a woman with a blue shirt that says
Category: Health Magazine, Summer 2023

Title:Cura personalis via participatory research

Author: Bhriana Smith
Date Published: June 20, 2023

For 20 years, Roxanne Mirabal-Beltran, a Cuban American, worked in Washington, DC’s 5th Ward, first as a volunteer with the Capuchin Franciscan Volunteer Corps and later as a labor and delivery nurse at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

One day, while waiting for her clothes to finish in a Wheaton, Maryland, laundromat, she attempted to pass the time by working on her dissertation, “Birth options after cesarean among Hispanic women living in the United States.” Unable to get much writing done, she focused her attention on her fellow patrons. At that moment Mirabal-Beltran realized she was surrounded by the very community she felt called to reach: Black and Hispanic women in urban areas.

Her work would later return to laundromats.

After completing her dissertation at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, Mirabal-Beltran joined the Georgetown University School of Nursing faculty with a plan to explore the different ways she could impact the DC community, as a researcher and practitioner.

“Communities are experts on their own needs and barriers,” she notes. “Very often, what is lacking is access to the tools needed to bring down those barriers and have needs met.”

Mirabal-Beltran began her work by attending neighborhood association meetings in the 5th Ward. After presenting her project idea to committee meetings in 2019, the community-based participatory research (CBPR) project, Wash and Spin to Health (W.A.S.H.), was born. Under Mirabal-Beltran’s purview, the program will aim to share knowledge about reproductive health to Black and Hispanic women in urban areas while the women wait between cycles of laundry.

The project is facilitated by a community advisory board (CAB) based in the 5th Ward and has since expanded to Wards 1, 4, and 7.

Mirabal-Beltran notes that CBPR projects require cultural humility.

“Being culturally competent means taking someone’s lived experiences into account,” she says.

Cultural humility forces people to humbly approach interactions with others while acknowledging personal biases and making sure those biases  do not affect their ability to see the humanity of others.

“We all carry bias,” she notes. “It’s what we do about those biases that is important.”

Undergraduate students have the opportunity to participate in W.A.S.H. through the Georgetown University Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. Students engage with the city by conducting field research, attending board meetings, and interacting with members of the communities they hope to reach.

Mirabal-Beltran notes that while many students may initially join W.A.S.H. for academic reasons, they often leave the program feeling called to be active agents of change in their local communities.

“There is this beautiful focal shift from the science to the community participants,” she notes. “Seeing this shift motivates me and reminds me why CBPR is important.”

More News

woman hugging child

Georgetown’s renowned nurse-midwifery program celebrates 50 years ‌ ‌ When reports in the early 1970s revealed alarmingly high infant mortality rates…

Georgetown’s leadership in the complex field of medical ethics   A patient in critical condition refuses treatment, adamant that she be allowed to leave…


Interdisciplinary solutions for the complex problems of neuroscience From the time he was a young boy, fascinated with dinosaurs and his rock…