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Current Programs & Services

MHI has consulted with organizations such as the Association of Black Cardiologists, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) REACH collaborative, Cobb Institute, Moffitt Cancer Center, Morehouse School of Medicine, National Medical Association (NMA), and the local health department.


Locally, MHI actively partners with HIV/AIDS Network of Southwest Florida (HANS), Amaryllis Park Neighborhood Association, Newtown Nation, Genesis Health Services, Gulf Coast Medical Society, Jewish Family & Children’s Services, Multiple Faith-based organizations, Orange Blossom Community Garden, North Sarasota Library, and numerous other community-based organizations. 

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  • Consulting services to aid in the development of community-based health education programs and services


  • Developing insightful community assessments


  • Creating forums to educate and inform people about health and wellness issues


  • Working with local agencies and healthcare systems to offer culturally appropriate programs and training to benefit the population


  • Creating STEM mentoring programs that promote health, a strong foundation in science, technology, and math for young people (particularly young women) in the community. Multicultural Health Institute (MHI) founder, Dr. Lisa Merritt talks about STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics) and its importance for America's youth and future competitiveness.

February 7, 2020, MHI, Association of Black Cardiologists, AKA Sorority, FSU nursing students and New Town Farmer’s Market held a day-long, Value-Based Care Heart Screening event for the community.  This free event began at Multicultural Health Institute’s office in the Selby Goodwill building in New Town at 2:00 PM.

There were six stations set up throughout the building and participants went through each station. They began at the Welcome/Sign in station where they completed screening forms and received a coupon good at New Town Farmer’s Market for fresh fruits and vegetables:


Participants welcomed by Unitarian Universalist church, Sarasota volunteers.


They then proceeded through the station for Echocardiogram. The results were explained and any questions answered by Dr. John Fontaine, Professor of Medicine, Director of arrhythmia Services, Drexel University.

They then went to the stations for Weight/BMI, EKG, Blood Pressure and then to the Nurse Advisor Table where they could have any questions answered and receive information on linkage to care, health information and community resources. Art students encouraged stress management through creativity and virtual visualization /imagery links.


The very last station was the checkout table where volunteers made sure that each participant had received the screenings, health information, linkage to care, and a gift bag with community resource information, a coupon to the New Town Farmer’s Market, and Valentine’s Day treat.


Thirty-one participants were screened, received health information and linkage to care. 50% of those screened had Blood Pressure exceeding recommended guidelines and 25% of those screened had dangerously elevated blood pressure. Some previously undiagnosed heart abnormalities were also detected. There were 19 volunteers from middle schoolers to retirees, a total of 102 volunteer hours assisting to keep everything flowing smoothly throughout the day.


The day continued at the Booker Middle School where community members met several physicians of color who came to speak and inspire them on their wellness journeys at both MHI and Booker Middle School events. Several Doctors also encouraged STEAMH students at Booker High School.

MHI facilitated Sarasota Memorial Hospital System donation of an electronic health “kiosk” to the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex.

The interactive kiosk will be permanently installed and will be available for guests of the community complex to monitor their blood pressure and create their own personal health plans. Information about helpful health tips, ongoing support groups, health related community events and services at the hospital and throughout the community will be made available throughout the year.

MHI is pleased to partner with support from the Sierra Club for a summer "STEAMH (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math, Health Sciences" experience. 

Join us this summer for an innovative STEAM learning experience! Summer STEAM is three weeks of curriculum designed to set high school students up for a career in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. Prepare to capture data on our community's air quality, engage in hands-on chemistry experiments, and build your skills in earth science. Lunch is provided.


MHI STEAM Career Awareness

STEAM - Science Technology Education Arts Mathematics initiative re-introduces Sarasota County school students to the real world of Medical Health Care through rich 'vocationally' visual, hands-on experiences. STEAM directs our young people's naturally inquisitive minds towards career paths that build on their internet research abilities, enact literacy skills; and, with self-evaluation (*) explore the healing arts- scientifically based career opportunities.  

The programs are provided through the MHI Scholars, Positive Aging Series, and the Booker HS “Know No Bounds STEAM” mentoring programs.


Reaching out to underrepresented students and schools throughout the Manasota region teaching about Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math and Health (STEAMH) careers and providing shadowing and internship opportunities via our MHI Scholars program.

In 2017, the MHI team logged 800 volunteer hours, held 4 quarterly events and collaborated on planning, recruitment, and support for 28 impactful health awareness activities. Donations like these helped to provide a successful Know No Bounds Tech Camp for-20 middle school students of color, and 5 student scholarships and externships. Three scholars have been accepted to medical school while another is preparing for 2 medical school interviews. Another just began her surgical residency with a long-term goal of vascular surgery and yet another has begun an internal medicine residency in Miami.

Healing Circle

The program consists of a series of peer-led self-management group sessions to cover topics including stress management, brain health, nutrition, fitness, prevention of heart disease and cancer. The goal in these sessions is to provide health education and promote behavioral skills to help carry out the tasks necessary to live as well as possible. These skills include managing and monitoring symptoms, navigating health systems, and working with healthcare providers. The program will have a series of professionally-led group assemblies as well that will include guest speakers, stress management techniques, and group discussions to reach the goal of increasing health education. It is hoped with greater self-awareness and linkage to regular and culturally competent care, vulnerable populations will learn to blunt the effects of chronic disease; resulting in a decreased burden on local emergency rooms and increased participation in available effective programs offered in the community.

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Past projects

MHI Health & Wellness

We had the honor of having a group of aspiring STEAMH professionals in our Summer Camp. Our STEAMH summer camp program is designed for middle and high school students interested in pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering, arts, math and health. We had a wonderful group of five students, each looking for their own niche in these fields. With the help of a generous donation from the Sierra Club, MHI was able to offer scholarships to youth in need in the community. Each day was filled with hands-on learning, independent projects, scientific explorations and – of course – a healthy lunch and snack.

We spent a little time our the first day learning about our Scholar's aspirations and sharing ideas on how best to make those dreams into reality. Rising middle school through college students discussed why it is essential to take science classes and the types of classes needed to pursue their interests in careers like architecture, the beauty industry, dentistry and medicine. Students also got to "Get their hands dirty" and put together a class "EarthBox," a self contained growing unit. We planted beans, cilantro and broccoli and watched them sprout into life for the remainder of the month.  

Special thanks to all of our speakers: Cris Costello, Lewis Dean, Theodore Washington, Dennis Brock, Lorna Alston, Christina Quiggly, and Tracie Troxler.

Thank you to the Sierra Club!

May 23 - Gospel Explosion Block Party
Saturday, May 23, 2015 from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm at

Greater Hurst Chapel AME Church

2730 N Links Ave, Sarasota, FL 34234

Educational Achievement Gap

The “achievement gap” in education refers to the disparity in academic performance between groups of students. The achievement gap shows up in grades, standardized-test scores, course selection, dropout rates, and college-completion rates, among other success measures. (Education Week)

United Sarasota is a collaborative group comprised of diverse individuals and organizations who have come together, as part of the Patterson Foundation “Aspirations to Actions” initiative, to cultivate community conversation toward the development of innovative solutions for positive change in:

  • Community Safety and Relationships with Safety Officers  (January 2015)

  • Educational Achievement Gap and Innovative Solutions (March 2015)

  • Healthcare – Addressing Disparities in Health and Wellness (May 2015)

  • Economic Development and Opportunities for Economic Achievement (July 2015)

Senior Health and Wellness Series

Multicultural Health Institute Kicks Off - Free Senior Health and Wellness Series on October 16


(Sarasota, Florida) -- In response to the need for helping bridge the healthcare disparity gap, the Multicultural Health Institute will be presenting a series of eight monthly events for Seniors on topical issues of aging, beginning October 16 and running through May 14, 2015.  All sessions will feature both an oral technology component and a wellness segment, according to Lisa Merritt, MD, Executive Director and founder of the Multicultural Health Institute (MHI).


The oral technology portion is an open session with Booker High School students who will assist attendees with utilizing various technologies to access wellness resources. The wellness program segment will educate attendees on vital health topics through discussions with professionals in related health care fields.


Specific topics to be covered during the series include:  Wellness Choices to Reduce Health Disparities, Preventing and Living with Heart Disease, Grand-parenting and Caregiver Issues, Stress Management, Integrative Pain Management, Fitness and Falls Prevention, Living Well with Diabetes, Nutrition, Relationship Issues Across the Ages, Brain Health and Creativity Across the Ages. The series is free to the public and all sessions will be held from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Sarasota Library at 2801 Newtown Boulevard.


Positive Aging and Wellness Program

 MHI’s Positive Aging and Wellness Program is designed to provide up-to-date health information to seniors living in the Sarasota/Manatee area and surrounding communities. Each of the eight monthly series events will feature both an oral technology session and a wellness session. The oral technology
session is an open session with Booker High School students who will assist the attendees in utilizing various technologies to access wellness resources. The wellness program will educate attendees on various health care topics through discussions with professionals in the related health care field.

The Nilon Report with Multicultural Health Institute's Dr. Lisa Merritt to discuss the upcoming Senior Health & Wellness series

Senior Health & Wellness series - Dr. Merrit

Florida Health Disparities Summit

The Florida Health Disparities Summit will foster interactions amongst Florida-based organizations with the goal of creating long-term partnerships with academic, clinical and research institutions that lead to the development and implementation of evidence based health innovations and research furthering the Florida Health Disparities Agenda.


Come to our next workshop on Thursday, January 22, 2015 at the North Sarasota Library- 2801 Newtown Blvd, Sarasota, FL 34234, where we will be having various health professionals speaking on living well with diabetes and nutrition.

 Police Chief Bernadette DiPino along with members of the Sarasota Police Department and United Sarasota and Harwood Institute Conversations will held another neighborhood and community meeting called ‘New Beginnings II,’ for business owners and residents in North Sarasota.

The meeting was an opportunity to have an open discussion about Community Orientated Policing and quality of life issues, including mental illness directly with community members. This third meeting will be a continuation from two neighborhood meetings which were held in July 2014 and September 2014.

‘New Beginnings II’ is an update of a previous initiative, ‘A New Beginning for Newtown.’ This initiative is a chance to bring police and the community together to address crime, fear of crime and relationship building.


“These meetings are a chance to continue the conversation about public and officer safety. We will continue to work together to keep our community safe, build relationships and trust and partner with our community to keep Sarasota a safe place to live, work and play,” said Chief Bernadette DiPino.   Click on a photos to the right.

Men's Health Forum

Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014

Men’s Health Forum: A free, community health education & screening event.

  • June 28th: Area Health Educator Center visit MHI office for college and career advice. Dr. Merritt and Booker High Alumni/college graduates offer some words of wisdom in college preparation, career paths, and work in underserved areas.

  • June 15th: SDA Cancer Survivors Forum. In collaboration with SMH, ACS, Center for Building Hope: “Everything You Wanted to Know About Cancer But Were Afraid to Ask”.

  • May 31st: Allan Lane, Economic Director of North Port, and Dr. Merritt participated in the Community Foundation of Sarasota discussion led by Ambassador James Joseph on “Leadership As a Way of Being”. Leaders in the local nonprofit community discussed the qualities of leadership.  click here.

  • May 31st: The 2nd Annual Florida Healthcare Diversity Summit featured Dr. Lisa Merritt from MHI as the keynote speaker. Panelists discussed various topics such as: increasing medical student diversity and minority participation in clinical research.

  • May 18th: MHI provided a workshop on ‘Bones, Beauty & Brains’ at the USF Sarasota-Manatee 4th Annual Girls’ STEM Summit. The summit featured workshops that inspired middle school girls to pursue their dreams in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or math. Gabriel Holt, MHI PC STEAM Graduate, was the keynote speaker. Click here.

  • May 18th: MHI helped organize the 1st Inaugural Gospel Explosion Block Party. Area churches, support organizations and health service groups promoted HIV and AIDS awareness. click  here.

  • March 6th: MHI raised nearly $3,000 in the Giving Partner Challenge. The 2nd annual philanthropy marathon provided funds for 285 area nonprofits.


  • Ongoing Project Unity MSM and Youth education/prevention programs

  • Ongoing review, research, exploration options for electronic records implementation, electronic records security, HIE  development, consulting possibilities.

  • Ongoing review, research for possible collaborative efforts in education for Amputee management/prevention,  Diabetes and Cardiovascular disease prevention efforts.

  • NAACP MLK award for Community Services, recognized before 300 people at Robert Taylor Recreation Center

  • Biz 941 Unity Award Medical Category, recognized before 250 people at Michael’s on East


  • Moderator inaugural Hawaii Institute Molecular Education international conference, focus on cardiovascular disease


  • National Women and Girls HIV and AIDS awareness youth programs

  • Initiation of Lupus Support groups monthly at N library, led by Wendy White

  • Giving Partner Community Foundation website upload


  • Caregiver Support Fair, creation and initial marketing Caregiver Organizer


  • Ongoing Youth HIV/AIDS/Wellness education forums

  • Alta Vista We are What We Eat health and wellness mural project

  • Angie Cosby MHI Gatekeeper, intern graduates

  • Attended A4M international meeting


  • Spoke community meeting at IONIE’S on health and wellness and latest updates from A4M meeting

  • National HIV/AIDS awareness community outreach/education events


  • Ongoing Youth HIV/AIDS education/prevention programs

  • Ongoing MSM HIV/AIDS social networking support/prevention programs


  • NMA convention in New Orleans


  • Began teaching “Public Health Disparities and Gender Issues” class at New College, 85 students for “mini course”,  ended up with 27 “finalists”

  • Part II Alta Vista Healing Arts Fest, “Healthy Harvests from Around the World” begins


  • Gulf Community Foundation Alumni/conference on community dialogue

  • Spoke at UN Women’s Conference on International careers

  • Alta Vista program continues with guest artists Todd Berrien, Eleanor Merritt Darlington

  • Speaker West Coast Center for Human Development Women’s conference


  • Speaker Booker High Girls’ Basketball Team Breast Cancer Awareness event

  • Presentation Healthy Harvests at Chalk Festival

  • Presentation Healthy Harvests and student awards at North Library juried art exhibit

  • AAPMR conference Atlanta, reunion with many of my former mentees and new residents, participant special meeting  with the president on innovative business development strategies.

  • Co-Facilitator with Gwen Mackenzie CEO SMH, Ringling College Imagination Conversation, health, at Ringling Arts  Center Long Boat Key


  • World AIDS Day

  • Participant Ringling College Imagination Conversation, Education

  • Continued collaboration with Genesis Health Services on a Pfizer Foundation Grant to hold focus sessions and conduct  a Newtown Community based Town Hall meeting June 7, 2008 regarding solutions to health disparities impacting that community.

  • Continued participation Project Unity HIV/AIDS outreach

  • Continued development Gatekeepers for training in additional disease mode

  • Continued consultant to Healthy Start and Sarasota Memorial Hospital with Infant Mortality project

  • Continued consultant to The Wellness Community, worked with team to present poster on developing culturally  competent support groups at Moffitt Hospital's conference on cultural diversity in Cancer care in Clearwater, May 2008.

  • Continued monitoring/facilitation of Project Challenge mentoring program, recipient of CHIP mini grant to unify and  coordinate youth empowerment programs run by various sororities and fraternities. Also coordinating with Sarasota  Schools on enlarging pipeline of youth into mental health fields.

  • Co-coordination Bayhaven Elementary Earth Box gardening initiative in conjunction with curriculum on nutrition and  obesity prevention.

MHI was involved in a variety of activities in the SW Florida region throughout 2007. Of worth note was the development of a Gatekeepers for community health program in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. This project was a finalist in the WEDU Innovative community service awards category, recognized for its unique and effective use of lay people to be trained and deployed as HIV/AIDS counselors throughout the community. In addition, Dr. Merritt was recently recognized at the Cobb Institute Town Hall meeting as recipient of the Genesis Health Services Community Service Award.


2007 MHI Activities have included:

  • Co-founder of the Newtown Community Health Advisory Committee (NHAC)

  • Guest speaker on various media-TV, radio regarding multicultural health issues

  • Member and co-organizer of the Community Health Action Team (CHAT)

  • Consultant HIV/AIDS (HANS) Network, Sarasota

  • Participant; HANS Project Unity outreach

  • Creation and implementation of a community health assessment survey to refine erroneous statistics being used to   base important policy decisions regarding the Newtown community.

  • Dr. Merritt in collaboration with Genesis Health Services as their community medical director, developed the highly   successful community Gatekeeper's program which, on a shoestring budget, trained 40 laypeople from Sarasota and   Manatee counties as HIV/AIDS outreach workers. With the input of the community, she helped establish 16 sites   across the 2 counties for ongoing HIV/AIDS education and testing activities, logging over 4000 face to face encounters to date. This cadre of workers will be further developed to assist in addressing the many health disparities affecting the community including high blood pressure, diabetes, infant mortality and cancer.

  • Co-facilitation of the Genesis Mentoring program

  • Provided bilingual interpreter service in clinical settings

  • Served as advisor on the healthy start infant mortality issue along with Dr. Washington Hill, chief of staff, Sarasota   Memorial Hospital.

  • Co-organizer of the January 2008 Town Hall meeting for the Cobb Institute and Gulf Coast medical societies.

  • Consultant for The Wellness Community and facilitator for monthly African American and Latino cancer support   groups as well as a speaker at several events in the community.

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