For this newsletter, we explore the topic of transitions, highlighting the professional transitions many of you have experienced. I suppose that in the Covid-19 pandemic period, we have a new and different set of transitions to deal with that are worth considering, as well. From our standpoints, can these diverse themes in any way be related to one another?
Several of the NARCH cancer prevention fellows and NARCH graduate student fellows have made notable transitions this past year: from graduate student to post-doctoral trainee, from student to junior faculty or health researcher in a different venue, or from junior faculty to senior faculty. All are significant accomplishments. The transition of title and/or responsibilities offers a perfect opportunity to make a new set of goals, and to evaluate your own progress and career paths. Another type of transition may be viewed as taking on a new and different research topic or research arena (which has also happened to some or our NARCH participants). None of us has the career ‘crystal ball.’ It is almost impossible to predict where and when the next set of opportunities will surface, and how those new opportunities might alter or change your original path. Some of the most successful health researchers I have known in and outside of Indian country have been able to broaden their paths and assumed new research topics as grant and other opportunities came along, but they never lost sight of their overall commitment to improving health and the human condition through their efforts. Many of you have heard me say in person, or in public forum, that great career opportunities may only come along two or three times in your lives. I still believe that, and still encourage you to remain vigilant for new opportunities and career detours, even if those detours are short...and jump on the new career opportunities when they come along.
The current pandemic, while minor league in comparison with the Spanish flu of 1918, has provided us with some transitions of another variety. For most of us, we no longer go to offices and/or labs to work face-to-face and interact as we had done, and had taken for granted for our entire lives. Most of us are forced into electronic commuting from home with far less person-to-person interaction...clearly a sharp distinction and rapid transition from our earlier professional lives. However, we are proving that we can still be productive and creative in this time and with our current resources. Furthermore, a variety of Covid-19-related professional opportunities seem to be surfacing. Most of the new jobs and new grant opportunities I have seen recently are directly related to COVID control. I see spin-off opportunities, though, even for cancer control research. For example, it is clear that cancer screening in Indian country has radically dropped off since last February. We should be thinking about what we can be doing now, or in the immediate future, to remedy this problem. Recent press about vaping and SARS-CoV-2 transmission provides us another bit of information that we could use to create and distribute messages appropriate to tribal young people about this hazard. At present, it looks like the government will be interested in funding diverse research thrusts as related to Covid-19 (directly or indirectly), thus new career opportunities and potential for transition/s may come to you as a result. Be ready to grab them.
I like to ask my friends and colleagues, ‘What if a vaccine for SARS-Cov-2 were available today and we could get our old lives back next week or next month, have you accomplished things that you are proud of during this sequestration time in your life?' I would be interested to know how each of the NARCH participants would answer this question. For our NARCH team, things have not been simple but we are continuing to plug away every day and the staff have much to showcase.(I suspect, however, that they never really get out of their pajamas). One outcome we hope to see is for renewal of our NARCH grants; we wrote the grant for the 11th round of funding during our ‘down time’ with the shutdown. If we do strike gold, some of these resources should be useful to our current (as well as future) NARCH participants. Grazia, Miss Ashley, Reshell, Celeste, Ryan, and other NW NARCH colleagues continue to work on projects that we trust will serve to meet needs in Indian country. I trust that each of them will be able to point with pride to their accomplishments while they are trapped working from home (primarily, anyway). We will continue to stay the course, try to support you as much as we can do, and will look forward to hearing of your accomplishments and your transitions over the months to come.
THINKING OUT LOUD...
Although I miss the in-person experience, I have been enjoying the virtual cancer training in learning from amazing mentors about cancer prevention and control, research design and grant writing, epidemiology, SEER stat, and program evaluation. - Dakotah Jim
Dr. Becker's message
Fall Issue | 2020
in their own words
Fall Issue | 2020
NARCH Fellow, Jonathan Credo, shares his experiences and thoughts on transitions in his life. Grab a cup of tea, settle in for a bit and enjoy his thoughtful and thought-provoking submission.
Fall Issue | 2020
Research Support Fellow
Jennifer Richards, PhD, MPH
I am Diné, Oglala Lakota, and Taos Pueblo. My maternal clan is Áshįįhi (Salt). This past May, I graduated with my PhD in Health Behavior Health Promotion from the University of Arizona. I am currently an Assistant Scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health. In keeping with this issue's theme, I wanted to share how I turned to gratitude to cope with recent transitions.
COVID-19 forced everyone to transition in various ways. For me, one of the biggest transitions was from PhD candidate to PhD graduate. When the pandemic first hit, I was in the final stretch of my dissertation. Fortunately, the bulk of my writing was done but I still needed to get a final draft to my Committee, defend my dissertation, implement revisions, and graduate. However, my tribal nation was one of the earliest affected by the virus and it was heartbreaking to see so many relatives and friends getting sick. Finishing my dissertation was the last thing on my mind. And yet, I knew that I owed it to my family and friends to finish strong. I coped with the transition to “COVID dissertation life” by connecting with my support network, focusing on gratitude, and by prioritizing holistic health. I quickly realized that my son and I felt our best when we were outdoors. It is true that the land is medicine. We became diligent about taking our dogs on socially distanced hikes and walks daily. We exercised regularly and prioritized getting more sleep. We ate healthier and prayed every night for those affected by COVID. I joined my friends (via Zoom) for regular check-ins and for virtual writing groups. And what began as a dissertation journal shifted to a gratitude journal.
My 101-year-old grandmother role modeled gratitude as a coping mechanism. Although it was our dream to come together at my doctoral graduation, I was grateful that she was safe and healthy at home. She is turning 102 years old on November 15 and has survived the Spanish Flu of 1918, tuberculosis, the death of both parents at a young age, boarding school, Navajo relocation, and countless other tribulations. Yet, I never once heard her complain about the transitions that she has endured. Instead, she’s always expressed gratitude for her blessings and taught us to do the same.
Lastly, I am grateful to have a job where I can serve Native families. While it was a setback to cancel our summer youth intervention, our team adapted. Instead of a summer camp, we are implementing a virtual teenage pregnancy prevention program with Navajo youth. Our health educators are all working safely from home (or rotating at the office) and our youth participants are resilient. Instead of focusing on what was lost by not having the camp, we are grateful to support Native youth and their families during these difficult times. I’m grateful to my coworkers for safely delivering care packages to the elderly. The shift to remote work also allowed our team to focus on submitting grant applications and, as a result, we were recently awarded funding for two new initiatives: 1) a mother-daughter sexual risk avoidance randomized controlled trial; and 2) a fatherhood program that focuses on promoting healthy relationships, Indigenous parenting, and economic stability. COVID has challenged us but, every day, I see Native people overcoming these challenges and I thank our ancestors for leaving us a legacy of resilience.
Ahéhee’ (Thank you).
articles of interest
Breugl et al - Gynecologic cancer incidence and mortality among American Indian/Alaska Native women in the Pacific Northwest, 1996–2016. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygyno.2020.03.033
NARCH Fellow Melinda Smith published The effects of food available through the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) on inflammation response, appetite and energy intake - https://doi.org/10.1017/S1368980020002852
Q&A with Dornell Pete
Q: Some transitions are forced upon us. Others, we choose. What are some ways you cope or deal with transitions?
1. I have to be busy. Otherwise I will be a mess if I constantly think about it.
2. Connection to family - they are my yin and yang. Give me the strength and also drain me. The stories I hear back home connect me to home.
3. Listening to music, listening to podcasts. I always engage with something that lets me learn something, that lets me escape for a little bit. Reading too.
4. My partner knows where to set me straight too. She’s my other main strength.
5. And, just getting out of my house! We just got a puppy too in the Covid time. He’s changed our lives, just to get out.
Q: What advice do you have other NARCHies who will inevitably transition from grad school to post-graduate work to careers of their own?
"People are afraid of failure. We’ve all been there. Failures, mistakes. I would say you’ve gotten this far and you’ve certainly turned those things into lessons that make you grow. Especially at this time, from what I’m hearing from other students, uncertainty about revamping. You can! We need to give ourselves grace in terms of that. It’s inevitable. Covid is inevitable, other things you encounter are inevitable. Fear isn’t always a bad thing."
NIH Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program
NIMHD Community Interventions to Address the Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic among Health Disparity and Vulnerable Populations (PAR 20-237)
NCI Mentored Research Scientist Development Award to Promote Diversity (K01)
NIH Mentored Research Scientist Career Development Award (K01)
Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health - American Indian Graduate Scholars Program
Lighting Up Native Aspirations (LUNA) for health research careers
Fall Issue | 2020
Q&A with Dornell Pete
by Grazia Cunningham
I had the pleasure of speaking with NARCH fellow, Dornell Pete. A recent F99/R00 award recipient at the University of Washington, she is carving a successful career for herself as a researcher. In addition to her zoom-bombing cat, these are the highlights from my conversation with Dornell.
Q: Transitions are an important part of
life. What is one transition that stands out to you as life-altering?
"I would say there have been a lot of transitions in my life where I have been and where I am headed. If I focus on career transition, one major inspiration and reason was seeing people at the table making decisions about AI/AN health typically were non-native. I felt there were missing voices at the table who were actually native people who lived the experience and who perhaps talk better to the issue. So, I think that was the main reason - the main transition - of wanting more training, to be able to acquire the knowledge, skills but also to challenge the system, too, for how we define health for native people.”
Q: Talk a little about the transitions you’ve managed from undergrad through graduate school to post-graduate work.
"Ever since I was little, I was interested in science. I was good at Math. I was a pretty reserved and shy kid. I thought working in a lab, chemistry lab, would be cool. I pursued a Chemistry degree in college. Then, that opened doors to Biology. So, I pursued a BioChem degree in hopes of working in a lab. I finished college and got employed with our Tribal Utility Authority which managed electricity & water lines on Navajo Nation. They have their own environmental laboratory. I got involved with bench science using cool instruments. Reporting to tribal authorities, to federal authorities gave me experience working with different laws, what’s safe in an environmental health context, etc. When you work in a laboratory, you have very little contact with communities. One thing that came about was that the authority company wanted to get more in touch with the community. So, we had these little events where we would share what we would do as scientists, you know, to get the public involved with their environmental resources (water, solar energy). Water touched everybody. Everyone was concerned. That’s where I got involved with the community with water safety, water quality. That’s what got me involved in public health. I liked the integration with the sciences and relating it back to the community. And, it’s a concern with public health. I worked as a Chemist for 3-4 years and then pursued my MPH. I wanted to go to the East Coast. I got into Yale's Environmental Health program. That was a totally different environment, different pace.
That opened so many doors on what people are doing with health. Not just Environmental Health, but how people access care. And, you know - Epi. Something just switched. I had an amazing TA. Epi didn’t come easy for me. When I took the first semester of Epi, I failed my midterms. It was a whole new language. A new language of public health. The new language of Epidemiology. The whole concept didn’t work for me when I took my midterms. Luckily, my TA worked with me one-on-one and then I got it, passed my class and decided to go on the Epi track. Yale opened different aspects to me. Global Health. Envionmental Justice. Meeting neew people. It was mind-opening. After graduating from Yale, I found out that Navajo Nation had applied for a Tribal Epi grant. I emailed and was offered a job. At that point, I wasn’t an Epidemiologist b/c Epi wasn’t in the vocab of Navajo Nation. It was a good experience to see an actual health program from the very beginning. I helped to build that program. That’s when I got involved in Maternal Child Health and then worked with State Health Department, local county health department, and with IHS. So, it was really just building that and trying to get things done. I was with the Navajo Ep Center for 5 years. I was always managing a grant, writing for the grant, reporting to help provide tech assistance to the tribes to produce these reports. It was alot of work. And, I was pretty much burnt out. I felt like I was doing alot of secondary analysis and using other people’s data because there wasn’t really good data on Navajo Nation other than clinical data and we didn’t have access to clinical data.
I realized I was interested in primary data collection, to design a survey & be in the community. I went to the Albuquerque Tribal Epi Center with Dr. English. That opened up another part of public health. Seeing a project from the beginning to the actual end. That was cool. To be done with a project in less than 6 months was great. I saw the data go back to the community & they were so happy. It was great. They have collected over 12 primary data surveys for the tribes they serve. It was really cool to see that. It also really exposed me with research and really seeing the people who should be at the table missing. I wanted to pursue my PhD which was a very big transition to how I want to tell stories that aren't oppressive and recycling what we've already been through."
Bone Marrow Recipe
Cut across the bone with a bandsaw or a hand-held saw making 2- or 3-inch chunks. You can also just have a butcher cut them for you.
Set an oven to 400°F and place the bone segments in an oven pan.
Check about twenty minutes later to see if the marrow is browning on top and starting to shrink. The interior of the marrow should have a golden color. Once golden, remove from oven, and add salt and pepper to your liking. Make sure to scoop the marrow out while still warm.
Note: Cooking low and slow is the trick to cracking bones later.
by Joshua Brown
Ashley Thomas, MPH
NW NARCH Program Manager
With fall comes a chill and a plethora of strategies for warming old bones on a brisk day. Hunting also fills fall days which brings another set of bones to your kitchen.Several communities eat from snout-to-tail. However, if you are used to eating muscle meat, bone marrow offers an easy entry-point to enjoying flesh beyond steak or stew meat.Marrow is often described as possessing a mild buttery flavor and a spongy texture. I like to describe marrow as foamy or lightly creamy like warm, slightly melted butter. Adding a little salt and pepper makes for a nice spread on your favorite bread. Or, enjoy it as my child discovered at a young age – straight out of a cracked femur bone.Marrow became in vogue at numerous dining establishments, simply accompanied with crostini.Whatever you choose to enjoy this delicious food, easy preparation is guaranteed.
Looking for some book recommendations for your personal library? Look no further! We've compiled a list of interesting reads for you here:
Storytelling with Data by Cole Knaflic
Conducting Health Research for Native American Communities by Teshia Arambula Solomon
Indigenous Data Sovereignty: Toward an agenda by Tahu Kukutai, John Taylor
Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples by Gregory Younging
Indigenous Statistics: A Quantitative Research Methodology by Maggie Walter
Decolonizing Research: Indigenous Storywork as Methodology by Jo-Ann Archibald
Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Contexts by Margaret Kovach
Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods by Shawn Wilson
Research and Reconciliation: Unsettling Ways of Knowing through Indigenous Relationships by Shawn Wilson
Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples by Linda Tuhiwai Smith