MPH Alum Helping to Create Resource That Allows Researchers to Conduct Thousands of Studies on Health and Disease

Lennon Turner smiles at the camera. Next to him is a purple box with the UAlbany logo in yellow and white, and white text that says "Alumni Spotlight".

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 8, 2021) – Lennon Turner, MPH Class of 2000, is working as a part of the All of Us Research Program, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiative to develop a large research cohort that represents all communities. This cohort will volunteer their health data over at least ten years, enabling researchers to conduct studies to speed up medical breakthroughs and improve tailored healthcare approaches.

The All of Us Research Program enrolls residents from across the United States—focusing on including community members who are currently underrepresented in health research. Using the data from participants, registered researchers will conduct thousands of studies to understand more about what impacts our health. Academic institutions, healthcare organizations, and community organizations across the nation serve as partners for the program, helping to enroll participants. As Program Director of the NYC Consortium All of Us Research Program, Turner is based out of Columbia University and focuses on enrolling New Yorkers from the five boroughs.

“One of the goals of All of Us is to tailor health care to the individual, and to do that, we need to make sure that everyone is represented in this research. This means we must go out and recruit within all the communities of New York City,” Turner explains.

Recruited participants answer health surveys, share their electronic health records with the program, and may provide blood, urine or saliva samples. Participant privacy is paramount. Researchers who register to use the data cannot identify individual participants.

Turner oversees operations and logistics for engagement, recruitment and retention of participants for New York City, supervising a team of managers and ensuring that the research team can effectively work towards the program goals. He is also responsible for grant administration, including creating periodic progress reports for the NIH, facilitating sub-award processes, monitoring of budgets and spending, and ensuring compliance with all institutional and federal grants regulations.

“Researchers have to do more than just identify health disparities; they must look at the root cause to find the long lasting and impactful solutions to mitigate them,” says Turner. “As public health professionals, we must be inclusive with our research and find ways to address reasons why underrepresented populations do not participate.”

In addition, Turner notes that having more representation among researchers is beneficial for enhancing research, as it allows for different questions to be asked and results to be interpreted with a different lens—ultimately forming a more well-rounded understanding of the health problem.

“My All of Us Research Program team is very diverse, and everyone is excited about the work we are doing,” Turner says. “Working with them every day, I can’t help but have that same passion for the work that we are doing.”

To learn more about the All of Us Research Program, visit the NIH’s All of Us website.