The Multicultural Health Institute (MHI)  in the News
MHI helps clean up Whitaker Bayou!

This Spring, we joined forces with the Sarasota Bay Estuary program to clean tons of litter, trash and plastics from the Whitaker Bayou. Tires were hauled out of the waters and rolled into piles. Kayaks circled around with nets, collecting surfaces plastics. An educational piece was offered at the start of the day for folks to learn more about this wonderful waterway in our community. 

Read all about it!

Herald-Tribune article about Myrtle's Environmental Toxins

Carrie Seidman's article illustrates the insidious issue of environmental health for the neighborhoods that fall on Myrtle street next to the several industrial sites located there. She documents the work of the Newtown Health Disparities and Environmental Collaborative, a group that MHI started to address this issue. We are glad to see this important issue find a place in the news. 

Read all about it!

2017 Women In Power Honorees Meet with Presenting Sponsor
Canandaigua National Trust Company

Each year, the National Council of Jewish Women, Sarasota-Manatee Section, honor women from the area whose accomplishments mirror NCJW’s focus on social justice by improving lives of women, children and families and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms.

Three of the honorees for the 2017 Women in Power KT Curran, Sue Jacobson and Dr. Lisa Merritt met with Canandaigua National Trust Company Vice President, Wealth Advisor, Paul Tarantino to discuss their appreciation for the company’s Presenting Sponsorship.

Click here to read Press Release

Standing: Joan Bour, Geri Serot, Paul Tarantino, Lauren Brownstein
Seated: KT Curran, Sue Jacobson, Dr. Lisa Merritt, Bunny Skirboll (not available for picture)

We wanted to share recent updates that include our MHI Scholars Morgan Lataillade and Vincent Taylor. These aspiring bright minds are a ray of hope amidst times of many challenges and uncertainty. Vincent is a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford who is remotely contributing to the upcoming SRQ hackathon and post hackathon sustainability program we are helping to organize. Morgan, a bioengineering student at UVA who already has presented great research on pancreatic islet cells, was instrumental in facilitating a recent visit from Dr. Mae Jemison (Morgan is in black dress walking alongside Dr. J).  We used Dr. Jemison's STEM curriculum in our initial PC Stem program several years ago to engage students from under represented backgrounds with an emphasis on girls. Those materials continue to be used by community partners we collaborate with. Hope springs eternal! 

MHI Scholars' Summer Summaries
"My summer this year was different than any other that I had spent with Dr. Merritt. This summer I was able to work on a research project with the help of Dr. Merritt. This project focused on creating a cellular
model of Sickle Cell Disease that could be used to test different pharmaceutical interventions and treatment options. Dr. Merritt gave me a way to contact people who were specialists in Sickle Cell Disease and Biological Modelling. She also sent me many resources that allowed me to look at what research others had done in the field.

During the culminating event on University of Florida's campus, I was able to share my research with medical professionals from all over Florida, including a doctor and a specialist in genetic blood disorders.
By the end of the event I was given a $1000 scholarship to which ever University I decide to attend. Overall, I learned a lot about Sickle Cell Disease and found a passion to one day cure it, and it couldn't have been done with out Dr. Merritt." - McKensie Murray

"For quite sometime I have thought about a career in a medical health profession, yet I never knew where to start or how to get involved anywhere outside of school. However, this internship and volunteer opportunity at the multicultural health institute has helped me experience firsthand the responsibilities a doctor possesses and the work that comes with running the office. I have also learned a lot about the community I live in and how important it is to help and reach out to the members in my community because even small things can make a difference in it. Just by getting connected to members in my community, I have received mentoring from Dr Merritt and her interns to pursue my dream of becoming a medical health professional.

I have been able to attend meetings in my community and at Sarasota Memorial Hospital about health advances in our community and health crises affecting our community as well. I have also been able to be a part of programs such as the Lake Erie College of Medicine’s Pharmacy Exploration Academy, and I plan on shadowing physicians and surgeons later in August. Thanks to the connections given to me by the Multicultural Heath Institute, I have learned and experienced so much this summer that I would have never thought I would have done, and for this I am extremely grateful to it’s members and the resources they have given me." - Lillee Izadi

"MHI was very informative for me. I did patient intake, taking the patient's bp and weight. I also had the opportunity to sit in on exams, and got to read and watch informational videos on cesarean sections, unrepresentation of black men in medicine, and spinal cord injuries. I also had the chance to sit in on a skype video chat with a dual PhD/MD student, which was very intriguing as I am aspiring to be an MD/DO. Dr. Merritt took time out of her day to have a sit down discussion about the intricacies of my career path and what factors I would need to take into consideration going into the medical field. She gave me realistic facts to make sure I knew what I was getting myself into. She also spoke at the Youth Conference at my church. I learned about the healing circle and am working towards getting my church to partner with them. I love the work that she is doing! I would like to work with MHI in the future and do my part by working with the community to be more health conscious." - Keliy Fordham

"This summer was phenomenal! Although I didn’t get to go to the beach and relax before the next school year started, I gained numerous insights and skillsets that will last me a lifetime. I had the valuable opportunity of being Dr. Merritt’s assistant, an office manager, and being an MHI scholar this summer. With only three short months, I learned how to network, be persistent, be comfortable with public speaking, take patient vitals, do patient intakes, work efficiently, listen attentively, and to always document. From my first year of being in college, I thought that I didn’t have what it takes to be a health professional; however, this valuable summer internship opened my eyes to my passion for the medical field and made me see the strengths that I have. Other than acquiring new skills, I learned many things about the medical field including billing, portals, and a few new changes to the medical system. I have never been so exposed to the medical field before.
Thank you Dr. Merritt and MHI for inspiring me to be a great health professional one day." - Nhi Nguyen

Fortune magazine (

New wellness kiosk for Robert L. Taylor Community Complex:

It's easy to use, and prompts you through a series of short questions.

The hope is that by keeping track of your own blood pressure, weight and body mass index, you can be empowered to make healthier choices.

"In the African American community, the rates of heart disease and high blood pressure are much higher. For all Americans, heart disease is the number one cause of death," Dr. Merritt added. "But in the African American community, things like heart attacks and strokes are much higher -- even twice as high in some cases."

Dr. Merritt notes that there are helpful websites where you can find information on health conditions that most affect the African American community, including the Multicultural Health Institute, Sarasota Memorial Hospital and the National Institute of Minority Health on Health Disparities.

​​​​​​​Ed James Interview:

National Colloquium: Sarasota Physiatrist Recognized By National Medical Association
Dr. Lisa Merritt was recently selected to receive the ‘True North Toward Health Care Equity: Clinical, Policy and Social Determinants’ award. click here
941 CEO 4/18/2016

Unity Awards 2016:

Herald Tribune Business People:

Unity Awards

Celebrating our region’s champions of diversity at the 2016 Unity Awards.

By Lori Sax | 2/18/2016

Sarasota Physiatrist Recognized By National Medical Association

Dr. Lisa Merritt was recently selected to receive the ‘True North Toward Health Care Equity: Clinical, Policy and Social Determinants’ award.

Dr. Lisa Merritt of Sarasota was recently selected to receive the “True North Toward Health Care Equity: Clinical, Policy and Social Determinants” award at the National Medical Association’s 17th annual Health Policy Colloquium in Maryland. The award recognizes exemplary work that increases the level of advocacy at state, local and national levels as a health policy advocate. Dr. Merritt is a board-certified physiatrist, sub-specializing in brain injury. Over the past 25 years, she has been an advocate for eliminating health disparities by advancing individualized health and wellness strategies.


941CEO magazine named Merritt as one of the magazine’s 2016 Unity Award winners this January. Read more about her here.

Show More

Our Positive Aging Health and Wellness Program was a Success. Click on a photo to take a look at some photos above.

January 26, 2016

Meet the 2016 Unity Award Winners

Among the winners are:  ​MHI Community Partners:

Jetson Grimes, Entrepreneur Winner

William Carter, Health Care Winner

Dr. Lisa Merritt, Alumni Winner


January 18, 2016

New Wellness Kiosk for Robert L. Taylor Community Complex

As it moves forward with plans for a new Internal Medicine practice in Newtown, Sarasota Memorial this month also unveiled a new self-service screening kiosk in that community to make it easier for people to track and manage their health risks.


SMH installed the popular SoloHealth kiosk and educational displays in Newtown’s Robert L. Taylor Community Complex on Dec. 29. The health and wellness kiosk provides members with free blood pressure, vision, weight, and body mass index checks, along with individual health risk assessments and customized recommendations based on their results.


“We know the Newtown community wants and needs better access to primary and preventive care, ” said Steve Taylor, Chief Medical Operations Officer at Sarasota Memorial. “Between the new Internal Medicine practice we are developing and the new health and wellness kiosk, we hope to make a meaningful impact in the lives of residents of that community.”


In addition to the non-invasive biometric screenings, people can use the FDA-cleared kiosk to take a health risk appraisal or check their symptoms - all via a user-friendly touch screen. After their screening, users receive a customized report with health scores and a summary of their risk appraisal. The information is stored on SoloHealth’s online platform so when they visit in the future, they can track their progress. They also can access their data online through any computer or other SoloHealth screeners across the nation with a free SoloHealth member account.


Sarasota Memorial worked in partnership with the Multicultural Health Institute to find a suitable space for the self-service screener and provide culturally relevant health education to an at-risk population. With grant support from Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation Inc., MHI provides ongoing community health education and outreach through its Healing Circles program to promote equal health care access and treatment for under-served communities, and plans to use the new wellness space to share vital resources with the Newtown community.


“Our goal is that people frequenting the complex will take the time to not only screen themselves and become more aware of how they can manage their risk factors, but also share important health information with friends and family in the community and beyond,” said Sarasota Physiatrist Lisa Merritt, MD, who founded the not-for-profit MHI in 1995.


A staunch advocate for the medically underserved, Dr. Merritt has studied the health disparities among African Americans in Newtown for many years. In 2008, she authored the Newtown Healthcare Access Study, which revealed, among other disparities, the stroke rate in Newtown African Americans is twice that of Caucasians, and that they are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.


“The health disparities we see in Newtown and in minority communities across the nation are alarming, but also largely preventable with better access to health care and a multi-generation approach to health education,” she said.

Click Here


January 13, 2016

Health Check with Heidi Godman

Dr. Lisa Merritt speaks about the MLK Day of Service grant January 18th and Spirit of the Heart event.

Click Here


January 10, 2016

Black Almanac

Black Almanac with Executive Produce and Host, Edward "Ed" James II

Dr. Lisa Merritt speaks about the MLK Day of Service on January 18

Click Here

First Recipient of Eleanor Ball Memorial Health Scholarship
On May 27th, Multicultural Health Institute had the honor of awarding Quanteria Gipson, a graduating senior at Booker High School, with the 1st Eleanor Ball Memorial Health Scholarship to assist her in her pursuit of studies to become a physical therapist. Ms. Gispon was first introduced to this field as part of the ongoing MHI/Truevine summer health careers camp collaboration 4 years ago. Ms. Gipson is an outstanding student and her talents should be recognized and applauded by our community.

Meet Alexandra van de Onchtend
Hello everyone!
Multicultural Health Institute is proud to introduce Alexandra van den Ochtend, a ninth grader at Manatee High School in the AP+ program. Alexandra took high school honors classes in middle school and she continues them now in her ninth grade year. In short, she began high school with five high school classes already taken and a weighted 5.0 GPA!

We are asking for your support to help Ms. Alexandra to reach her potential in furthering her interest in the field of science, where women are still underrepresented.

Increasing opportunities for women in these fields is an important step towards realizing greater economic success and equality for women across the board. In return, your donation will help reduce the cost of the summer program of her choice, help provide transportation as well as supporting in her academic and professional experiences, and other Multicultural Health Institute interns like her.

Thank you for your support in helping Ms. Alexandra van de Onchtend! She is one step closer to reaching her potential by furthering her interest in the science field as she starts her summer attending LECOM Bradenton with their Medical Science Academy and taking dual-enrollment courses at State College of Florida. Your donations helped reduce her costs and provide transportation as well as mentoring for her curriculum and career choices


It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the loss of a dear friend and community partner, Eleanor Ball. Ms. Ball was a state designated faith based lead facilitator for community based wellness initiatives that we had the pleasure of working with on countless initiatives include founding the Community Health Action Team (CHAT) and program development for the Newton Wellness program and summer future health professionals camp. Through her compassionate and determined vision and efforts, we were able to greatly increase the number of faith based organizations to support and actively participate in HIV/AIDS prevention and education efforts. 

She was our SHERO! Recipient of numerous awards, key collaborator and catalyst for multiple community based capacity building and educational programs. We have partnered on numerous health awareness, screening and educational events from diabetes, heart disease, to all types of cancer. She fed us spiritually and most nourishing at our monthly CBH cancer support group that has met continuously over the last 8 years, sending delicious food for the soul. Perhaps this says it best: 7 Who Care Honoree: Eleanor Ball

More MHI in the News

SNN Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Interview

SNN Women in Power Interview

SNN Affordable Care Act Interview

2008 Annual Meeting - UN Women - United States National Committee

Articles Published about Marcy

Biz941 - 25 People in the know - Dr. Lisa Merritt - Page 4 of 12

Biz941 - Page 1 of 12

Dollar Dynasty benefit tickets now available

Free HIV TestingT tomorrow In Newtown

Girls Learn What Makes Autos Tick

Idea Inventory

Obesity Seen As Starting Point

Obesity The Focus Of HealthCare Town Hall Meeting

Sarasota healthcare groups join forces to present

Success Stories

Take Care Private Duty Home Health Care Event - Women in Business

Obesity, seen as a starting point
HEALTH: Looking at the costs of being overweight to an entire community
By Barbara Peters Smith
Published: Sunday, January 2, 2011

Youths honored for practicing healthy art
Herald Tribune| Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Yvette Robison obit

FST to Welcome Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Gilbert King, 2/26

Leaders Honored at King Breakfast

Who Falls Through the Medicaid Gap?

Student achievement gap is subject of community conversation

Suncoast health programs may be impacted by vetoes

Sarasota: A glimpse into American poverty’s future

A Field Guide to Getting Ahead

1781 Dr. Martin Luther King Way, Sarasota, Florida 34234

Phone: 941-706-3362   Fax: 941-225-8198

  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • YouTube