Four female students stand smiling before their research poster

iMCH Lab

The “I” Is for Innovation

“How can we make research as interesting for our students as is it for us?” This is the question that MCH faculty continually ask themselves. And this was the motivation behind the creation of the iMCH Lab.

At our Center, we want students to have opportunities to participate in research projects that address current issues of importance in MCH and public health. And what’s more current than the coronavirus epidemic, and the physical and emotional impact it is having on women, families and communities?

Innovation: The SOMAD Project

Faculty mentor: Dr. Monica Ruiz, iMCH Co-Director for Practice

A nationwide effort to collect data about wearing of facial masks is underway.  The research project, called Systematic Observation of Mask Adherence and Distancing (SOMAD), is led by Dr. Deborah Cohen with Kaiser Permanente Research in Pasadena, CA. Dr. Cohen and colleagues developed, tested, and refined a protocol and data collection tool that are easy to follow and use.

Our own Dr. Monica Ruiz had worked previously with Dr. Cohen and thus was able to bring this innovative and timely research project to our MCH students.  Now, Dr. Ruiz mentors 8 students who are twice weekly collecting data though on-site observations at a variety of community-based locations in Washington, D.C. and the metro D.C. area. Some of these students are using this project as the basis for their own Culminating Experience projects. “Our students are getting a taste of field research and learning first-hand about data collection and reporting,” said Dr. Ruiz. “They also will get the opportunity to analyze not only their own data, but data that others have collected, focusing on MCH populations, such as women, adolescents/youth, children, and families.”

Innovation: The BRYCE Project: Addressing Youth and Adolescent Mental Health Issues

Faculty mentor: Dr. Monica Ruiz, Co-Director for Practice

Dr. Monica Ruiz and the GW MCH Program have had a long and fruitful relationship with Beacon House, an outstanding community-based organization that serves the needs of families, children and adolescents in the Edgewood neighborhood of Northeast Washington, D.C. The mission of Beacon House is to “provide a safe and nurturing community for children who come from economically disadvantaged families and help them improve their academics, discover their talents, and grow into healthy adults who achieve their greatest potential.”


The Building Resilient Youth through Connection and Empowerment (BRYCE) project is being conducted in partnership with our community partners at Beacon House to address opportunities that have been identified to improve the mental health and socio-emotional wellness among its youth population. “With this project, which is based on the excellent foundational work done by one of our MCH students during her Practicum, our MCH students will work in collaboration with the Beacon House team to develop a multi-tiered approach to improving organizational capacity to address youth mental health needs, including a staff training curriculum and programmatic activities for young people,” said Dr. Ruiz. “The various components of the BRYCE program will be pilot tested and evaluated in order to assess feasibility, cultural competence, effectiveness, and replicability. It is hoped that the program developed through this collaboration will be something that can not only be institutionalized and sustained at Beacon House, but also shared with other community organizations interested in addressing youth mental health issues and building youth resilience.”

Research Fellowship Opportunities

Faculty mentor: Dr. Karen McDonnell, Co-Director for Research

The GW Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health Research Fellowship is a competitive opportunity to support a few MCH students who are pursuing their Culminating Experience (CE) research projects. An announcement of the Fellowship with instructions for how to apply is made in the fall residential semester, with recipients announced in January of the following spring semester.

“Research Fellows receive a stipend of at least $1,000,” said Dr. Karen McDonnell, iMCH Lab Co-Director.  “Students can receive additional funds – up to $2,000 more – if they can document how they might use the money in support of their CE project. For example, students might have out of pocket expenses for things like data collection, incentives, trainings to enhance self-knowledge or skills, software, or transportation.” The CE project being pursued can be related to one of the iMCH Lab projects, or it can be for a research concept of the student’s choice.

Students who receive an MCH Research Fellowship award will be required to present their research results at a conference (e.g., GWU’s annual Research Days, American Public Health Association (APHA) or other public health related organizational meeting or conference, etc.).

Other Research Opportunities

Over the course of the academic year, faculty members may advertise the availability of  Graduate Research Assistant positions. Students can apply and compete for opportunities to work with faculty members on one of their funded research studies. These positions are paid on an hourly basis and do not come with tuition assistance.