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Environmental Factor, December 2012

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NIEHS celebrates Native American Heritage Month

By Dona McNeill

Wilbur Woodis and NIEHS Diversity Council chair Brad Collins

NIEHS Diversity Council chair Brad Collins, right, thanked Woodis for an informative seminar. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

The NIEHS 2012 Native American Heritage Month celebration Nov. 19 highlighted a topic that the Institute and the Indian Health Service share — concern for individuals and communities that are socioeconomically disadvantaged, and who suffer inequalities in both health and environmental burdens.

This year’s featured speaker, Wilbur Woodis, is a Native American who focuses on health, social, and educational issues for the American Indian and Alaska Native communities. He is currently on a yearlong assignment in the Office of Minority Health at the Indian Health Service, where he provides expert advice on the formulation of program strategies related to the implementation of departmental policies and procedures for improving the health of disadvantaged and underserved populations.

Woodis began with an overview of the Indian Health Service’s mission and some of the statistics about the 2 million American Indian and Alaska Natives whose tribes they partner with.  He spoke with great enthusiasm about partnerships that are being developed between native tribes and the Mayo Clinic, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Dartmouth College, to address health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, alcohol-related accidents, and suicide.

The program was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management (OEODM) and the NIEHS Diversity Council. Chris Long, NIEHS deputy associate director for management, welcomed the speaker and the new OEODM director, Debra Chew, and her staff to the program. Long read from President Obama’s proclamation on National Native American Heritage Month, where he renewed the federal government’s commitment to address injustices and build new avenues of opportunity for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

(Dona McNeill is Employee Services Manager in the NIEHS Office of Management.)

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