Tiffany Powell-Wiley, M.D., knows the power of community. It is why she has focused her research on finding ways to impact health behaviors in several at-risk Washington D.C. communities with especially high rates of cardiovascular disease. After just eight years, Powell-Wiley has gained important—and surprising—insights into how issues around safety there affect obesity, a main risk factor for heart disease. As a tenure-track investigator in the Cardiovascular Branch of NHLBI’s Division of Intramural Research, Powell-Wiley always envisioned herself influencing not just individual patients but populations. Her first step toward making her vision a reality came during her cardiology fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, where she worked on a community-based health study called GoodNEWS. “I fell in love with the idea of being able to work with communities to improve their health,” Powell-Wiley said. “We didn’t say, ‘This is what we’re going to give you,’ but really tried to listen to the community and understand their needs.” When she started her laboratory work at NHLBI, however, Powell-Wiley quickly realized that listening to and understanding those Dallas communities did not necessarily help her understand the ones in Washington D.C. Starting from the ground up, Powell-Wiley put in the time and effort needed to build relationships and engage community members in the design of initial projects, and it is paying off. She and her team use computer-based models and other community-based efforts to better understand and design programs to lessen the rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease in the community. Her research has found that changes in how safe a community thinks it is–not just changes in objective crime statistics—appear to impact obesity rates. Powell-Wiley believes this finding will aid in the development of a community-based behavioral change program that could improve cardiovascular health in at-risk neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. and similar communities around the country.