Current Projects

The Urban Health Initiative carries out a diverse set of projects aimed at sustainably addressing the social determinants of health and health disparities. We often seek volunteers to staff these projects and other important positions within our organization.

Atlanta Doula Connect

GOAL: To provide opportunities and community support in maternal and child healthcare, empowerment, career development, and support for women, especially during the pregnancy and labor and delivery

Volunteer Needs: Team members for promotion, monitoring and evaluation

Upcoming Plans:

  • Continue developing Atlanta Doula Connect a Volunteer Labor Support Program
  • Partner with Georgia Tech App Development Team, the ObsTECHtrics for Atlanta Doula Connect App

Contact: Megna Reo,


Cancer Detecting Dogs

About: Emory University Urban Health Initiative team and Grady Otolaryngology are working together to help underinsured patients in low-resource communities in metro Atlanta have better access to cancer screening. Cancer detection dogs undergo basic training and learn to follow certain cues from their trainers. They are neither mistreated nor harmed while being trained and they build trusting and loving relationships with their handlers. 

Goal: To seek ways in helping low resourced patients have greater access to diagnostic cancer testing. Cancer sniffing dogs are the newest generation of service dogs and a resource we strive to bring to the patients and medical team at Grady Hospital.

Research: Numerous studies dating from the early 2000s to recent years have shown extensive evidence that the exceptional olfactory system of canines allows them to detect certain odors, otherwise known as VOCs (volatile organic compounds), that are thought to be biomarkers of a variety of cancers. The Atlanta-based Grady Hospital Otolaryngology Cancer Team has been researching the use of inexpensive cancer detection in order to increase detection access before and after surgery for low-resourced patients. Dr. Charles Moore, chief of Otolaryngology, and the Emory University Urban Health Initiative team are seeking ways to help these low-resourced patients typically served by Grady Hospital so that they have greater access to cancer diagnostic testing. 

Progress: Our team is currently in the midst of securing grant funding to further our mission. Those interested in donating can do so online through by selecting Gift Designation, Other, and typing in “Urban Health Initiative”. Alternatively, you may donate over the phone by calling 404-712-2283. Thank you in advance for your interest in our work.

Dental Diversion

GOAL:  To divert patients from using the Grady Emergency Department for dental-related concerns; To increase the number of Atlantans with a dental home by maximizing the presence of the HEALing Community Center’s highly skilled dental team in the community

Volunteer Needs: Hollis Innovation Academy Team Lead

Upcoming Plans:

  • Outreach at Hollis Innovation, including content development for parents and teachers
  • Train Grady Primary Care providers on conducting oral health screenings during primary care exams

Contact: Grace Buchloh,

Emory Safety Manual

GOAL: To develop curriculum for an online course providing students, staff, faculty from Emory and other universities and community partners with helpful information on how to stay safe.

Volunteer Needs:

  • IT Member- who likes IT and course development to update the Safety Manual course on Canvas, pilot test, and implement throughout Emory and other sites.
  • Evaluator Member- must have skills and interest in continued evaluation to see how the Safety Manual is being received, understood, along with being able to make quality improvements, e.g., COVID-19, as they appear.

Contact: Chryston Jones,

Food Access Programs

For detailed program information, click here.

Community Teaching Gardens

  • Gardening Workshops for Community Members
  • Harvest is provided free to community members

Read-to-Me Program (R2M)

  • Combining Literacy and Garden-related STEM education
  • Hand’s on Activities to reinforce learning

Urban Farmer Entrepreneur Program

  • Agriculture / Business Skills / Leadership Skills
  • Focus on Recruitment of Women & Girls

Contact: Joan Wilson,

Health Careers Collaborative

GOAL: To engage students to graduate from high school through project-based learning with a focus on science and health care related issues by modeling a diverse range of health-related career pathways and empowering students to identify the most pressing health needs in their community and engage students in community-based health promotion activities.

Volunteers Needed: Students and Professionals in the following fields: Public Health, Medicine, Allied Health, and Physician Assistants.

Upcoming Plans:

  • Develop virtual learning activities and tutoring sessions for our partner schools.
  • Hold end of the year debriefs with volunteers and school leaders.

Contact:  Brittany Evans,

Healthy Pregnancy Spacing

GOAL: To develop and disseminate information related to healthy pregnancy spacing to women of reproductive age in Atlanta.

Volunteer Needs: Social Media Manager,  Lead Media Content Developer

Upcoming Plans:

  • Add information on healthy pregnancy spacing to UHI website
  • Host focus group with expectant and postpartum women to assess response to media and gain new ideas for media content
  • Media content development

Contact: Penelope Strid,

Operations Team

GOAL: Maintain communication and coordinate across projects by scheduling/attending meetings, detect operational gaps and inconsistencies, propose operational improvements, develop tool to track programs progress and develop reports as needed.

Volunteers Needed: Marketing Assistant, Administrative Assistant (student or professional interested in gaining experience in management)

Upcoming Plans:

  • Expand partnerships and sponsors
  • Increase awareness of UHI and participate in outreach activities
  • Recruit future volunteers
  • Develop additional projects

Contact:  Taqiyya Alford,

Rolling Suitcase Drive

GOAL: To provide rolling suitcases to homeless individuals with limited transportation, to improve secured mobility of their possessions. To date there have been 661 suitcases delivered!

Volunteer Needs: Members needed to assist with promoting the rolling suitcase drive, develop PR material, conduct community outreach with faith congregations, restaurants, other organizations. Plan evaluation, keep website up-to-date, write articles.

Upcoming Plans:

  • Update media content
  • Planning for after COVID-19
  • Two groups are ready to have a Rolling Suitcase Drive once we have a new project coordinator.

Contact: Carolyn Aidman, PhD, Associate Director


RYSE: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

GOAL: Our program has been designed to facilitate mentorship and networking; and enhance academic and research agendas.  This initiative specifically targets historically underrepresented minority healthcare professionals with a specific emphasis on faculty in academic health sciences. This program will enhance peer mentoring and sense of community among URM faculty members and learners; develop/enhance leadership and career development skills identified by participants; encourage meaningful discussions about the experience of navigating academic health sciences as a URM faculty members and learners; and contribute to efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive environment.

Volunteer Needs:

  • TBD; Most of our programming has been postponed due to the unprecedented impact of COVID-19. 
  • Upcoming—On-site volunteering at GA-GEAR: Community Health Fair

Upcoming Plans:

  • Professional Development and Networking Event: Physician Wellness
  • GA-GEAR: Community Health Fair

Contact: John-Otis Blanding,, Karastin Hughes,

Tobacco Use Prevention & Cessation

GOAL: To provide Grady Hospital patients, employees, and Atlanta community members with information and advice about the dangers of smoking and vaping.

Volunteers Needed: Team members

Upcoming Plans:

  • Collect and share information and strategies for tobacco use resistance.
  • Promote success in quitting therapies via smoking cessation classes.
  • Help evaluate success and needs for programs, ongoing.

Contact: Dr. Charles Moore,

UHI Advocacy Core

GOAL: Learn to advocate for issues of equity.

Volunteer Needs:

  • Project Coordinator- Assist in the development of a Laney Graduate School course on Interprofessional Education and Social Determinates of Health course
  • Project Coordinator- Assist with Ethics and Advocacy webinar, Primary Care Advocacy Collaborations, Civility Discussions

Contact: Joan Wilson,; Dr. Bill Sexson,

Transportation Ministry: Community Supplemental Transportation Initiative (CSTI)

This initiative was established to address the lack of reliable, affordable transportation options for low-income residents in Northwest Atlanta. Transportation research was conducted, in collaboration with Northwest Atlanta low-resourced community residents and organizations such as the Center for Black Women's Wellness (CBWW), the Atlanta Healthy Start Initiative, the residents of Rolling Bends Apartment Community. This ministry engages community and faith-based organizations to contribute their staff and resources to provide residents affordable transportation to locations such as the grocery store, laundromat, healthcare clinics and social services offices. This avoids the need to pay "The Ride Man" (a neighbor with a car) upto $30 for a 30 minute "jog-shopping" grocery trip, in which product labels may not be read, and unit prices may not be compared.

Walk With A Doc

GOAL: To provide a no cost walking program for anyone interested in living a healthier lifestyle.  Talk with medical professionals outside the office.

Volunteers Needed: Project coordinator and team members

Upcoming Plans:

  • Promote Walk with a Doc activities to healthcare professionals who are interested in physical activity while sharing healthy ideas.
  • Promote events to community members who would like the opportunity to talk with health care professionals in a casual environment.

Contact: Dr. Charles Moore,