UM, Partners Land $20M Grant to Address Native American Health Disparities

October 13, 2016

The UM research team from left: Erin Semmens, Tony Ward, Lisa Blank and Kari Harris

MISSOULA – The University of Montana and its partners recently received a five-year, $20 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to address health disparities facing Native American communities in Montana and Alaska.

Faculty members Kari Harris, Erin Semmens and Tony Ward from UM’s School of Public and Community Health Sciences and Lisa Blank from UM’s Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences are part of the grant.

“This award underscores the importance of collaboration between academic institutions that bring unique expertise together to address critical health disparities for Native American communities in Montana and Alaska,” said Reed Humphrey, dean of UM’s College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences. “Of note is the central mission of the award – creating capacity that endures.”

Along with UM, partnering institutions include Montana State University in Bozeman; Blackfeet Community College in Browning; the University of Alaska, Fairbanks; the University of Alaska, Anchorage; the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium; and Alaska’s Southcentral Foundation.   

The American Indian-Alaska Native Clinical and Translational Research Program is under the direction of co-principal investigators Allen Harmsen of MSU and Bert Boyer of UAF.

The program’s mission is to increase the capacity of Montana and Alaska institutions and researchers to address health disparities that Native communities experience. It seeks to strengthen Montana’s and Alaska’s clinical and translational research infrastructure through continued development of shared facilities, intellectual resources, research collaborations, focused working groups and training opportunities.

The program also strives to increase the number of mentors while developing the careers of clinical investigators in Native health disparities research in Montana and Alaska and expand and support sustainable and culturally responsible community-engaged research that will mitigate health disparities in those communities.

As part of the program, UM researchers will be supported through core areas on the Missoula campus focused on community engagement, professional development, pilot projects and research design. Within these areas, researchers will be provided mentorship opportunities toward building independent, self-sustaining clinical research programs.

Specific funding opportunities will focus on project development awards, pilot awards, sabbaticals, diversity supplements, travel awards and community grants. Funding also will support several new hires within the School of Public and Community Health Sciences and the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences.

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Contact: Kari Harris, professor, UM School of Public and Community Health Sciences, 406-243-4685, kari.harris@mso.umt.edu.