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Indian Health Service and UB sign collaborative agreement

Photo of Michael Cain and Susan Karol shaking hands

Michael Cain and Susan V. Karol shake hands after signing an MOU that establishes a formal relationship between UB and IHS.

By JOHN DELLACONTRADA

Published August 1, 2013

“Through this collaborative agreement, UB will work with regional tribal leaders to develop and offer robust public health programs to improve health and wellness among Native Americans.”
Michael Cain, UB vice president for health sciences and dean
UB School of Medicine and Biological Sciences

The Indian Health Service (IHS) and the University at Buffalo have agreed to work together to improve the health of Native Americans in New York State and Southern Ontario.   

Susan V. Karol, chief medical officer for IHS, and Michael Cain, UB vice president for health sciences, have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that formally established a collaborative relationship between UB and IHS. 

Under the MOU, UB will work with IHS to develop an alliance of regional public health and medical institutions to serve the priority needs of Native American communities in the areas of education, research, consultation and technical assistance, capacity building and direct services.

One of the goals of the MOU is to pursue ways the university can further assist Native American students who aspire to careers in health care, according to Karol, a member of the Tuscarora Indian Nation.

IHS works in partnership with tribal communities to provide a comprehensive health service system for approximately 2.1 million American Indian and Alaska Natives who are members of 566 federally recognized tribes.

UB’s relationship with IHS will involve all five of the university’s health sciences schools (medicine, public health, nursing, pharmacy and dental medicine), and builds upon the schools’ existing outreach to Native American communities in Western New York.

“The relationship will allow UB and IHS to work effectively together to improve the health of Native Americans in Western New York and throughout the state, as well as in Southern Ontario,” Cain said.  “Through this collaborative agreement, UB will work with regional tribal leaders to develop and offer robust public health programs to improve health and wellness among Native Americans.”

Cain noted that the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions and the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences currently work with the Seneca Nation on programs to assess and improve community health and on a project that addresses childhood obesity and diabetes.  

As part of the MOU, UB will engage each of the local tribal nations to understand their needs and facilitate mutually effective relationships between all parties.  Further, the MOU will allow for the development of activities of mutual interest and will represent a commitment by all parties to seek tribal nation consultation and honor tribal nation sovereignty and self-determination in carrying out activities.

The MOU outlined the following areas of collaboration.

  • Cooperation with other academic institutions. UB will work with IHS to develop an alliance of public health and medical institutions focused on encouraging comprehensive research, training and service activities by regional institutions to serve the priority needs of Native Americans. 
  • Education. UB will work with IHS to expand graduate education at UB for members of Native American communities aspiring to health-related careers.  The priority focus will be on educational opportunities for Native American professionals who want to be involved in community, regional and national Native American health programs. 
  • Research. UB’s research agenda in support of the MOU will be carried out in consultation with IHS and will focus on health disparities and prevention strategies within tribal communities.
  • Consultation and technical assistance.  UB will provide expert assistance, particularly in the fields of epidemiology, maternal and child health, infectious diseases, adolescent health, health communication, environmental health and program evaluation.
  • Capacity-Building. Community capacity-building, training and workshops will be provided by UB to tribal communities as funding resources are available.
  • Direct Services. UB will provide various contract health services and outreach programs to tribal communities promoting health and well-being. These may include endocrine consultation, behavioral health and chemical dependency, dental care and telemedicine services.