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A little over a year ago I came across a call for applications for a unique opportunity to serve my community in the area of health equity. I eagerly applied for a seat on the Uzazi Village Community Expert Review Board (CERB). As HealthTeamWorks' Chief Operating Officer, it brings me great satisfaction to know my passion for universally exemplary care is present in my home, work and civic lives because they all center around like visions. Here at HealthTeamWorks our vision, Health. Equity. Resilience, speaks to the many elements that promote and sustain well-being for individuals, organizations and communities. It also responds to the call for better systems of care that prepare us for future public health crises. In the CERB's first year, the same challenges were met and addressed through a robust COVID-19 Community Information campaign and through the development of a revolutionary Health Equity Model called the Village Model. I welcome you to learn more about the work and vision of the Uzazi Village Community Expert Review Board (CERB).

- Cecilia Saffold, COO, HealthTeamWorks

Hakima Tafunzi Payne recognizes and elevates the lived expertise of Black women as Executive Director of Uzazi Village, a non-profit focused on decreasing black infant mortality and racially based perinatal health inequities. As such, Ms. Payne envisioned the development of the Community Expert Review Board (CERB) in 2019 to bring the voices of Black birthing people to researchers conceiving of and designing research. Researchers have historically missed the mark on meeting the needs and addressing the concerns of Black communities. Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) have existed since 1974 to ensure ethical human subject research through the principles of respect for persons, beneficence and justice in research (AMA Journal of Ethics, 2020). Despite the introduction of IRBs, African American recruitment into and successful participation in studies of varied types and on varied conditions remains extremely low. The factors affecting African American study participation range from a deep-seated and pervasive distrust of the intentions of healthcare researchers and academic institutions to logistical barriers and sociocultural factors. Research plays a major role in innovation and breakthroughs in care delivery, so low representation of any group in research amounts to lower understanding of the impacts of potential advancements on those groups. It also results in even slower translation of successful research into application.

Uzazi Village


Centering Black and Brown families in maternal infant health


For every family, a healthy baby;

For every baby, a healthy village



Community Expert Review Board (CERB)

Revolutionize Black maternal infant health outcomes by amplifying the Black birth experience, fostering equitable research, and ensuring culturally congruent care.

Transformed quality and quantity of Black life

CERB was created to serve a three-part role of Uzazi Village advisory group, advocate for near-miss survivors, and research consulting team. In just the first year the focus has refined to community conduit and research consultation and the group has accomplished a great deal:


The six founding members Uzazi Village CERB seek to foster equitable research by advising researchers on the design and execution of research. 

Founding Members of Uzazi Village's CERB

Image: Founding Members of Uzazi Village CERB From Left to Right Nika Cotton, Cecilia Saffold, Keslie Spottsville, Amanda Balabon, Sandra Thornhill (CERB Coordinator), Shantris Fondren and Hakima Tafunzi Payne (Executive Director, Uzazi Village)

First Year Reflection

Goals Moving into CERB’s Second Year




Is your organization beginning health equity and culturally responsive care transformation? Let HealthTeamWorks guide you through assessment, planning, implementation and workforce development:

Performance Improvement

We begin performance improvement with the end in mind: identifying key performance priorities and objectives, then leveraging quality and process improvement principles in the implementation of known drivers of desired outputs. We have captured many of these known drivers in a living framework informed by experiences in the field, expertise, and the emerging evidence base.

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Organization Development

Organization development brings clarity regarding current state and a clear path forward - a significant advantage in strategic planning and implementation. HealthTeamWorks focuses on helping organizations build capacity for meaningful change by developing, improving, and reinforcing strategies, structures, and processes for greater effectiveness.

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HealthTeamWorks is committed to creating high performing, highly engaged individuals, teams, and communities. To that end, our training programs transfer knowledge, build capabilities and skills, and enhance productivity, ultimately resulting in value on investment.

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Valuable Resources:

To learn more about Culturally Congruent Care:

History of Institutional Review Boards:

Race, Health and Research:

The Burdens of Race and History on Black People’s Health 400 Years After Jamestown

Spectre of racism in health and health care: lessons from history and the United States

More than Tuskegee: Understanding Mistrust about Research Participation

Troubling History in Medical Research Still Fresh for Black Americans

A brief history of racism in healthcare