Students Soak Up Science

Dr. Wendy A. Henderson presenting to room of NNAYI participants at roundtables
Dr. Wendy A. Henderson presents “Get Gutsy.”

There are few groups addressing the long-standing educational disparities and lack of recruitment that American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) face within the health care and biomedical workforce.

However, with support from the Association of American Indian Physicians, the National Native American Youth Initiative (NNAYI) has operated for more than two decades and provides scholarships for AN/AI high school students from across the nation to inspire and encourage them to pursue a career in health or biomedical sciences. Airfare, lodging, and meals are covered during a week-long immersion into jobs and experiences within health and biomedical career fields.

Part of this program includes lectures, interactive workshops, and field trips. On June 29, 2018, a group of 24 students and 5 chaperones visited the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md. for a day-long career showcase of presentations and tours.

“American Indians, Alaskan Natives, and other Native American populations have lower life expectancy and disproportionately higher disease burden than the U.S. population as a whole. Enlightening young minds from these populations is therefore extraordinarily important so that they can lead the way to improve health in their own communities in the future,” says Kelvin Choi, Ph.D., M.P.H., Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator in the Division of Intramural Research at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. (View statistics on AI/AN health disparities.)

Choi has previously conducted research with American Indian populations. His presentation, “Tobacco Use Among Native Americans,” resonated with the group, as AI/AN peoples have the highest prevalence of cigarette smoking compared to all other racial/ethnic groups in the United States.

Dr. Wendy Henderson standing with NNAYI participants on staircase
Dr. Wendy A. Henderson with NNAYI participants

They also heard from Wendy A. Henderson, Ph.D., M.S.N., C.R.N.P., chief of the Digestive Disorders Unit within the Division of Intramural Research at the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR). During her presentation, “Get Gutsy,” which centers around her work at NINR, Dr. Henderson encouraged the students to stay on course and strive for success, even during stressful times. Her work involves how chronic stress affects intestinal health across the lifespan.

The NNAYI trip also presented opportunities for enlightening tours of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) with Ms. Tara Mowery, chief of Visitor Operations, and the NIH Clinical Center with Ms. Rosann Wise, a program analyst at the National Human Genome Research Institute in the Education and Community Involvement Branch. The students were also exposed to a plethora of NLM resources through Wanda Whitney, Ph.D., director of the User Services Unit.

NNAYI participants expressed overwhelming gratitude for a rewarding expedition courtesy of NIH.

Posted November 13, 2018