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Symbol of HOPE Award

Luvenia W. Cowart, EdD, RN

Dr. Luvenia Cowart is a passionate advocate for the health needs of underserved populations. With a nursing and public health background, she is committed to addressing the health concerns and disparities of the Syracuse community, especially among African American constituents.  A professor of practice in public health on the Syracuse University faculty in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, she is Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Genesis Health Project Network, which received the prestigious National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities Director’s Award in 2008 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health.


The Genesis Health Project reduces health disparities in minority populations by collaborating with community organizations to identify and address health needs in greater Syracuse and Central New York. Focused on black families in low-income areas of Syracuse, this community-designed, culturally sensitive initiative promotes healthy lifestyles across the lifespan among African Americans who have the highest rates of obesity in the U.S. by empowering them to improve their diets, food preparation techniques, and exercise habits.

Through a systematic process over the past seven years, the Genesis Health Project established a partnership between minority churches, community and government sponsors and Syracuse University.  Recognizing the influence of the local church, Dr. Cowart worked with black pastors of area churches who formed a Pastors’ Health Council of Central New York. Lay health advocates of these local churches were trained to provide ongoing health education and support for church members. Together, a culturally-sensitive program with notable positive outcomes was developed.

The University has also formed a partnership with the churches to foster and develop leadership skills necessary to create and strengthen their church health ministries and sustain health promotion programming. Dr. Cowart’s expertise at establishing sustainable campus community partnerships has created successful, engaged mentoring opportunities for SU students.  An important aspect of the Genesis Network is the integration of students in the Public Health program who perform 25-hour internships working with vulnerable populations including the Genesis Network.


Dr. Cowart has had a national influence on creatively addressing health disparities with cultural sensitivity. In addition to the national recognition the Genesis Program has received, she has published outcomes of the program and presented at numerous conferences including the Annual Health Disparities Conference, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. Her research has been funded with over $500,000 of grants. In addition to the Health Disparities Excellence Award from NIH (2008), she has received the Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellowship Award (2003) and the New York State Health Fellowship Award, Office of Minority Health (1991) for recognition of her innovative programs.  The success of the Genesis Network has been recognized throughout New York State and nationally through the Prevent Cancer Foundation, Aetna Insurance Company, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, Minority Nurse Publication and Syracuse University Magazine.


Dr. Cowart is President, Health Literacy Productions, Inc. (HLP), dedicated to promoting health literacy and good health–seeking behaviors, starting with African American men and prostate cancer.   This company, in collaboration with campus and community groups, is seeking funding for preliminary research and development on culturally sensitive educational materials targeting African American families.


Dr. Cowart received a B.S. in Nursing Education from Wayne State University (Detroit, Michigan), a M.S.N. in Nursing Education, a M.S. in Rehabilitation and Vocational Counseling, a Certificate in Gerontology and an Ed.D .in Adult Education/Administration from Syracuse University.  She is also a graduate of the Institute for Management and Leadership in Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education; The Executive Nurse Fellowship Program, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; and the Summer Institute for Women in Higher Education Administration, Bryn Mawr College.  She currently serves on the boards of several local and national professional and community organizations that share a critical and common theme of promoting cross-cultural harmony and innovative health promotion programming.