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Vol. LVIII, No. 1
January 13, 2006

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NIH Hosts Native American Researchers

On the front page...

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
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.  
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.

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 as NARCH.

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.

Continued Commitment

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.

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