Community-Engaged Research

Community-Engaged Research provides training in the theory and practice of engaging patients, members of the public, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders in health research, intervention design and implementation.

The course introduces students to multiple engagement strategies by way of a readings, guest speakers, case studies, and online discussions. Students will gain practical skills needed to apply participatory research methods to existing or planned studies and implementation projects, and adapt health interventions to real-world contexts.

Course materials also help students to situate concepts and practices of community engagement in historical, social and political contexts, and to critically evaluate the ways that engagement strategies shape the production of new knowledge and challenge the lay/expert distinction.

At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Describe different approaches to engaging patients, the public, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders in health research, intervention design and implementation.
  • Understand the purpose and historical, social and political context of a range of engagement strategies.
  • Critically evaluate the benefits and limitations of different approaches to community collaboration in specific contexts.
  • Explain how engagement principles and strategies can influence research design, intervention development, data collection and evaluation activities, and implementation.
  • Identify a range of potential community partners.
  • Develop and justify a conceptual model and detailed plan for incorporating a community partnership into an existing or planned research or implementation project.


Clinicians, public health practitioners and researchers wishing to gain knowledge and skills in collaborating with patients, community members, community-based organizations and other stakeholders on research, intervention design and implementation.


Training or experience in public health, epidemiology, quality improvement or health care organization leadership. Exceptions for these prerequisites may be made with the consent of the course director.

Offered: Fall Term


Course Director

Sara Ackerman, PhD, MPH is Assistant Professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Associate Director of UCSF's Implementation Science Training Program. She received an MPH in health behavior and health education and PhD in medical anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Dr. Ackerman’s research focuses on the social and ethical implications of new medical technologies and their translation into the clinic, with a particular emphasis on genome sequencing. As a collaborator on numerous interdisciplinary research projects, Dr. Ackerman also specializes in using ethnography, mixed methods and stakeholder engagement strategies to understand and shape the implementation and impact of health information technologies.

Lecturers and Guest Speakers

Course Requirements

Required Textbooks/Materials: Required readings will be posted on the course website.

Students are expected to view all assigned videos; complete assigned readings; complete homework assignments; constructively critique other students’ work via online forums; submit a final project; and complete course evaluations. Homework assignments will be oriented toward the practical application of course content and development of a community engagement plan.

Completing this course will take an estimated 6-8 hours of work per week/module.

In order to receive a course completion certificate, students are expected to:

  • Turn in weekly assignments by the designated due date and time.
  • Provide feedback on assignments submitted by at least two peers by the designated due date and time in 8 of 10 weeks.
  • Submit a final completed assignment by the designated due date and time at the end of the course.

Students who do not turn in weekly assignments on time or do not provide required feedback to peers will have the option of auditing or dropping the course. In either case, course fees will not be refunded.