Young and old alike: people enjoy talking with Beverly-Xaviera Watkins. As a community-based researcher, her charisma puts people at ease and her magnetism sets her apart. This skill has enabled her to build important bonds with communities across New York City. Beverly-Xaviera and her CGPH colleagues now work with a community steering committee (CSC) -- the only group of its kind in the New York University system -- to gain invaluable insights into community priorities.
The CSC operates under the guidance of the Executive Directors of local community-based organizations and partners in her research studies, including Good Old Lower East Side (GoLES); Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (YMPJ) in the South Bronx; Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE)in Brooklyn and Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) in Chinatown. Beverly-Xaviera recently received a community engagement grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to build bridges between local community-based organizations and PCOR scientists which she is conducting in partnership with GOLES and Chinese Progressive Association.
Along with a MPI team at NYU School of Medicine that includes GCPH Vice Dean Ogedegbe, she has an R01 from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) to study sleep disparities in New York City.
With 15 years of community engagement experience, perseverance and charm, Beverly-Xaviera is helping researchers build partnerships and fill gaps in public health knowledge. As part of the PCORI project, Beverly-Xaviera is building an online network at NYU that will link community researchers and stakeholders including local residents to PCORnet and connect at-risk communities and CBOs with sleep researchers. Since researchers have a history of contentious relationships with communities, her team is also developing a community engagement guide, which offers critical advice on how researchers can successfully reach out to specific communities such as Asian and Latino communities around sleep health.
In addition to her research at CGPH, Beverly-Xaviera Watkins is in her second year as an Health and Aging Policy Fellow (Atlantic Philanthropies) assigned to the NIA under the mentorship of Acting DSBR Director Dr. John Haaga, and an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow assigned to the National Center for Environmental Assessment at EPA under the mentorship of Director, Dr. Ken Olden on developing an Environmental Risk Assessment factor for older adults. "When there is science to support an increased health risk, policies can be written so there are very clear rules and standards for reducing exposures and preserving health across the life course. In the past year, we have worked to gather scientific evidence to support the theory that older adults are more vulnerable to environmental exposures and examined correlations between environmental exposures and neurodegenerative diseases, in particular Alzheimer's."
Beverly-Xaviera has built her career researching the impact of environmental health determinants on the elderly: social, physical and economic. She was the Director/ PI of an Environmental Health Research Core at Weill Cornell Medical College. She is also Director/PI of the Samuels Foundation-funded GOLES Healthy Aging Program (GHAP), a community-academic collaborative on the Lower East Side that provides socioeconomically disadvantaged seniors with preventive health services; and Director/PI of the NIEHS Funded GOLES Environmental Justice Collaborative. Launched in 2009, the GOLES EJ Collaborative provides local community based organizations with the intellectual and financial resources to educate and train local residents to develop and deliver community-tailored environmental public health messages.
"Two years ago, GOLES honored me along with local community leaders for commitment to the people of the lower east side and Dean Healton came," she said. "It mattered to me that the community felt I was doing the work for the right reason. Despite their past experiences with researchers, I had clearly built enough trust to be the first academic they honored. And I have to be aware of the responsibility that comes with that when I bring another researcher with me on a project and ensure that I maintain their trust."
Prior to joining the faculty at NYU, Beverly-Xaviera graduated with honors from Columbia College where she was a John W. Kluge Scholar. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and went on to earn a Master's degree in Sociomedical Sciences and a doctorate in History from their Graduate School of Arts and Science.