Healthy Minds Initiative receive National Academy of Medicine award for work on brain health in African American faith-based organizations

Our partnership with Crenshaw Christian Center (CCC)

Healthy Minds Initiative (HMI) have partnered with Crenshaw Christian Center (CCC) in Los Angeles on one of the most important and innovative brain health research programs in the United States.

 We at HMI believe this project is going to change the landscape of brain health forever, especially in communities historically impacted by double the prevalence of dementia and stroke.

Looking for resources from our recent talks at CCC?

What is Healthy Minds Initiative?
Healthy Minds Initiative is an evidence-based program that supports communities on their path to brain health. Starting with local faith-based groups and community centers, Dean and Ayesha began to investigate how communities could be empowered to make healthy lifestyle changes. They looked at how technology could play a role in outreach, habit forming, and intervention, and found that involving the community through the entire process – from investigation, to research, to intervention – empowered people to make significant lifestyle changes. Ultimately, these changes can significantly reduce diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, and dementia.

How do we work with communities?

Healthy Minds Initiative partners with communities to implement culturally-relevant and accessible healthy lifestyle choices in the areas of: Eating, Movement, Sleep Optimization, Relaxation, and Learning. We meet leaders to discuss the strengths, priorities, and resources of their communities, and reach out to people through virtual and in-person talks to guide them towards better brain health in a personally-tailored way. We also train coaches and chefs in how to align their work with brain-healthy practices and sustainable, positive lifestyle habits, so they can pass this vital knowledge onto others in a practical way.

with gratitude to:

Crenshaw Christian Center

CCC is multi-generational, multi-cultural, yet predominantly African American church in Los Angeles with whom we’re working on innovative community-oriented brain health programs.

with gratitude to:

National Academy of Medicine

Our partnership with CCC was made possible with support from the National Academy of Medicine, who awarded us a 2021 Innovator Award.

About the HMI × CCC project

Innovative and revolutionary

This collaboration is a first-of-its-kind project in terms of community-based participatory research. It combines our medical backgrounds with CCC’s community structure to enable direct outreach and impact.

The future of brain health

Our research program will create permanent systems and sustainable infrastructure for long-term change. CCC’s coaches and chefs are making it possible, and our donors and volunteers are helping every step of the way.

International ambition

Partnering with CCC is just the start. This work can be expanded upon nationally and globally. Our vision is to drive research into brain health in under-represented communities the world over, decentralizing an historically-limited and singularly-focused area of study.

HMI at CCC on September 16th, 2023

We joined Crenshaw Christian Center for their ‘Creating a Brain Health Legacy’ event on Saturday September 16, 2023. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn about brain health in a fun an inclusive way!

The day included an on-site farmers’ market with cooking demos, gardening tips, and samples, advice on optimising your brain health, insights on how community can positively impact brain health, and drawings and prizes.

Mother-daughter duo Janice and Renee Hulett shared their recipe for spicy coconut black beans during the event! Try it for yourself:

Spicy Coconut Black Beans recipe


  • 2 cups (360 grams) dried black beans
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 7 tablespoons of cumin
  • 7 cups (about 1,660 milliliters) water
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh Habanero or Scotch Bonnet Pepper to taste, halved and deseeded


  1. In a pot over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the onions, bell peppers, carrots until tender (about 5 minutes).
  2. Then add the minced garlic and cumin, cook for 2 more minutes.
  3. Add black beans, habaneros and water. Bring to a boil then simmer covered till the beans are tender and most of the water has cooked out (several hours).
  4. Taste and add habaneros to your spice liking. Be sure to stir the pot periodically and add more water as needed so the beans won’t burn at the bottom.
  5. Stir in 1 can of coconut milk and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes.

HMI at CCC on April 29th, 2023

Doctor Ayesha Sherzai (Chief Executive Officer of Healthy Minds Initiative) and Doctor Dean Sherzai (President of the Board of Directors for HMI) led their most recent talk at the Crenshaw Christian Center FaithDome in LA on the morning of April 29th, 2023.

The Sherzais’ talk and their subsequent ‘questions and answers’ session formed CCC’s ‘2023 Brain Health Lecture’, which also saw members of the FaithDome congregation considering how they might introduce our ‘PREVENT’ ideology into their own lives, particularly through the lens of their faith.

HMI’s ‘PREVENT’ programme encourages:

  • Planning
  • Renewal and rest
  • Exercise
  • Volunteering
  • Eating
  • Nourishment
  • Training

Watch the full live recording of the event and download the associated HMI booklet below.


Chefs from the CCC community who have trained in the Healthy Minds Initiative program understand that healthy food choices are a key component for improved brain health. CCC chefs will share creative recipe ideas in fun and easily-adaptable ways, with consideration of individual cooking methods, favored ingredients, and traditional festivities. Food isn’t just a way for us to connect with one another — it’s a core element of brain-healthy living!


Coaches from the CCC community who have trained with Healthy Minds Initiative have the knowledge and tools to support those they work with in a loving and empathetic environment. Coaches recognize that everyone is at different stages when it comes to brain health. They’ll be accessible to anyone needing assistance, whether it’s to stay on track, get inspired, celebrate successes, or even support you and cheer you on when you’ve perhaps made a choice not so beneficial to your brain health. It’s okay, it happens! And that’s what CCC community coaches are for — they’ll be there to remind you that tomorrow is a new day, and that you won’t be alone on this journey.

HMI at CCC on January 8th, 2023

Doctors Ayesha and Dean Sherzai from Healthy Minds Initiative were invited to speak at Crenshaw Christian Center on January 8th, 2023.

If you weren’t able to watch the talk live — or if you want to see it again! — watch the video and scroll through the presentation below. You can also download the presentation here.

This video features the part of the service during which Dr. Frederick K. Price introduces the Drs. Sherzais for their discussion on the importance of brain health at the community level.

You can also watch the full service here.

HMI at CCC on January 29th, 2023:
Inaugural Community Healthy Brain Fair

On January 29th, 2023, Drs. Sherzais conducted a second talk with the Crenshaw Christian Center community.

Immediately after the talk, we held our Inaugural Community Healthy Brain Fair: an extension of all that has been discussed at both talks, which included an introduction to the community resources that are available to help you in your journey towards optimal brain health!

Use the links below to download the resources that we shared at the event.

Thank you to the CCC team for sharing the story of our mission on their Instagram! Watch the Reel below.

We’re also incredibly thankful to the Los Angeles Sentinel for their feature on the inaugural event:

HMI is an evidence-based program that supports communities on their path to brain health. Founders, and husband and wife, Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, neuroscientist and neurologist respectively, began to investigate how communities could be empowered to make healthy lifestyle changes.

Dr. Dean Sherzai states, “Ultimately, these changes can significantly reduce diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and dementia.” Both Drs. Sherzai have personal experience with dementia, with each having a grandparent affected and having served as hands-on caregivers.”

Dr. Ayesha has her own family story, and these realities served as an impetus for their passionate work in this field — starting with the population most disproportionately affected — African Americans. They have done work at Cedars Sinai, they run the brain health clinic at Loma Linda University, and have recently accepted a request to establish a brain health center at Charles Drew University.

Free blood pressure screenings were provided by CCC Reception Committee Nurses, giveaways including seeds for starting a home garden, 100 Omron blood pressure monitors, and coffee provided by Tessie Cleveland Community Services Corporation’s (TCCSC) Coffee Truck were popular, as was an exercise obstacle course.

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