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UND awarded $3.5 million for Center of Excellence in Native Behavioral Health

Posted on 7/12/2012

The federal Health Resources and Services Administration's Bureau of Health Professions awarded the Center for Rural Health at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences a five-year, $3.5 million dollar grant to be a Center of Excellence in Native Behavioral Health. The name of the new Seven Generations Center of Excellence in Native Behavioral Health is based on the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy, which states "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations."

The purpose of the Seven Generations Center is to recruit, mentor and retain promising American Indian, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian students who have an interest in becoming mental health professionals.

"The new center will serve to plug the leaks in the workforce pipeline," said Jacque Gray, Ph.D., research associate professor in the Center for Rural Health, who will direct and be the principal investigator for the Seven Generations Center.

Gray mentors over 20 Native students in their research in Indian Country by leading the Native Health Research Team at the Center for Rural Health. Their work has garnered research awards from the American Psychological Association. Gray is nationally recognized for her work in investigating mood disorders, preventing suicide and promoting ethical research among Native American populations. She is of Choctaw and Cherokee descent.

"We have been losing excellent Native American students through discouragement, lack of funding and the shortage of specialized training in ethical work with Native American communities," she said.

The Seven Generations Center will forge new partnerships to support Native American students by drawing on the strengths of UND's American Indian Student Services, Indians into Psychology Doctoral Education Program, Department of Counseling Psychology and Community Services, the University Counseling Center's Pre-Doctoral Internship Program, and the Native Health Research Team. Developing closer ties between these programs will help to recruit and retain undergraduates interested in behavioral health, support Native American graduate students in clinical and counseling psychology, provide internship positions in the University Counseling Center, and offer training and specialized assistance to students regarding undergraduate and graduate research with Native Americans. The Seven Generations Center will also provide professional development of faculty, and assist Ph.D. students with their research, professional licensure and appropriate career placement to serve Native Americans.

The Seven Generations Center is now one of three Native American centers housed at the Center for Rural Health's Indigenous Programs Section:

The National Resource Center on Native American Aging has received continuous funding for over 15 years to provide resources to Native American elders.
The National Indigenous Elder Justice Initiative was funded last September and addresses elder abuse in Indian Country.
The Seven Generations Center of Excellence in Native Behavioral Health.

"I am humbled by the trust shown to the Indigenous Programs Section faculty, staff and students by the Bureau of Health Professions," said Gary Hart, Ph.D., director of the Center for Rural Health "I am confident the section can meet the challenges that the funding affords."

In addition to the Center for Rural Health's Indigenous Programs Section, the CRH is active in a broad range of American Indian activities from intensive mentoring of students to annually sponsoring the national American Indian Health Research Conference.

"Dr. Gray and her esteemed section colleagues have become nationally recognized leaders in American Indian education, research, and service, and perform needed and essential labor on incredibly important contemporary issues," Hart said.

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