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The faculty leaders and staff members  of the Community Core within the Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research (MCUAAAR) and the Healthier Black Elders Center include:

Jamie Mitchell

is an Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Michigan, co-investigator community core co-leader with MCUAAAR. Her work focuses on disparities in health communication and health experiences for older Black men that lead to poor cancer and chronic disease outcomes. Dr. Mitchell is also the Assistant Director of Clinical Research Participation at Rogel Cancer Center, University of Michigan. In that role, she works to support researchers in diversifying their recruitment and retention efforts in cancer clinical trials, while helping to identify barriers to research participation in the community.  Dr. Mitchell is the principal investigator of “Recruiting and Retaining Older African Americans into Research”, the grant funded by the National Institute on Aging that funds Healthier Black Elders research and programming in Flint, MI (Grant 1R24AG065151-01). You can contact her at or the office number listed on her faculty profile here.


Dr. Tam Perry, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at Wayne State University, co-investigator for MCUAAAR and MCUAAAR community core co-leader. Dr. Perry’s community-based research focuses on housing transitions for older adults, the effects of the Flint water crisis on older adults, and access to resources, caregiving and kind relationships, and comorbidities commonly experienced in older adulthood, among other interests. Learn more about Dr. Perry’s work here.

Kent Key

Dr. Kent Key, Ph.D., MPH, helps to oversee the The Healthier Black Elders-Flint program, he is also the third community core co-leader of MCUAAAR. Dr. Key is the Director of the Office of Community Scholars and Partnerships at Michigan State University in Flint, where he directs a community scholars program, the Community Action Council, Cross Campus/Institution Partnerships, and Community-Research Matching for research. Dr. Key is the founder of the Community Ethics Review Board (CERB),  a component of the Community-Based Organization Partners (CBOP). He is an expert in building equitable relationships between community and academic partners for health research and elevating community-identified health priorities to the research enterprise. You can reach Dr. Key at and (810) 600-5663. Learn more about CBOP and CERB here.

Vanessa Rorai

Vanessa Rorai, MSW is the Community Outreach Coordinator of Healthier Black Elders in Detroit. Vanessa  supports researchers in applying to and accessing the  Participant Resource Pool. She is the key contact for all members of the CAB in Detroit and the over 1000 Participant Resource Pool members in the Detroit community. Vanessa also coordinates the Lunch & Learn programming, identifies new partners for programming, and recruitment and retention activities, conducts regular training and supervises volunteers and graduate student workers, and a broad range of key functions central to the success of the HBE, CAB, and PRP in Detroit. If you are interested in participating in any of the studies listed here that are currently recruiting older adults, or, if you’re an academic researcher interested in recruiting from the Detroit PRP, please contact Vanessa at or (313) 664-2604.

Sean Knurek

Sean Knurek, MPH, M.A., Extension Health Educator. Sean works in the Health and Nutrition Institute at Michigan State University in Flint as a health educator. His work is focused on diabetes education, community behavioral health, and social-emotional learning across the lifespan. Sean works with ENGAGE US and Healthier Black Elders in both Detroit in Flint to support in-person and virtual programming, social media and marketing,  and building community partnerships. Sean can be reached at and (810) 244-8519.

Monicia L. Summers

Monicia L. Summers, DPM, MS, Project admin, Flint CAB and HBE.
Dr. Monicia Summers is a Flint native with a background in podiatry with a research focus on diabetes, infectious disease, and adolescent behaviors. She currently holds a Doctorate of Podiatric Medicine from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Monicia has had prior experience with adolescents with the Chicago Public Schools developing health education materials.  She also has conducted clinical rotations in Philadelphia at Temple University Hospital in Infectious Disease and Diabetes in which she worked hands-on with patients. Dr. Summers diagnosed and treated patients as well as engaged patients with health communication materials. She is currently serving on research teams on various research projects at Michigan State University, that includes: Church Challenge, Project ReCast, and The Flint Registry. Her long term goals are to use her podiatric background to educate in an academic hospital setting on the following topics: diabetes, infectious diseases, and adolescents’ health.

Elena Flores

Elena Flores, MSW, is a Project Manager at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research Center for Group Dynamics. Elena also oversees the development of the ENGAGE US website and guides or supports the activities of students and staff working with the Flint Healthier Black Elders (HBE) . Please contact Elena at

This work  is also generously supported by the expertise of the faculty leaders of the Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research (MCUAAAR): MCUAAAR was co-founded by James Jackson who was also a co-principal investigator the grant funding this website and the community work we do. This work is also supported by the staff of the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University, including Cathy Newkirk, Donna MacDonald, Deborah Vincent, and Carol Talbott.

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