How Dynamic Academic Medical Centers Improve Communities: The Case of the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health


  • Katherine Castro University of Utah
  • Travis Jacobs
  • Emilee Eden
  • Matthew S. Thiese
  • Kurt T. Hegmann
  • Joseph A. Allen



community engagement, academic medical center, occupational health


Academic Medical Centers (AMC) are unique healthcare resources that offer services to their local communities. As societal priorities shift, AMCs are identifying approaches to practice community engagement. Although many examples of AMCs exist in the literature, few have targeted resources for specific health topics like occupational health. This case study identifies examples of community engagement from AMCs around the U.S. It also offers a unique perspective of community engagement from the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (RMCOEH), housed within the Department of Family and Preventative Medicine at the University of Utah. This center is one of eighteen National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Education and Research Centers (ERC). We use the Community Engagement Continuum to consider community engagement across various degrees of relationship between the public and AMCs, including outreach, consulting, involvement, collaboration, and shared leadership. Continuing education, course work connecting students with the community, and multiorganization research projects are approaches RMCOEH uses to engage with communities. Although there are many ways for AMCs like RMCOEH to serve the community, there are opportunities for AMCs to improve community engagement efforts through cultural shifts and community participation in projects. We explore such opportunities specifically for RMCOEH.


Chung, B., Brown, A., Moreno, G., Cuen, P., Uy, V., Vangala, S., ... & Mangione, C. (2016). Implementing community engagement as a mission at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 27, 8.

Cook, D. C., Nelson, E. L., Ast, C., & Lillis, T. (2013). A systematic strategic planning process focused on improved community engagement by an academic health center: The University of Kansas Medical Center's story. Academic Medicine, 88(5), 614-619.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2011). How do you engage a community in a randomized clinical trial or a drug trial? In: Clinical and translational science awards consortium community engagement key function committee task force on the principles of community engagement in principles of community engagement. Retrieved from,

Gelmon SB, Seifer SD, Kauper-Brown J and Mikkelsen M. (2005) Building Capacity for Community Engagement: Institutional Self-Assessment. Seattle, WA: Community-Campus Partnerships for Health.

Giachello, A. L., Watson, K. S., Stuart, M., Barceló, H., Glenn, J., Wang, S., ... & Simon, M. (2019). Community-academic partnerships to reduce cancer inequities: The Chicago CHEC community engagement core. Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action, 13(5), 21.

Goldstein, A. O., & Bearman, R. S. (2011). Community engagement in U.S. and Canadian medical schools. Advances in Medical Education and Practice, 2, 43–49.

Michener, J. L., Yaggy, S., Lyn, M., Warburton, S., Champagne, M., Black, M., ... & Dzau, V. J. (2008). Improving the health of the community: Duke's experience with community engagement. Academic Medicine, 83(4), 408-413.

Shalowitz, M. U., Isacco, A., Barquin, N., Clark-Kauffman, E., Delger, P., Nelson, D., ... & Wagenaar, K. A. (2009). Community-based participatory research: a review of the literature with strategies for community engagement. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 30(4), 350-361.

University of Utah Health. (2020). Free 2020 NERP training. Retrieved from

University of Utah Health. (2021). Rocky mountain center for occupational and environmental health. Retrieved from

University of Utah Health. (n.d.a). RECOVER COVID-19 study. Retrieved from

University of Utah Health. (n.d.b). RMCOEH continuing education. Retrieved from

University of Utah Health. (n.d.c). RMCOEH- Mountain west OSHA education center. Retrieved from

University of Utah Health. (n.d.d). RMCOEH – Research: Pilot & small projects grant program. Retrieved from

University of Utah Health. (n.d.e). Center for meeting effectiveness. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). (n.d.-a). Community – Healthy People 2030. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). (n.d.-b). Workplace – Healthy People 2030. Retrieved from

Wilkins, C. H., & Alberti, P. M. (2019). Shifting academic health centers from a culture of community service to community engagement and integration. Academic medicine: journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 94(6), 763.