A physician team's experiences in community-based participatory research: insights into effective group collaborations

Mehul Dalal, Rachel Skeete, Heather L Yeo, Georgina I Lucas, Marjorie S Rosenthal
American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2009, 37 (6): S288-91

BACKGROUND: Postdoctoral fellows from the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program are among a growing number of physician-researchers training in community-based participatory research (CBPR). These fellows are uniquely positioned to observe and evaluate CBPR training needs and the experience of collaboratively conducting a CBPR project.

PURPOSE: To describe, from the perspective of physician-researchers, experiences in intragroup and intergroup collaborations while conducting CBPR.

METHODS: During a 2-year fellowship, a group of seven fellows received 6 months of didactic training and then spent 18 months conducting a mentored CBPR project. The CBPR project was complemented by a 2-year facilitated leadership seminar, which allowed for reflection on intragroup (among fellows) and intergroup (fellows/community members) relationships throughout the CBPR process.

RESULTS: Seven core principles of CBPR were found to apply to not only intergroup but also intragroup relationships: (1) building trust, (2) finding a shared interest, (3) power-sharing, (4) fostering co-learning and capacity building among partners, (5) building on existing strengths, (6) employing an iterative process, and (7) finding a balance between research and action for the mutual benefit of all partners.

CONCLUSIONS: Establishing and maintaining relationships is at the core of CBPR. The development of intragroup relationships paralleled the development of intergroup relationships with community members. Applying the core principles of CBPR to the development of intragroup relationships provided experience that may have enhanced relationships with community partners. An a priori acknowledgement of the importance of relationships and the time needed to develop and manage those relationships may add to the CBPR training experience and assist in successfully executing collaborative projects.

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