15 years in review with Executive Director Terrisca Des Jardins

November 16, 2022


Fifteen years ago, no one could have anticipated where the Center for Health and Research Transformation (CHRT) would be today. We’ve gone through many iterations, making our 15th anniversary truly significant. 

We were only guaranteed three years of funding when we opened the doors of our center. We started as a grant-making nonprofit to support health services research. For many years, much of our work sought to improve health care and access to care. Then in 2018, we changed our name from the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation to the Center for Health and Research Transformation. This shift highlighted our recognition of the critical role that health-related social needs and influencers have on the health of communities, as well as the substantive number of projects in our portfolio designed to address those needs. 

Today, all of our work asks: How do we create healthier populations, healthier individuals, and healthier communities? Three primary strategies guide our work and help us answer these questions.  

The first: To be, and be known as, a key source for evidence-based, non-partisan information on health policy issues and trends. 

  • Our policy briefs have remained neutral, trusted sources of information. We’ve analyzed a wide range of topics—like ways to recruit and retain behavioral health workers in rural America and effective state and federal policy options designed to support family caregivers—to determine how we can reshape policy to better serve vulnerable populations. We place a lot of attention on disseminating our briefs to policymakers, stakeholders, and other leaders, and have influenced several local, state, and federal policies.
  • Our policy fellowship—which is now celebrating its tenth year—has greatly influenced the health policy space. Historically, we’ve welcomed a diverse set of researchers and policymakers. In recent years, we added nonprofit leaders to the fellowship. In the ten years the program has run, we’ve had 122 fellows. And we launched a new fellowship for Detroit Health Department (DHD) staff, the DHD Public Health Practice and Policy Engagement Fellowship. This fellowship program has trained 37 frontline DHD staff to date, helping them build knowledge in systems thinking, data analytics, public policy, and communications. We are currently training our third cohort of DHD fellows. 
  • Our communications work has grown to be its own area, expanding from supporting CHRT’s core communications to helping partners and funders raise awareness about their programmatic efforts. For example, CHRT’s communications team is working with the national Social, Behavioral, and Economic COVID-19 Coordinating Center (SBECCC) to develop a research report showcasing NIH-funded COVID-19 research projects centered on disparities. The SBECCC hopes the report will help highlight evidence-based COVID-19 mitigation strategies and provide important data to inform future pandemic mitigation strategies across the country. 

The second: To help community-based health collaborations improve population health and magnify their impact. 

  • Our backbone support has helped community-based collaborations like MI Community Care, Vital Seniors and the subsequent Healthy Aging at Home Network, and the Washtenaw Health Initiative get started and off the ground. We’ve also facilitated the evolution of their work. Over time, that has positively impacted both individuals and populations. 
  • Our technical assistance has facilitated health care delivery transformation, new initiatives, and evolving strategies. For example, we’ve recently worked with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to identify more equitable long-term services and supports. In this work, we focus on data analytics and strategic planning to help our state scale solutions to a range of populations. 

And the third: To build the evidence base for local and state programs that can be replicated and scaled to improve health and social welfare. 

CHRT has evolved a lot over the past 15 years. It’s even evolved significantly over the past two years since I assumed my role as executive director in 2020. Reflecting on my time at CHRT, I think of three meaningful shifts we’ve made. 

CHRT has covered topics including health care access, health care delivery, health care integration, healthy aging, behavioral health, unpaid caregiving, health equity, the social determinants of health, and pandemic response, to name only a few of the areas we’ve addressed in our first 15 years.

We are a team of problem solvers and thought partners working alongside our funders and clients. While our approaches are evidence-based, we can also push the envelope and contribute to the evidence as we identify creative solutions to the pressing health challenges of the day.

I’m grateful to have the CHRT team by my side as we move into our next chapter. Our team is incredibly passionate. Everyone brings a unique perspective and experiences to the table, and I’m continuously humbled to be a part of it.  

In partnership,

Terrisca Des Jardins