Category: Engagement At Duke (Page 1 of 3)

Opioids & Racial Disparities in Durham

On December 7th, Duke Policy Bridge convened a small group of Durham County representatives, healthcare managers, community leaders, and Duke researchers met to discuss ways to address racial disparities. The group was convened for the purpose of offering Duke’s expertise to assist the county in identifying the causes of the racial disparities in opioid substance use outcomes. The use of opioids and fentanyl is rising, and the Durham community is aiming to be proactive instead of reactive.

Officials met to discuss top issues and concerns identified by Durham County Officials and community representatives and were tasked with finding possible solutions and resources at Duke. One such problem is locating primary treatment organization data. Duke has an interdisciplinary research team which has compiled primary treatment organization data from Duke Health System, Alliance Behavioral Health, and others. Several other issues were identified by the committee and a fruitful conversation has led to talks about what is next for Durham and how Duke can assist.

Helping Youth Climb Out of Poverty

Prof. Anirudh Krishna took these photos of a slum in Bangalore, India. This was the slum we recorded in for the Ways & Means podcast, Season 3 episode 1.

In our latest engagement story, we highlight the work of Anirudh Krishna, a professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy.  He has been studying how people escape poverty and how they come to be poor in the first place. “No one goes beyond occupations like the ones in the community. There are a number of things that create big obstacles to aspirations and achievement,” said Krishna. “I found many kids who were smart, very smart,” said Krishna, but the children aspired to be the highest occupation in their community.

Krishna researched ways to propel children into alternative careers and, ultimately, upward mobility. Answering this question led to several searches for what he identified as social mobility promoting organizations (SMPOs). SMPOs promote a combination of life skills, such as job preparation, confidence building and professional development, with a central goal of getting youth in careers they would otherwise not have. His team identified several organizations in India that fit their SMPO definition and Krishna estimates that these organizations are collectively helping no more than 100,000-150,000 children. In India 100,000-150,000 children may not be a staggering number, but it the start to something incredible.

You can read the full article here.

New Health Data Sharing Project

In our November installment of our Engagement Stories series, Krishna Udayakumar and Patricia Odero with the Duke Global Health Innovation Center and Duke Innovations in Healthcare are collaborating with several organizations on a joint USAID-funded project called Regional Action through Data (RAD). Throughout East and West Africa, citizens who live near their nation’s borders may receive health services in multiple states, which makes it challenging to maintain continuity of care for these populations. RAD is bridging gaps in health data sharing and making patient records accessible across borders.

Udayakumar and Odero said their work on RAD taught them to “engage early rather than showing up with a fully formed project and results that may not answer the question appropriately from the policymaker’s perspective. The earlier you can engage with policymaking bodies, the better you can understand their needs and their perspective.” Both trained physicians, Udayakumar and Odero, shared the importance this work holds for improving patient-centered care. The team shared, “at the end of the day, our mission is to improve heath and healthcare.”

You can read the full article on the Duke Today website.

Regional Action through Data is a 5-year project funded by USAID’s Global Bureau for Africa. To learn more about this project, please visit the Duke Global Health and Innovation Center’s website.

Color of Education 2018

On Tuesday, October 2nd, Duke Policy Bridge at Sanford, Duke Cook Center on Social Equity, and the Public School Forum of NC welcomed NY Times Magazine investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones to open our Color of Education partnership.  We were excited to have Hannah-Jones deliver an awesome keynote address to a North Carolina crowd of roughly 500 educators, school board members, researchers, and community members.

As we’ve highlighted in our prior communications, in 2019 and beyond, “Color of Education” will evolve into an annual summit as well as other statewide and regional gatherings, bringing together educators, policymakers, experts and other key stakeholders focused on achieving racial equity and eliminating racial disparities in education. For more information about October 2nd and future Color of Education events, please contact Policy Bridge.

To watch the footage from October 2nd’s kickoff, please use the link below.

Color of Education: Racial Equity in NC Schools

Nikole Hannah-Jones to kick-off “Color of Education” in North Carolina



Raleigh-Durham, NC (August 2, 2018) – The Public School Forum of North Carolina, in partnership with Duke Policy Bridge and the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, announced today the first in a series of annual summits and convenings focused on race, equity and education in North Carolina under the banner “Color of Education.” (Twitter: #ColorOfEducation). The kick-off event will feature award-winning New York Times Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones.

Color of Education: An Evening with Nikole Hannah-Jones”, will be held on Tuesday, October 2nd at 6:00 PM on the campus of Duke University at Penn Pavilion. Tickets for the event are $25 and will be on sale August 8th at 11:00AM EST via the Duke University Box Office website. The event is sponsored in part by the Grable Foundation.

Nikole Hannah-Jones is a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate school alumnus and former (Raleigh) News & Observer reporter. She was named a 2017 MacArthur Genius Grant Fellow (one of only 24 people chosen, globally) for “reshaping national conversations around education reform” and for her reporting on racial resegregation in our schools. This is the latest honor in a growing list: she’s won a Peabody, a Polk, and, in 2017, a National Magazine Award for her story on choosing a school for her daughter in a segregated city.

Nikole’s brilliant talks explore the important roles schools play in their communities, how they’re affected by their surrounding neighborhoods, and how seeing race from the lens of education tells a whole new story of inequality in America.

In 2019 and beyond, “Color of Education” will evolve into an annual summit as well as other statewide and regional gatherings, bringing together educators, policymakers, experts and other key stakeholders focused on achieving racial equity and eliminating racial disparities in education.

“Nikole Hannah-Jones is one of the country’s most respected and influential voices on issues of race and education and we’re thrilled to have her kick-off this new phase of our work to address the systemic inequities and barriers facing students of color in North Carolina,” said Keith Poston, President and Executive Director, Public School Forum of North Carolina.

“Nikole Hannah-Jones’ visit to campus is an exciting prelude to the conversations we hope to continue in our Color of Education partnership,” said Frederick Mayer, Director of Duke Policy Bridge at the Sanford School. “We are looking forward to this unique opportunity to engage the Sanford School and broader Duke community around this important issue in our state.”

“We are excited to have Nikole Hannah-Jones kick off the Color of Education convening,” said Professor William A. Darity, Jr, founding director of the Cook Center. “Her work on historical and contemporary barriers to educational equity set the stage for critical conversations about race in North Carolina schools.”

“Through her investigative reporting, Nikole Hannah-Jones delves in to the context of racial disparities in education – particularly through frank examinations of who has access and who is denied access to resources and opportunities,” said Professor Keisha Bentley-Edwards, associate director of research for the Cook Center.

The impact of race in education was a central focus of the Public School Forum’s Study Group XVI: Expanding Education Opportunity in North Carolina. The Committee on Racial Equity’s findings and recommendations were published in October 2016. The committee covered issues such as resegregation, teacher diversity, discipline disparity and lack of access to advanced, more rigorous coursework for students of color.

About Nikole Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-Jones covers racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine, and has spent years chronicling the way official policy has created—and maintains—racial segregation in housing and schools. Her deeply personal reports on the black experience in America offer a compelling case for greater equity.  She has written extensively on the history of racism, school resegregation, and the disarray of hundreds of desegregation orders, as well as the decades-long failure of the federal government to enforce the landmark 1968 Fair Housing Act. She is currently writing a book on school segregation called The Problem We All Live With, to be published on the One World imprint of Penguin/Random House.

Her piece “Worlds Apart” in The New York Times Magazine won the 2017 National Magazine Award for “journalism that illuminates issues of national importance” as well as the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism. In 2016, she was awarded a Peabody Award and George Polk Award for radio reporting for her This American Life story, “The Problem We All Live With.” She was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, and was also named to The Root 100. Her reporting has also won Deadline Club Awards, Online Journalism Awards, the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service, the Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting, the Emerson College President’s Award for Civic Leadership, and was a previous finalist for the National Magazine Award.

Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting with the goal of increasing the number of reporters and editors of color. She holds a Master of Arts in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina and earned her BA in History and African-American studies from the University of Notre Dame. For the Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies, she investigated social changes under Raul Castro and the impact of universal healthcare on Cuba’s educational system. She was also selected by the University of Pennsylvania to report on the impact of the Watts Riots for a study marking the 40th anniversary of the Kerner Commission report, 2007. Along with The New York Times, her reporting has been featured in ProPublicaThe Atlantic MagazineHuffington PostEssence MagazineThe Week MagazineGristPolitico Magazine, and on Face the NationThis American Life, NPR, The Tom Joyner Morning Show, MSNBC, C-SPAN, Democracy Now, and radio stations across the country.



About Public School Forum of North Carolina

Since 1986, the Public School Forum of North Carolina has been an indispensable and nonpartisan champion of better schools and the most trusted source in the state for research and analysis on vital education issues. We bring together leaders from business, education and government to study education issues, develop ideas, seek consensus, and ultimately inform and shape education policy. We do that through research, policy work, innovative programs, advocacy, and continuing education for educators and policymakers. Follow the Forum on Twitter @theNCForum

About Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity

The Duke Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity is a scholarly collaborative engaged in the study of the causes and consequences of inequality and in the assessment and redesign of remedies for inequality and its adverse effects. Concerned with the economic, political, social and cultural dimensions of uneven and inequitable access to resources, opportunity and capabilities, Cook Center researchers take a cross-national comparative approach to the study of human difference and disparity. Ranging from the global to the local, Cook Center scholars not only address the overarching social problem of general inequality, but they also explore social problems associated with gender, race, ethnicity and religious affiliation. Follow the Cook Center on Twitter @DUSocialEquity

Bridging in the Opioid Crisis

2018 APPAM regional forum at Penn Pavilion at Duke University
Duke Policy Bridge at the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management (APPAM) hosted a 2018 topical forum on how to build research and policy partnerships around the prevailing national issue of opioid misuse

Researchers, policymakers and practitioners gathered at Duke May 1 to discuss how to strengthen working relationships and share evidence-based programs addressing the U.S. opioid crisis. The event, “State and Research University Partnerships in the Opioid Crisis,” was organized by Duke Policy Bridge, part of the Sanford School of Public Policy, and the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management (APPAM).

Frederick Mayer, professor of Public Policy at Sanford and Policy Bridge director, welcomed the group of more than 150. “Today’s program brings together all the elements of what we teach in Public Policy,” he said. Dr. Susan Kansagra, section chief of chronic disease and injury for the N.C. Division of Public Health, described the event as, “a great opportunity to get people in a room who wouldn’t ordinarily meet.”

One of the day’s themes was how best to connect researchers with policymakers to ensure timely information gets to those who need it. Jenni Owen, senior policy adviser to N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper, noted policymakers are often inundated with “let me know if I can help” emails. A more useful approach, she told attendees, is to reach out and, “provide timely, targeted, relevant information.” Owen understands well the potential value of links between researchers and policymakers: She is on leave from her role as senior lecturer at the Sanford School.

Attendees split up into break-out sessions addressing support services for children in households with substance abuse; assisting state officials with data science inquiries; embedding networks for treatment after overdose; and providing a system of care in underserved and rural communities.

Speakers shared their experiences with successful programs. Deputy Sheriff Donnie Varnell, from Dare County, described how his county’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program is working: “If we go on a call and it turns out to be someone using drugs, we now ask, ‘Do you want to go to treatment?’ You don’t have to be arrested to get into the program.” That can mean significant cost savings, he added, citing $78 per person, per day “for someone sitting in jail,” versus “$24 for treatment and other services.”

Another common theme was the importance of tailoring a program to a community—and that ALL stakeholders from that community need to be at the table to discuss the program. That includes the drug users who will benefit from the program and the law enforcement officers and others who will implement it. The LEAD program began to work, Varnell said, “when we all sat down at a table and broke bread” and realized they shared a common goal. “We knew we wanted to help individuals get to a better place.”

The final panel of the day was moderated by Erich Senin Huang, co-director of Duke Forge and assistant dean for Biomedical Informatics at the Duke School of Medicine. Dana Bernson, assistant director for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, talked about how her office has been able to link data from various state and community sources, improving accuracy in reporting of opioid deaths and overdoses. Understanding the scope of the problem, panelists agreed, is vital to solving it; research universities, with their wealth of knowledge and resources, can be valuable partners.

Many found the day’s discussions valuable, and attendees could be seen chatting and exchanging business cards throughout the day. Among them was Nicole Schramm-Sapyta, PhD, chief operating officer of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS), one of the event sponsors. She is actively involved in addiction research. “Tackling the opiate epidemic requires collaboration across academic disciplines, and between the academy and the community, along with an understanding of the brain science of addiction, and ultimately, behavior change. DIBS was proud to play a part in sponsoring this incredibly engaging event!”

Other sponsors were the N.C. Scholars Strategy Network and the ncIMPACT program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Government.

View the entire May 1st Opioid forum using the YouTube Link below. Breakout Group materials and key takeaways can be found here.

Science Policy Careers for PhDs Panel

Science Policy Careers Panel for PhDs

Join Duke INSPIRE and other graduate students for a panel discussion with Duke science doctoral degree alumni who have chosen policy career paths in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. The alumni panel will address non-academic careers in public policy and the paths that lead them to their current roles. A networking session with drinks and hors d’oeuvres will follow the hour-long panel discussion.

Sponsored by Duke Policy Bridge, The Graduate School, the Office of Biomedical Graduate Education, and Duke INSPIRE

Alumni Panelists:

  • Barbara Natalizio,  Program Officer, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
  • Adria Wilson, Program Manager, US Department of Energy
  • Heather Dean, Biomedical Engineer, US Food & Drug Administration
  • Jeremy Block, Managing Partner, Venture Catalyst
  • Dave Catarious, Senior Advisor for Cyber Policy, US Department of Energy

Moderated by Amy Hafez, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology PhD ’18


Date: Tuesday, April 24th, 2018  5pm-7pm

Location: Rubenstein Library, Holsti-Anderson Room


Open to doctoral students, post-docs, research associates, and faculty.


In addition to this event, Duke provides ongoing opportunities to learn about careers at the nexus of science and policy through SciPol ( at the Initiative for Science & Society. Visit to learn more about upcoming events like our Science Policy Happy Hours, the SciPol Summer Institute, and the Doctoral Summer Academy course in Science Policy. Follow us on Twitter @DukeSciPol!


Duke Expert Discusses Racial Disparity in School Discipline

Last Saturday, Duke professor Dr. Keisha Bentley-Edwards joined Wake County Board of Education member Keith Sutton on the April 24th airing of Education Matters. The conversation centered around a particularly troubling problem in North Carolina, and indeed nationwide: African American students get suspended more frequently, and for longer periods of time, than their peers. Even more alarming is that the discipline disparity starts as early as pre-kindergarten.

While the problem is well documented, more resources are required to start tackling the discipline disparity in a meaningful way. Dr. Bentley-Edwards reminded viewers that the underlying problem is one of structural racism, saying “if your practices have a disparate impact, and you do nothing about it, then that’s where you’re supporting some institutional racism.” She highlighted the importance of training teachers to properly deal with children who have had Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES).

In fact, schools with behavioral specialists or dedicated psychologists have fewer suspensions because they can train teachers how to properly deal with students who misbehave – and it doesn’t usually entail sending them home where they lose additional instruction time and fall further behind.

Dr. Bentley-Edwards is an Assistant Professor at Duke University School of Medicine and Associate Director of Research at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Inequality. To learn more about her latest research, check Dr. Bentley-Edwards’ website here.

2nd Article Published in our Duke Today Series

With Policy Bridge’s latest Duke Today story, we’re continuing to highlight policy-relevant research driven by faculty and researchers around campus. Thursday’s article explores the work of public policy professor, Manoj Mohanan, who collaborates with the government of Uttar Pradesh (India) and the World Bank to understand how communities can create something known as social accountability (SA).

SA aims to foster accountability by providing information about entitled benefits under publicly funded programs and bringing community members together in regular meetings to learn about resources and engage with healthcare providers and local officials to redress grievances. Since the project’s official start in May 2016, about 2,000 meetings are taking place every month in targeted communities. Keep an eye out for updates, the project is scheduled to be reviewed in May 2019!

Would you like us to highlight your research in the next installment? To inquire about our engagement story series, email

Drug Costs and Heart Attack Treatment: Duke Professor Presents Preliminary Findings

Earlier this month at an American College of Cardiology meeting, Dr. Tracy Wang, Associate Professor at Duke School of Medicine, presented preliminary findings on a study involving 11,000 heart attack patients in 300 U.S. hospitals. Funded by the drug maker AstraZeneca, the ARTEMIS study aimed to understand which blood-thinning drugs patients were being prescribed in the wake of their heart attacks and how well those patients stuck to the prescribed medicine over the course of a year. In particular, researchers wanted to understand if the high-cost but more effective brand-name drug (ticagregol) would be more commonly prescribed and used if patients were provided a voucher to offset its extra cost compared to an older generic therapy called clopidogrel.

Hospitals were randomly assigned to a “care as usual” arm and a “co-pay intervention arm” – in the latter, price-equalizing vouchers were available for all patients and doctors were given discretion to prescribe either type of treatment. As expected, clinicians were more likely to prescribe the more effective brand-name drug when they knew patients would not be facing a higher cost. Additionally, patients who received vouchers and used them were more likely to continue taking the medication as prescribed over the course of a year. However, there was no difference in death rates, heart attacks, or strokes between those in the voucher group and the “care as usual” group.

The preliminary results indicate that cost is a huge factor when doctors choose which treatments to prescribe and when patients decide to fill – or not fill – prescriptions. However, reducing cost alone is not sufficient to improve health outcomes. Broader interventions are needed to improve patient health and co-payment reduction can be an important piece of a multi-pronged approach. As Dr. Wang explained, “Our study confirms some of our thoughts on how drug prices affect doctors’ and patients’ behaviors, but we still have a lot of work to do to understand how we can both measure and improve treatment adherence.”

Interested in learning more about the ARTEMIS study? Watch Dr. Wang’s informative overview of the study or read this detailed coverage of the preliminary results.

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