therapy (ART). All elements of the project (assessment, intervention, control condition) were piloted in a small multi-site randomized controlled trial in the NIH-funded Adolescent Medicine Trials Medicine Network for HIV/AIDS interventions (ATN). Results suggested feasibility and acceptability of the study protocol as well as trends for improved adherence when comparing the intervention to an active control condition.


Health department demonstration projects for comprehensive prevention, care, behavioral health and social services for men who have sex with men (MSM) of color at risk for and living with HIV infection

Dr. Outlaw is the Consortium PI/Evaluator of this Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded project that began in September 2016. The objective of this project is to work with funded health departments and their community partners in the seamless coordination of service providers, services, trainers, and technical assistance providers to ensure culturally, developmentally, and linguistically competent service provision.

Scale it up: Effectiveness-implementation research to enhance HIV-related self-management among adolescents andscaleitup young adults

Dr. Outlaw is Co-I (Co-Lead of the Management Core) for this NIH/NICHD funded project that began in September 2016. The objective of this ATN U19 is to assemble research teams to develop, test, and bring to practice self-management interventions that positively impact the youth HIV prevention and care cascades. This study focuses on the process of improving self-management among youth, including identification, implementation, and assessment of efficacious and effective interventions by employing three types of effectiveness implementation hybrid designs.

Check out their website to learn more: 

Targeting prospective memory to improve HIV adherence in adolescents at risk for substance abuse

Dr. Outlaw is Co-I of this NIH/NIDA funded project that began in August 2012. The objective of this phased project is to develop and test an intervention to target prospective memory to improve HIV medication adherence in adolescents at risk for substance abuse. This study will lead to a larger scale randomized intervention involving the impact of prospective memory on HIV medication adherence in adolescents at risk for substance abuse.

The role of alcohol disparities in HIV risk among sexual minority youth 

Dr. Outlaw is a collaborator for this NIH/NIAAA funded project that began in May 2016.

This objective of this project is to continue the prior work done by the investigators at Northwestern University and the IMPACT Program, using pooled Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data to highlight health disparities among sexual minority youth, which resulted in a special issue of the American Journal of Public Health published in early 2014.

HIV testing, community education and prevention programming for youth

Dr. Outlaw is the PI for this Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation funded project that began in August 2014. The objective of this project is to provide HIV counseling and testing, and prevention services (group and individual) for high-risk heterosexual urban youth.

HIV prevention and outreach services for African American sexual minority men

Dr. Outlaw is the PI for this Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) funded project that began in September 2016. The objective of this project is to provide HIV counseling and testing, outreach and condom distribution programming, and group-level prevention programming for African American sexual minority men.

Tobacco reduction for people living with HIV/AIDS pilot project

Dr. Outlaw is the PI for this Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) funded project that began in October 2016. The objective of this project is to provide smoking cessation planning, education, and services for youth living with HIV. 

Development of a Behavioral Economics Guided Just-In-Time Adaptive Intervention to Reduce Heavy Drinking and Loss-of-Control Eating in Female Young Adult Survivors of Sexual or Dating Violencewe study

Dr. Angie Tiura, Assistant Professor in the Division of Behavioral Sciences, is primary investigator on an NIAAA K01 project funded July 2016-June 2021. The project includes 3 phases; we are currently in phase 1. We will soon begin an online study of WSU female students to assess experiences with dating and sexual violence in adolescence and college, alcohol and food consumption beliefs and behaviors, reinforcement from drinking and eating, consequences of eating and drinking, ability to delay rewards, stress, difficulties with emotions, executive functioning, and acceptability of intervention delivery types. Mentors include Mark Greenwald (Psychiatry), Steven Ondersma (Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute and Psychiatry), and Inbal Nahum-Shani (University of Michigan Institute for Social Research).


Physical Activity in Minority Youth: Effects on Eating, Cognition, and Metabolism

fit families

Drs. Elizabeth Towner (Division of Behavioral Sciences), Angela Tiura (DBS), Mark Greenwald (co-PI, Psychiatry), Neha Gothe (co-I, Kinesiology), and Paul Burghardt (co-I, Nutrition & Food Sciences) are currently conducting a study examining the effects of acute physical activity on metabolism, cognition and executive function, and food choice and intake among African American adolescents with obesity. This project is funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research, as part of the WSU DOTS (Diabetes and Obesity Team Science) initiative, and builds off of our past project that focused on examining the extent to which behavioral economic aspects of caregiver food purchasing and environmental factors influence adolescent food choice and intake. This long term goal of the study is to translate the findings into feasible and effective prevention and intervention programs to decrease obesity among African American adolescents.


Multi-component technology intervention for African American emerging adults with asthma

asthma project

Dr. Karen MacDonell is principal investigator on a project funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The 5-year, $2.7 million grant is a trial of a technology-based motivational intervention designed to improve adherence to medication in African American young adults with asthma. The program consists of two sessions of a computer-delivered, interactive, tailored intervention combined with text messaging for both assessment and intervention. 



A SMART trial evaluating phased implementation of text messaging, cell phone support, and contingency management in youth nonadherent to antiretroviral medication

Dr. Karen MacDonell is co-principal investigator on a $2.3 million project to test a cell phone support intervention to help youth with HIV take their antiretroviral medication as prescribed. The project uses a "SMART" (Sequential Multiple Assignment Randomized Trial) design to compare the intervention to text-messaged reminders to take medications, as well as explore additional questions about offering incentives to participants and tapering intervention frequency over time. Dr. MacDonell's co-principal investigator is Dr. Marvin Belzer of Children's Hospital of LA and USC.  Dr. Samiran Ghosh of WSU Family Medicine are co-investigators. This project is part of the Scale it Up project in the new Adolescent Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions.

Development of an MI implementation intervention in adolescent HIV care settings

Dr. Karen MacDonell is co-principal investigator on a pilot project to develop an implementation intervention to increase evidence-based patient-provider communication strategies using a Motivational Interviewing (MI) framework. The primary goal is to find the best way to bring MI for use in youth HIV clinics to improve self-management for youth living with HIV.  We also aim to find the most effective approaches to measuring and sustaining providers' MI skills over time. Dr. April Carcone of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences is a co-investigator on this project.

PRIME Net Center in Practice-based Research and Learning

Dr. Anne Victoria Neale is the PI on this AHRQ-funded project that involves the PRIME Net consortium of 8 practice-based research networks (PBRNs). PRIME Net brings together experienced practice-based researchers with a shared commitment to improving clinical care and health outcomes in traditionally underrepresented and often underserved populations. The objective of this P30 Center is to build the pipeline of investigators prepared to conduct primary care research in the ambulatory clinical practice setting.primenet logo

In earlier work, we developed resources for conducting research in the practice-based setting, including:

1) the PBRN Research Good Practices (; and 2) the Research Toolkit ( Currently PRIME Net is participating in the national "Certificate Program in Practice-based Research Methods" (, providing mentoring to investigators interested in collaborating with PBRNs. 


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