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The Consortium for Health Education, Economic Empowerment and Research (CHEER) is a community-based participatory health disparities research center funded by the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities. 

CHEER's primary mission is to engage in community-based collaborations to accomplish research and incorporate the role of community assets and personal economic efficacy in order to drive healthy lifestyles for at risk persons of all racial and ethnic backgrounds in Memphis and the Mississippi Delta region. We expect these efforts to result in new and innovative approaches to address high rates of chronic illnesses for persons who live in the Delta region and to mitigate racial/ethnic inequities in health status.


CHEER has four specific aims:

  1. To inform the design of intervention strategies aimed at reducing population health disparities by developing outcomes measures and monitoring signals to assess progress in impacting health of urban African-American and immigrant populations in Memphis and surrounding Delta regions of poverty;
  2. To develop and implement transdisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and inter-institutional basic, behavioral, clinical, and population-based research on health disparities.
  3. To actively engage community representatives and health-care providers in collaboratively setting priorities for research, outreach and assessing activities that address health disparities; and
  4. To attract, retain and educate trans-disciplinary professionals sensitive to the need to prepare, disseminate, and implement use of culturally relevant and research-based health education materials and interventions in work in Memphis and the surrounding Delta region.


CHEER was initially founded as a partnership of seven organizations who worked together to develop, share, and implement research priorities that impacted minority health and reduced health inequities. The founding collaborating organizations included the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), Methodist Le Bonheur Hospital, LeMoyne-Owen College (LOC), the Memphis and Shelby County Health Department (MSCHD), Memphis Housing Authority (MHA), First Baptist Church Lauderdale (FBCL), and Mustard Seed Inc (MS). Initial funding for CHEER was made possible (in part) by 1P20MD005118-01 from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Subsequent funding has been provided by The Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Inc. and Tennessee Department of Health.


Shelley White-Means, PhD
Executive Director


Dr. White-Means is Professor of Economics in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Translational Sciences in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC). She received her undergraduate training at Grinnell College and her Masters and Doctoral training at Northwestern University. Dr. White-Means previously served as Vice-Chair, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Chair of the PhD program in Health Outcomes and Policy Research at UTHSC. Prior to her current appointment at University of Tennessee, she served on the faculty at Cornell University and University of Memphis. Dr. White-Means is Adjunct Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at UTHSC and Faculty Associate at Methodist LeBonheur Center for Health Care Economics, University of Memphis.

Dr. White-Means is a health economist with over twenty-five years of research emphasis in health disparities and access to care for ethnic minorities, women, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations. Her research emphasizes long term care for ethnic elderly, labor market implications of caregiving, and racial disparities faced by blacks and Hispanics in the utilization of medical services. Her research studies have documented the distinction between racial/ ethnic differences and racial/ethnic disparities in health care utilization, and how labor market disparities are associated with health insurance disparities.  Her current work emphasizes improving physical and mental health outcomes of residents in the 38126 zip code, and developing interventions to reduce racial disparities in breast health outcomes in Memphis. One of her recent publications is the first study to examine race and skintone preferences among pre-professional health care providers, providing a foundation for exploring the role of implicit bias in explaining racial/ ethnic disparities in health care utilization. 

Dr. White-Means provides cultural competency training for first year pharmacy students at UTHSC.  She has national and university awards for her teaching and research, including the Board of Visitor 's Eminent Faculty Award, University of Memphis and the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy and Merck and Co., Rufus Lyman Research Award. 

Dr. White- Means is a Past-President of the National Economic Association, a Post-Doctoral Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance, and on the steering committee for the Meharry Medical College Community Health Centers, Community Networks Program. Dr. White-Means served on the board of the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economic Profession. She served as a member of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, National Advisory Committee for Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative, and currently serves on the national advisory boards for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Future of Nursing Scholars and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute’s Advisory Board for Project Achieve. 

Dr. White-Means has actively engaged in health and aging-related community planning boards and committees in the city of Memphis. She has served as Board Chair of Bluff City Christian College, Executive Committee member on the Board of Governors for Memphis Health Center, and served on two mayoral subcommittees on health. Along with prominent business leader s in Memphis, she is a graduate of Leadership Memphis. 

Muriel Rice, PhD
Director of Community Engagement Core


Dr. Rice serves as the director of CHEER'S Community Engagement Core and is responsible for health assessment activities, and developing and implementing community-engagement intervention strategies. She is also responsible for coordinating all training of community lay health workers and volunteers for community engagement activities. Dr. Rice is a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner with extensive experience in women’s health, cardiovascular and general health risk assessment in community populations, developing and delivering health promotion information in community settings, and providing interventions to improve health outcomes.

She also brings experience in developing and maintaining community partnerships to the CHEER team. This experience includes a former faculty position at Lemoyne-Owen College, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Assistant Professor in the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, College of Nursing, and a role as the Family Planning Coordinator and nurse practitioner at the Shelby County Health Department.

Dr. Rice previously served as the Director of Health Works, a welfare to work program. In this position she developed and implemented evidence-based health promotion interventions for program participants. This program was funded through a contract with Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation (Seedco), a national non-profit community development organization that works with low-income people and communities to achieve economic self-sufficiency.

Dr. Rice is the CEO and President of Mustard Seed, Inc., a faith-based 501(c) 3 that provides community outreach services for residents and other community stakeholders in the 38126 zip code. She has served as a co-chair of Memphis Teen Vision (MemTV). Memphis Teen Vision is a collaborative effort by Memphis community organizations to address the alarming teen pregnancy rate in our community.

Mona Newsome Wicks, PhD
Executive Leadership Board


A member of the CHEER Executive Leadership Board, Mona Newsome Wicks received her Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees from the University of Memphis in 1978 and 1981 and her MSN and PhD degrees from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Wayne State University in 1987 and 1992, respectively. A faculty member in the College of Nursing at UTHSC since 1987, Dr. Wicks teaches and mentors students enrolled in the PHD program and teaches DNP program courses.

Dr. Wicks’ professional memberships include the American Academy of Nursing (2015 - 2016 Co-chair of the Expert Panel on Cultural Competence and Health Equity), American and Tennessee Nurses Associations, Council for the Advancement of Nursing Science, Sigma Theta Tau International (Beta Theta Chapter-at-large Newsletter Editor), and Southern Nurses Research Society (Tennessee State Liaison). She is a lifetime member of the Greater Memphis Area Chapter of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and is a former resident of this organization. Dr. Wicks was a permanent member of two National Institutes of Health study sections (2006- 2012) and served as an ad hoc reviewer in 2013 and 2015.

Her research interests include ethnic minority, family caregiver, and women's health within the context of chronic illness; health promotion/risk reduction; and health disparities.  A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellow (2008-2011), Dr. Wicks was named Outstanding Alumna by The University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Nursing in 2009. She was selected to Leadership America in 2010 and inducted as an American Academy of Nursing Fellow in November 2010. Dr. Wicks is the recipient of institutional, regional, and national awards for her teaching and mentoring skills and author/co-author on 79 published journal articles, newspaper editorials, abstracts, and book chapters. She serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Nursing Education and is an Associate Editor, Health Behavior, and Policy Review. Dr. Wicks is a manuscript reviewer for several nursing and interdisciplinary journals including Nursing Outlook, Nephrology Nursing, Research in Nursing and Health, and the American Journal of Health Behavior. Dr. Wicks serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Memphis Mental Health Institute, the regional mental health institute for Shelby County. She also serves on the Program Advisory Board of the Shelby County Relative Caregivers Program, a Department of Children’s Services program that supports children whose parents are not able to raise them. In 2014, Dr. Wicks joined the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Action Coalition.

May 26, 2022