An interview with Carla Mena, Capacity Building Manager at Hands United of the Latino Commission on AIDS.
by Aanchal Gupta, NaRCAD Program Coordinator
Tags: HIV/AIDS, Training, Program Management
Aanchal: Hi Carla, thank you so much for joining us today! We’re excited to delve into Capacity Building Assistance (CBA), as well as feature Hands United of the Latino Commission on AIDS on our blog. How did you get started in this line of work, and could you describe your current role as a capacity building manager?
Carla: I worked at a Duke University hospital in North Carolina for 7 years as a bilingual research coordinator in both local and global studies. I have research experience in hepatitis C, HIV, immigration, LGBTQ+, childhood obesity prevention, neonatal vaccinations, reproductive health, and the intersection of these areas. I also did some leadership development work, as well as community organizing. I had the opportunity to connect with teams and individuals on how to work with underserved populations, and taught them about social determinants of health, cultural humility, and health equity.
At Hands United, I began as a capacity building specialist, and have now transitioned to a capacity building manager. I make sure that we’re thinking within our funding guidelines while also highlighting the intersections of folks living with HIV or who may be at risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV. As a manager, there's the administrative side of supervision, following up on tasks, and so on.
The other aspect of it is to continue to provide technical assistance (TA) to our jurisdictions. For example, if someone is interested in implementing an HIV self-testing program in a non-clinical setting, I can assist with that. I enjoy the fact that, although I'm not a specialist anymore, I still provide TA with the team. Both of our directors also provide TA, which I think is unique.
Aanchal: Wow, you have such an extensive background in public health and sounds like it has informed your current work! Tell us more about the Hands United program as well as the importance of capacity building assistance.
Carla: The Hands United of the Latino Commission on AIDS is a capacity building technical assistance program (CBA). The CHANGE (customized, holistic, analytical, network-building, grassroots, evaluatory) model is an approach developed by the Latino Commission on AIDS. Hands United is one of the two programs available. It combines community-based organizations, health departments, or any other social service organizations to optimally plan, integrate, implement, and sustain prevention programming and services. CBA improves the performance of the HIV prevention workforce by building individual-level competencies and technical expertise while also strengthening organizational capacities.
We serve 19 jurisdictions in the southern region of the United States including, Arkansas, Alabama, Delaware, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
An organization will contact us about various topics related to HIV prevention such as recruitment for HIV testing, referrals for HIV medical care, referrals for PrEP, nPrEP, STIs, hepatitis C, or TB screening. Our role is to help them figure out what resources they need. Then we can support them with webinars or resources such as literature reviews, marketing samples, and successful stories.
Aanchal: Thanks for providing some context on the program and intervention. It’s always great to know that there are resources like this out there for organizations to utilize. Could you describe how CBA relates to academic detailing?
Carla: Detailing is very fundamental for the work that we're doing because it teaches effective social and personable skills that organizations can take out in the field. Sometimes health departments reach out to us and say that they are not sure how to recruit for providers to refer or prescribe PrEP in primary care settings. These are times when we discuss academic detailing and how it can be useful for them. Although we’re not detailing, we’re able to provide information in a way that makes sense to those who need it.
We ask them questions to better understand their program and help programs figure out exactly what they need. We ask questions like, “What is part of your package?” “What are the questions you're asking clinicians?” “What is your elevator pitch?” “Is there capacity and effort from the staff?” We might even say, “You need detailing, but you don’t have enough staff to be able to detail all the primary care providers in your county.” When this happens, we provide assistance on developing a recruitment plan that’s feasible for the requestor.
Aanchal: Those are all important questions for programs to consider as they brainstorm what it is that they need. Is there something that your program was able to accomplish during this past year that you’re proud of?
Carla: We were able to work with your team at NaRCAD and host a training this past July. This was a highlight for us because we were able to have a good representation and engagement from the jurisdictions. A community was created through the participation of the trainees. We gained a lot of knowledge that we needed in order to provide TA or CBA services to our programs.
Aanchal: That’s so nice to hear! Speaking of the training, I’d love to hear about your experience, particularly as you’re someone who was not planning to be a detailer.
Carla: For me, it was a great training because all the training facilitators were so welcoming of feedback and even role played to include our specific experiences. They took time to understand our roles and built a sense of community. Additionally, it was very hands-on, and I enjoyed having the opportunity to role play a detailing visit.
Walking in the detailer’s shoes helped me understand exactly what could be happening to them during a visit or where they may be challenged. Fusing my own lens with the lens of the detailer was very helpful.
Aanchal: I agree -- the trainings provide a practical space for trainees to share their unique experiences while practicing the communications techniques necessary to carry out a 1:1 detailing visit.
Is there any advice you would give to someone who may be hesitant about attending an academic detailing training if they ‘re planning to be a program manager rather than a detailer?
Carla: I would say, go for it! Although we may not be detailers, being able to walk through what a detailer does has made me a better CBA specialist and manager because I understand the processes through the eyes of the detailer. Watching webinars or reading resources on academic detailing was helpful and effective, but attending a training gave the opportunity to put it all into practice.
Aanchal: That is great advice! Thank you so much, Carla, for speaking with us and it was a pleasure having you at our training. We look forward to working together in the future.
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Biography: Carla is the Capacity Building Assistance Manager for Hands United at the Latino Commission on AIDS. Prior to joining the Hands United at the Latino Commission on AIDS team, Carla worked at Duke University Hospital, as a bilingual research coordinator working with studies that were both local and global.
Carla has extensive research experience in several fields including hepatitis C, HIV, immigration, LGBTQ+, childhood obesity prevention, neonatal vaccinations, and sexual and reproductive health. In addition, she has experience training people and partnerships on how to work with under-represented and under-served populations in the US. Some of those trainings include exploring social determinants of health, cultural humility, and health equity.
She graduated from Meredith College with a BS in biology. Carla is a certified Culture Facilitator, Diversity to Belonging Facilitator and Culture Assessor.
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