Community service to research: Doris Lassiter

Doris Lassiter

Doris Lassiter

This profile is part of a series to highlight the researchers who will be honored at a ceremony on March 9 for UNMC’s Scientist Laureate, Research Leadership, Distinguished Scientist, New Investigator and Community Service to Research Award recipients.

Community Service to Research

The Community Service to Research Awards were established to recognize the critical roles many community members have played in UNMC research, as facilitators, implementors, reviewers, and collaborators, among other roles.

Doris Lassiter, UNMC’s 2022 Community Service to Research Award honoree, believes strongly that research is about the data. “When we are collecting data, we are collecting solutions,” she said.

But she believes even more strongly that research is about trust:

“Partnerships don’t start just ‘right now,’” she said.

Trust is built up over time, “UNMC with me,” she said, “and me with UNMC.”

And perhaps most of all, trust between Lassiter and the North Omaha community she has served for more than 30 years.

Lassiter, health ministry director with the New Era Baptist State Convention, was nominated for this 2022 honor, in part, for a series of recent partnerships with UNMC, including a comprehensive community health needs assessment; successful application for a major federal grant to train community health workers to address health disparities; and successful application by the UNMC College of Public Health for the prestigious Harrison C. Spencer Award for Outstanding Community Service by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health.

But Lassiter’s service to research in the community goes back decades. As does her relationship with UNMC. (And with Creighton, she pointed out: “I am an equal opportunity outreach person.”)

If a project is about sustainability and eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities, “That’s who I am.”

That too, began three decades ago. She and her husband had corporate jobs then, making corporate money. Her son was 22 and her career was taking off. But then she was pregnant unexpectedly. Her daughter was born premature, 2 pounds, 13 ounces.

“But with our faith in God,” she said, “is understanding He teaches us in various ways.”

Traveling for a corporate career was out. Home in Omaha with a baby girl was in. Bob Armstrong of the Omaha Housing Authority approached her: Would you consider working with us?

OHA was going to try to address the problem of infant mortality in North Omaha.

“It touched my heart because I just had a baby,” Lassiter said. “I was in the NICU with my daughter, there was a young lady who had nobody to come see her. She lived in Housing.”

Lassiter was interested. Did the job come with a corporate car?

What? No. No, no, no, no.

But this was work she realized she needed to do.

It helped lead to the creation of Omaha Healthy Start, an integrative services system, and several other initiatives.

And Lassiter began a long career of community service to research, of creating partnerships and trust. “That’s how this process started,” she said. “You begin to know people. Questioning the data if it wasn’t right.” Helping build cultural competency among researchers and medical providers.

At every meeting, Lassiter said, she asks: is this about addressing racial and ethnic health disparities? What is our goal? What if the funds go away? Then what?

In the last decade or so, she realized working with faith-based organizations – church! – can be a tremendous vehicle in bringing the community to research and vice-versa.

“I don’t have to outreach to an unknown community she said.  “I can in-reach and reach more people.”

This is how, when Dejun Su, PhD, director of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities, asked if it’s possible to find 400 people for a project, Lassiter answered: “We’ll do it in 90 days.”

It is the fruit of a 30-year relationship.

“UNMC has agreed not to do helicopter research,” Lassiter said. “That is why I continue partnership with UNMC.”

It continues. “I remember when there wasn’t a College of Public Health,” Lassiter said. “Now we see more minority people going into the health care fields. They see the changes there,” at the med center.

The sustained relationship and the building trust between UNMC and the community, “It’s not enough,” Lassiter said. “But it will be. They’ll get there.”

She continues to work to make it so.


  1. Veronica Jones says:

    Congratulation Doris! You are a diligent community leader with strong moral values. You exemplify hard work, strength, integrity, and faith. The award is well deserved.

  2. Marlene Novotny says:

    Thank you for your work in making our community and our world a better place.

  3. Shirley Barlow says:

    Congratulations Doris Lassiter. Thanks for your love and concern

  4. carol hooks says:

    Congratulations to a dedicated servant, committed to addressing disparities in our community. You are making a difference in a much needed way. Your commitment to doing all you can, speaks volumes to those in need. You are deserving of this award.

  5. Rev. Walter & Renee Jones says:

    Congratulations! Well Done and Well Deserved.

  6. Johnnie Wagstaff says:

    Congratulations and thanks for all you do for the community.

  7. Harvey Green Prentice says:

    Thank you for all that you have done to make our community a better place for all. You have my admiration and sincere appreciation as a dedicated leader in Nebraska.

  8. Precious S Davis says:

    Congratulations! Great testimony.

  9. Pastor Raymond & Sis. Willie Mae Burt says:

    Congratulations and God Bless!

  10. Kelly McCauley says:

    I’ve had the opportunity to work with Doris during community events. She is well deserving of the recognition!

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