Kent Key, PhD, MPH

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Assistant Professor

Dr. Kent Key is a Health Disparities Researcher. In 2020, he authored a resolution Declaring Racism as a Public Health Crisis and has spearheaded initiatives locally and regionally, and nationally. His work was featured in the January 2021 issue of “The Nations Health” a publication of the American Public Health Association. Dr. Key is an expert in building equitable relationships between community and academic partners for health research and elevating community-identified health priorities to the research enterprise. As a scholar-practitioner bridging both academia and community together to create equitable collaborative relationships in research, Dr. Key has worked on national, regional, and local levels. Throughout his career, Dr. Key has served in an intermediary role helping to translate the resources of government, research partnerships, and foundations into practical support for communities engaged in research. 

Dr. Key is a Health Equity and Community Engaged Research scholar, he is faculty at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine in the Charles Stewart Mott Department of Public Health. Dr. Key is also the Founder of the Community Ethics Review Board (CERB) a component of the Community Organization Partners (CBOP) where community members conduct ethical reviews of proposed research projects to ensure that no harm is done on a community level and to assess mutual benefit. He also worked to create equitable engagement for patient/provider engagement as he was a member of the National Patient Stakeholder Council for PCORI and PCORI’s National Fall Prevention Council and the University of Michigan Medical School’s Clinical Translation Scientific Award (CTSA) in the community engagement program. Dr. Key is Principal Investigator on an NIH-K Award focused on exploring the utilization of Family Health Histories in the African American community. The goal is to increase the utilization of preventative screenings, increase health literacy and community between families and providers by creating a culturally tailored Family Health History toolkit. Dr. Key is also Principal Investigator for the Recruiting and Retaining Older African Americans for Research (ROAR) this study is a part of the Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research (MCUAAAR). Dr. Key serves as a faculty for MCUAAAR. In 2016, Dr. Key began serving as the Academic Principal Investigator of the Community Consortium Core of the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions, a U54 NIH funded grant.  Dr. Key has served as Deputy Director for Flint Odyssey House Inc., Health Awareness Center conducting Health Disparity Research initiatives since 1999. Dr. Key is the Deputy Director of the Community Based Organization Partners, an umbrella organization of non-profits, faith-based organizations, and neighborhood associations in Flint, Genesee, County. Dr. Key is the Founder and Director of the Flint Public Health Youth Academy, an extension of his doctoral dissertation.

Immediately after the Flint water crisis, Dr. Key and a collaborative partnership of Community, Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan Ann Arbor and Flint founded the Healthy Flint Research Coordinating Center (HFRCC) where he serves as a Core Director. The HFRCC main objective is to coordinate the research being conducted in Flint post the Water Crisis to eliminate duplication and reduce the burden on the community.

Selected Publications:

Carrera, J. S., & Key, K. (2021). Troubling heroes: Reframing the environmental justice contributions of the Flint water crisis. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water8(4), e1524.

Dawadi, A., Lucas, T., Drolet, C. E., Thompson, H. S., Key, K., Dailey, R., & Blessman, J. (2021). Healthcare provider cultural competency and receptivity to colorectal cancer screening among African Americans. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 1-12.

Sneed, R. S., Key, K., Bailey, S., & Johnson-Lawrence, V. (2020). Social and psychological consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in African-American communities: Lessons from Michigan. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy12(5), 446.

Masten M, Vega S, Johnson J, Hailemariam M, Kagotho N, Key K, Jefferson B, Muhammad J, Summers M, Spencer B, Sadler S. (2020). The Flint women’s study: community perspectives on contraception and family planning, sexuality education and barriers to reproductive health. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 1-5.

Key, K.D. (2020). Increasing African American Public Health Professionals: Utilizing the Feedforward Model to Address Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the African American Community. Journal of African American Studies, 1-17.

Hailemariam, M., Key, K, Jefferson, B.L., Muhammud, J., Johnson, J.E. (2020). Community-based participatory qualitative research for women: Lessons from the Flint Women’s Study. Progress in Community Health Partnerships, 14(2).

Hailemariam, M., Felton, J.W., Key, K., Greer, D., Jefferson, B.L., Muhammad, J., Miller, R., Richie, F., Robinson, D., Saddler, S., Spencer, B., (2020). Intersectionality, special populations, and needs and suggestions: the Flint Women’s study. International Journal for Equity in Health, 19(2), 1-2.

Key, K. D., Furr-Holden, D., Lewis, E. Y., Cunningham, R., Zimmerman, M. A., Johnson-Lawrence, V., & Selig, S. (2019). The Continuum of Community Engagement in Research: A Roadmap for Understanding and Assessing Progress. Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action, 13(4), 427-434.

Carrera, J., Key, K.D., Bailey, S., Hamm, J., Cuthbertson, C., Lewis, E.Y., Woolfrod, S., De Loney, E.H., Greene-Moton, E., Wallace, K., Robinson, D.E., Byers, I., Piechowski, P., Evans, L., McKay, A., Vereen, D., Sparks, A., & Calhoun, K. (2019). Community Science as a Pathway for Resilience in Response to a Public Health Crisis in Flint, Michigan. Social Sciences, 8, 1-25.

Johnson-Lawrence, V., Bailey, S., Sanders. P.E., Sneed, R., Angel-Vincent, A., Brewer, A., Key, K.D., Lewis, E.Y., & Johnson, J. (2019). The Church Challenge: A community-based multilevel cluster randomized trial to improve blood pressure and wellness in African American churches in Flint, MI. Contemporary Clinical Trials Communications, 14, 1-11.

Johnson, J.E., Key, K.D. (2018). Credit Where Credit is Due: Race and Recognition in Responses to the Drinking Water Crisis in Flint. Progress in Community Health Partnerships, 12(2), 215-221.

Key, K.D & Lewis, E.Y. Sustainable community engagement in a constantly changing health system. Learning Health Systems, 1-5.

Key, K.D. (2017). Expanding Ethics Review Processes to Include Community-Level Protections: A Case Study from Flint, Michigan. American Medical Association Journal of Ethics, 19(10), 989-998.

Kruger, D.J., Cupal, S., Franzen, S.P, Kodjebacheva, G., Bailey, S., Key, K.D., Kaufman, M.M. (2017). Toxic trauma: Household water quality experiences predict posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms during the Flint, Michigan, water crisis. Journal of Community Psychology, 45(7), 957-962.

Paberzs, A., Piechowski, P., Warick, D., Grawi, C., Choate, C., Sneed, G., Carr, D., Lota, K., Key, K.D., Alexander, V., Ghosh, P., Sampselle, C. (2014). Strengthening Community Involvement in Grant Review: Insights from the Community-University Research Partnership (CURES) Pilot Review Process. Clinical and Translational Science, 7(2), 156-163.


Selected Media Coverage:

Flint Water Crisis


Flint Public Health Youth Academy

Racism as a Public Health Crisis Policy

Community-Engaged Research

In Learning Health Systems: Sustainable Community Engagement in a Constantly Changing Health System

To request a comprehensive CV summarizing Dr. Key's achievements email him at


Scholarly Interests

  • Community-Engaged Research
  • Community-Based Participatory Research
  • Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities Research
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • African American Health across the Life Span
  • African American Aging Research
  • African American Women’s Research
  • Mental Health
  • Youth Development and Career Exploration
  • Health Equity
  • Patient-Provider Health Communication


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  • Phone: 810-600-5663
  • Address:
    Charles Stewart Mott Department of Public Health, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University
    200 East 1st Street
    Flint, MI 48502

Research Projects

Clinical Research Associate for the University of Michigan Clinical Translational Science Award (CTSA) at the Michigan Institute for Clinical Health Research (MICHR) located in the Medical School.

Appointments and Honors


PhD, Public Health: Community Health Education and Promotion
Walden University, Minneapolis, MN

MPH, Public Health: Community Health Education and Promotion
Walden University, Minneapolis, MN

BBA, Business Administration and Management
University of Michigan, Flint, MI