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Volume 3, Issue 4
April 2011

Projects by Birbeck and DeLind Represent MSU for Prestigious Regional and National Awards

  • Gretchen L. Birbeck, M.D., M.P.H, D.T.M.H., FAAN
  • Director, International Neurologic and Psychiatric Epidemiology Program
  • Associate Professor
  • College of Human Medicine
  • College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Laura B. DeLind, Ph.D.
  • Senior Academic Specialist
  • Department of Anthropology
  • College of Social Science
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, Residential College in the Arts and Humanities

For the third consecutive year, two outstanding projects were selected to represent Michigan State University in a national award program that recognizes university-community partnerships. The projects were placed in consideration for the regional W. K. Kellogg Foundation Engagement Award and the national C. Peter Magrath University/Community Engagement Award, based on the recommendations of President Lou Anna K. Simon and Provost Kim A. Wilcox. The nominations were submitted in March.

Dr. Gretchen L. Birbeck, associate professor and director of the International Neurologic and Psychiatric Epidemiology Program, works with people affected by epilepsy in Zambia. Dr. Laura B. DeLind, senior academic specialist in the Department of Anthropology and visiting assistant professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, is the catalyst for a local effort to develop a food system infrastructure in an urban area long regarded as a "food desert."

"Working Together to Improve the Lives of People Affected by Epilepsy in Zambia"

Photograph for Projects by Birbeck and DeLind Represent MSU for Prestigious Regional and National Awards<

When Dr. Gretchen L. Birbeck was a medical student in rural Zambia, she observed that patients with epilepsy were seeking treatment for injuries such as burns or fractures sustained during their seizures, but were not addressing their epileptic condition.

Birbeck and the clinical staff determined that fear prevented patients and their families from diagnosis, treatment, and health maintenance. People in Zambia with epilepsy were afraid of social stigmas that interpreted their seizures as a form of bewitchment, so they would visit a local traditional healer and omit medical attention. Dr. Birbeck co-founded an epilepsy care team that provides clinical services, research, medical education, and local capacity-building for Zambia residents.

Learning about the local burden of epilepsy helped formulate the efforts of the care team. Working with Ellie Kalichi, head of nursing at Chikankata Hospital, Dr. Birbeck established the Epilepsy Care Team. Mrs. Kalichi is now Chieftainess Mwenda of the Basanje Royal Establishment in Mazabuka, Zambia.

Long-term commitment to the project and community involvement in setting research priorities have been important components for the Epilepsy Care Team's success, particularly as it relates to building trust with Zambian citizens and grassroots partners. The team visits rural health centers for direct patient services and maintenance of medication supplies.

Epilepsy Care Team members serve as expert advisors on community-based epilepsy care for the Zambian Ministry of Health, the World Bank, and the U.S. Institute of Medicine.

"From the Inside Out: Building Community and an Urban Food System on Lansing's Eastside"

Photograph for Projects by Birbeck and DeLind Represent MSU for Prestigious Regional and National Awards<

This project utilizes MSU research, community collaboration, and civic engagement, to address food insecurity in a region of Michigan's capital city that is considered a long-standing "food desert," an area whose residents have limited access to a full service grocery and produce store.

Recognizing the absence of fresh, affordable food for local residents, as well as the absence of markets for small farmers to sell their produce, Dr. Laura B. DeLind created an urban food system model to provide fresh food, generate income, share resources, offer educational opportunities, and build social networks.

Lansing Eastside residents support the Allen Street Farmers Market (now in its eighth year); the market also serves as a community commons. The "neighborhood first" philosophy engages local residents and showcases local skills. Subsequent initiatives inspired from the success of the market and community commons include GardenHouse programs, the Urban Gardener Certificate Program, the Garden in a Box program, and Community Soups. Most recently Delind co-founded the Lansing Urban Farm Project.

Dr. DeLind shares knowledge and resources to assist grant writing, data collection, and qualitative evaluation for the program. She invites local speakers to her classes at the Residential College in Arts and Humanities, and her students volunteer for the various Eastside efforts.

"From the Inside Out" involves interdisciplinary scholarship, grassroots efforts, capacity-building, and long-term commitment. The project is nearing a decade in length, and is drawing national recognition for groundbreaking development of strategic alliances centered at the local level.

About the Outreach Scholarship W. K. Kellogg Foundation Engagement Award and the C. Peter Magrath University Community Engagement Award

The Kellogg/Magrath award program is sponsored by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). The awards recognize programs and projects that demonstrate how colleges and universities have redesigned their learning, discovery, and engagement functions to become more involved with their communities. The program was established in 2006 and named for C. Peter Magrath, who served as president of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (now APLU) from 1992 to 2005.

The regional winners who are selected for the Kellogg engagement recognition advance to the Magrath national award selection process. National winners will be announced at the National Outreach Scholarship Conference (NOSC), October 2-4, 2011. This year's NOSC event is being hosted by Michigan State University.

  • Written by Carla Hills, University Outreach and Engagement
  • Photographs courtesy of Gretchen Birbeck and Laura DeLind