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A group of Native American researchers whose work
ranges from suicide prevention to interventions to reduce the number
of childhood cavities recently gathered at NIH to present their
projects, meet with NIH leaders and network with each other.
Calling it the "first activity of its kind," NIGMS
director Dr. Jeremy Berg welcomed participants to the symposium,
held as part of NIH's annual American Indian and Alaska Native
Heritage Month celebration.
Among the featured presentations were three projects funded by
an NIH-Indian Health Service
collaboration linking the Native American community with organizations
that conduct health research. The collaboration, Native American
Research Centers for Health (NARCH), encourages research on diseases
relevant to American Indians and Alaska Natives and prepares scientists
and health professionals from these population groups to compete
for NIH funding.
|Dr. Michael J. Carvan, III,
of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, discussed his research
on the effects of mercury and selenium in Native American diets.
The NARCH projects included a study on overweight toddlers and
tooth decay prevention by the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health
Board; a study that uses zebrafish to examine the effects of mercury
and selenium in Native American diets by the Great Lakes NARCH;
and suicide prevention measures by a group from the White Mountain
Apache Tribe in Arizona.
Other presentations described an NHLBI-funded project on heart
disease in Indian and Eskimo communities and an NCI breast cancer
education program for Native American women.
A clear message throughout the day was the importance of NIH funding
to the Native American community.
Katy Aday of the White Mountain Apache Tribe was passionate in
her pleas to NIH leadership to continue supporting programs such
||Symposium participants presented
posters of their research on Native American health issues. |
She explained that her tribe has a suicide rate 10 times greater
than that of the general U.S. population. NARCH funding has helped
the tribe develop activities to intervene within the community
to lower the rate of suicides and suicide attempts.
"It feels like we've been fighting alone [until now, but] NARCH
makes it feel like there's help," Aday said.
Prior to the symposium, NARCH researchers had the opportunity
to meet with NIH and IHS representatives including Berg of NIGMS,
NIMH deputy director Dr. Richard Nakamura and IHS research program
director Dr. Nathaniel Cobb.
Following a traditional Indian prayer and introductions, the visitors
got to work describing their research and conveying their enthusiasm
for the NARCH program.
Berg emphasized NIGMS's longstanding commitment to research training
and increasing the number of minority biomedical scientists. One
reflection of this commitment is the $4.36 million the institute
recently allocated to fund new and existing NARCH programs. Nine
other ICs contributed an additional $1.8 million to the program.
This funding will support 13 NARCH programs nationwide.
||Dr. Clifton Poodry, director
of the NIGMS Division of Minority Opportunities in Research
and organizer of the symposium, is recognized by Dr. Mary Beth
Skupien of the Indian Health Service for championing the NARCH
program at NIH.