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ICs Awarded for Powwow Outreach

The pilot NIH Native American Powwow Outreach Initiative was developed last spring to recruit Native Americans to NIH and to support the elimination of health disparities by disseminating health information. Dr. Yvonne Maddox, acting deputy director of NIH, has been the principal supporter of the effort since it was first proposed by the OD Equal Employment Opportunity Office. After seven powwows this year, Maddox and the OD EEO office thanked 27 staff members from seven ICs at an awards program.

Maddox congratulated the OD EEO office and the IC partners for making the initiative a success. The awardees gave up weekends to travel to remote rural locations in Maryland and Virginia. Among the awardees were EEO officers and staff from NIDCR, NLM, CIT and NIMH, as well as staff from NIA, NIAID and OD.

Dr. Yvonne Maddox
Hilda Dixon, OD EEO manager, described the initiative and its accomplishments using pictures of the various powwows. On the recruitment half of the initiative, the powwows produced nine resumés submitted by Native Americans. Two people were hired, one by NIDCD and the other by NHLBI. The other seven resumés are being reviewed by IC managers for possible employment.

The other half of the initiative — helping to eliminate health disparities — proved to be gratifying to the awardees. It appeared early in the pilot initiative that many Native Americans had never heard of the National Institutes of Health. NIH'ers were both welcomed and appreciated at each powwow location.

Many attendees were surprised to know that information from NIH is free. There were also requests for specific health issues that required research and followup after the powwows.

During her presentation at the awards ceremony, Dixon recalled that one Native American family asked a more specific question: Did NIH have any information on their rare disease? In following up on the request, the OD EEO office obtained information from the NIH Office of Rare Diseases and forwarded it to the family. "It is amazing that, at a powwow, we located a Native American family with a disease so rare that it has only been diagnosed in 15 other families throughout the world," Dixon noted. The family is now participating in a clinical trial and hopes to benefit themselves and others.

Many lives were helped by the information shared on a wide range of health issues, according to remarks made by participants at the powwows:

"The Native American's life is really changed by NIH," said one attendee, "but actually giving out information at the powwow, that's just great. As a former commissioned officer with the Indian Health Service and health practitioner, I can only say, 'Thank you, NIH!'"

An instructor on a field trip for teaching on diversity said, "This is the best and most informative booth in the whole powwow!"

The awards program was held last November, which is National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. The awards consisted of a crystal box and a framed certificate of appreciation. The National Library of Medicine received a special award for its constant support of and ongoing participation in the initiative. In addition, the awardees' supervisors were praised for supporting their staff.

The program closed with a reception, its reunion atmosphere demonstrating the cohesive relationship established from working together on powwows.

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