By Ayana D. Hernandez
North Carolina Central University (NCCU) and RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, today hosted a ribbon cutting to celebrate the launch of the NCCU-RTI Center for Applied Research in Environmental Sciences (CARES) and an accompanying shared lab space on RTI’s campus. Together researchers from both institutions will study the role the environment plays on health and disease and the disproportionate impact on underserved populations.
“NCCU celebrates with RTI International on enhancing our collaboration that has been nurtured formally over the past three years,” said Johnson O. Akinleye, Ph.D., chancellor of North Carolina Central University. “The new NCCU-RTI CARES Lab is transformational for both our organizations as it truly impacts both of our missions. The ideas, experiments and innovation that will take shape, and solutions will be explored to some of our society’s most perplexing health care challenges.”
CARES will draw on the strengths of NCCU, a regional leader in health equity research, and RTI’s position as an interdisciplinary research organization with state-of-the-industry laboratories, to address critical issues in environmental health and develop the next generation of diverse health equity leaders. As part of the initiative, university students will collaborate with industry thought leaders and receive training in laboratory sciences, exposure measurement, environmental modeling, risk assessment and communication, and implementation of interventions.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with North Carolina Central University to explore health and environmental inequities and create a world where all individuals have an equal chance at healthy living,” said RTI president and CEO Tim J. Gabel. “Our mission to improve the human condition calls on us to tackle big problems. We recognize that big problems require a diverse team effort.”
Akinleye, Gabel and other senior leaders at NCCU and RTI were among the speakers at the ribbon cutting ceremony. Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, University of North Carolina System and Durham Chamber of Commerce also addressed attendees.
In 2019, NCCU and RTI’s University Collaborations Office established a partnership to build stronger collaborations, drive scientific research and maximize the impact of their work on people’s lives. CARES draws on the groundwork of that agreement with a mission to generate impactful environmental health and exposure research to inform and implement science-based public policy.
CARES will be led by regional scientific experts in environmental exposure, toxicology, epidemiology, and community engagement and implementation, including a steering committee and community advisory board of leaders in environmental justice research from neighboring universities, community organization partners and other environmental health experts.