MSU Extension provides facilitation assistance to engage citizens in biobanking practices

Extension's statewide presence helps gauge public awareness in NIH-funded project

Dr. Ann Mongoven, Ph.D., Director of Michigan State University’s Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences, looked to MSU Extension to help her engage the public on biobanking practices.

Dr. Mongoven is a leading a five-year, National Institutes of Health-funded project to gauge the public awareness and values related to the use of blood samples taken at the time of birth for public health research. The goals of the project are: 1) to develop an improved consent process for the state’s biobank, known as the Michigan BioTrust; 2) improve public education on biobanking practices; and 3) improve citizens oversight of biobanking in Michigan.

Dr. Mongoven knew she would need several focus groups of diverse citizens from all across the state. Since MSU Extension has staff who are embedded in every county in Michigan, it was a great partnership opportunity for both MSU departments. In addition, several MSU Extension educators have specialized training and experience in public policy deliberative processes and meeting facilitation.

“MSU Extension educators were a key asset to the success of our citizen engagement project,” Dr. Mongoven said. “I highly recommend partnering with MSU Extension to other faculty members looking to conduct community-based research.”

The results of the citizen engagement process held last November are still being compiled. Final results will be presented to the Board of the Michigan BioTrust. Kendra Wills, an MSU Extension educator based in Grand Rapids served as a facilitator of one of the focus groups, which she said provided a great deal of information.

“Biobanking is a topic not many citizens are familiar with, but after two and a half days of presentations and discussions, I think focus group participants provided very valuable information for public health professionals,” she said.

Educators from MSU Extension who facilitated the citizen engagement process were: Claire Layman, Julie Pioch, James Ribbron, Brian Wibby, Kendra Wills, and Richard Wooten.

MSU Extension has a group of educators focused on providing facilitation expertise for key projects in Michigan. For more information, contact Bonnie Zoia, at or visit

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