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NIH Record

NIGMS, IHS Host American Indian Training Needs Meeting

By Danielle Wittenberg

NIGMS, along with the Indian Health Service, recently brought together American Indian scientists from around the country for a 2-day meeting to discuss the research training needs of American Indians.

The participants were asked to recommend ways NIH can improve its relationship with the American Indian community and foster better working partnerships that will lead to more American Indian biomedical researchers. They discussed topics ranging from credibility with the American Indian community to the needs of new basic science investigators and students.

Richard Harrison, chief of NIDA's Contracts Review Branch and a member of the Osage Indian Tribe, opened the meeting with a traditional welcome, in which he expressed gratitude for the gifts and knowledge that are currently enjoyed throughout the American Indian community.

Tentative recommendations included encouraging tribes to participate in research as applicant organizations; supporting and extending successful training activities of American Indian scientific societies, including programs targeting pre-college students; and enhancing the outreach activities of existing clinical and community-based research programs.

"NIH is fortunate to have had the benefit of such a large, broadly constituted delegation of representatives from the American Indian community," said Dr. Michael Martin, director of the Division of Physiological Systems at the Center for Scientific Review. "They have given us new insights and described opportunities that NIH can take immediate advantage of, as well as those that we can incorporate into our long-term planning."

NIH deputy director Dr. Ruth Kirschstein (third from l) welcomed participants and stressed the importance of partnerships between NIH and the Indian Health Service. Seated with her are panelists (from l) Dr. Michael Martin, a Cherokee Indian and director of the Division of Physiological Systems, CSR; Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, a Rosebud Sioux Indian who is associate director of the Center for Native American Health and a clinical assistant professor at the University of Arizona Prevention Center; and Dr. Clifton Poodry, a Seneca Indian and director of the Division of Minority Opportunities in Research, NIGMS.

The meeting, which hosted more than 30 panelists and as many as 60 observers, was described by Dr. Clifton Poodry, director of NIGMS' Division of Minority Opportunities in Research, as "the first step in a process that will foster a stronger relationship with American Indian communities. It has already begun catalyzing interactions among NIH institutes and between NIGMS and IHS that will help us address a particularly challenging area of underrepresentation," he said.

Leo Nolan (r), assistant to the IHS director and a member of the St. Regis Mohawk Indian Tribe, said, "These types of collaborations with NIH are critically important to improving the health status of our American Indian and Alaskan Native communities." Shown with him is meeting facilitator JoAnn Kauffman, a member of the Nez Perce Indian Tribe.

Panelist Sophia Cleland, a Lakota Indian and graduate student in genetics, shared with meeting participants the programs and initiatives that have worked to encourage her to pursue a career in science. She expressed the need for more research programs that are culturally sensitive to the American Indian community.

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