Drake appointed inaugural St. Louis Confluence Collaborative faculty director

Bettina Drake

Bettina Drake, professor of surgery in public health sciences at the School of Medicine, will be the inaugural faculty director of the St. Louis Confluence Collaborative for Community-Engaged Research, Teaching and Practice, Washington University in St. Louis Provost Beverly Wendland announced May 31. The new role takes effect July 1.

The collaborative, identified as a key component of the university’s strategic plan “Here and Next,” will serve as an organizing platform and convening unit for community-engaged research, teaching and practice across WashU, focused on St. Louis needs and partnerships.

A committee of key community partners, WashU faculty and staff worked for six months to identify the collaborative’s inaugural director, ultimately selecting Drake.

Vetta Sanders-Thompson, the E. Desmond Lee Professor of Racial and Ethnic Diversity and associate dean for equity, diversity and inclusion at the Brown School, and Cynthia Rogers, MD, the Blanche F. Ittleson Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics and director of the Division of Child Psychiatry at the School of Medicine, served as implementation chairs.

“Here at WashU, we are committed to making a lasting and positive local impact,” Wendland said. “Through intentional, sustainable community partnerships, we believe WashU can help solve pressing issues that affect us all, and contribute to an equitable, vibrant future for our region.”

“The new Confluence Collaborative is a key piece of this vision. It will foster and convene our community-centered research. We are fortunate to have had such strong initial leadership for the effort, and we are thrilled Bettina Drake has accepted this important new role.”

“In St. Louis, For St. Louis” is a universitywide commitment that draws upon WashU’s strength as an economic anchor, role as a global talent magnet and mission of research, education and patient care to create real, lasting impact and opportunity in St. Louis and beyond.

As a cancer epidemiologist, Drake’s research is focused on understanding health inequities and identifying cancer prevention strategies that help reduce racial and ethnic disparities in cancer care and then utilizing community-engaged strategies to disseminate evidence-based interventions to promote health equity.

Drake also serves as the associate director of community outreach and engagement at Siteman Cancer Center, leading efforts to promote cancer education and screening and foster community-engaged research across disciplines. She also co-leads a Cancer Moonshot grant, funded by the National Cancer Institute, focused on engaging patients in cancer genome sequencing studies.  

“From the start, my research has focused on promoting equity in health care for all populations,” Drake said. “Community engagement is necessary to ensure your research questions are adequately addressing the needs of the community. Honest, active and sustained engagement is imperative for long-term impact. There are multiple centers and researchers across our university who engage the community to develop and conduct their research and inform their teaching. I look forward to working with them to highlight their work and to introduce new investigators to community engagement and the resources available at WashU. I can’t wait to get started.”

The collaborative also administrates the William H. Danforth St. Louis Confluence Award, which aims to elevate WashU’s investment in the St. Louis region by recognizing and rewarding faculty research that enhances the university’s local impact. Read more about the 2024 Confluence Symposium and award winner.

Julia Evangelou Strait contributed to this article.

Leave a Comment

Comments and respectful dialogue are encouraged, but content will be moderated. Please, no personal attacks, obscenity or profanity, selling of commercial products, or endorsements of political candidates or positions. We reserve the right to remove any inappropriate comments. We also cannot address individual medical concerns or provide medical advice in this forum.