Dr. Jannette Berkley-Patton is a national leader in the science and practice of community-based health promotion, especially with communities experiencing health disparities. She is director of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Community Health Research Group and lead scientist for multiple studies funded by the National Institutes of Health. Berkeley-Patton tests intervention methods for addressing health disparities, particularly through participatory research with African American churches. She is also a superb educator providing doctoral and undergraduate training in community-engaged scholarship to generations of students.
After receiving her undergraduate degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Kansas in 1987, she worked in the aerospace industry before returning to KU to follow her true calling: as a behavioral/health scientist working to understand and improve conditions affecting health and health equity. During her undergraduate years, she served as Vice President of the local chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers; and as a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, an historically African American sorority, she was involved in service to underserved communities. During her doctoral training in HDFL (now the Department of Applied Behavioral Science), she learned how to design and conduct community-based research and intervention. Later, while working in administrative positions at KU, she led a four-year social marketing project to reduce alcohol use among college students, an American Legacy Foundation demonstration project to reduce smoking among university women, and an initiative to increase participation of university faculty members in service learning to reduce problematic alcohol use and stress/depression symptoms among college students at KU.
Berkley-Patton has a phenomenal record of grant funding from the National Institutes of Health, a true marker of excellence bestowed by her scientific peers. She is currently the principal investigator for “Taking It to the Pews”, a five-year NIMH-funded research project to test a religiously-tailored intervention to increase HIV testing, prevention, and linkage to care among church and community members.
Through a service-learning approach to her teaching, Berkley-Patton multiplies the impact of her life’s work. Her students examine diversity and health inequities related to race, ethnicity, immigration, disabilities, gender, sexual identity, access, poverty, and veteran status. During courses, students volunteer with an array of community agencies. There, they get hands-on experience working to improve the health of community members in Kansas City. This course provides a legacy of service-learners: those who have built lasting relationships with community members and agencies that serve them; a network of dedicated individuals who will continue to serve needs of the most vulnerable long after they graduate from college. Says one of her nominators, “Jannette is a woman with a mission... She’s not some detached academic who understands theory and statistics but hasn’t a clue about the people involved. Rather, she is a full partner, seen as a part of the community.”