Armacosts, SMHS Indigenous and Public Health professionals visit alumni leaders of the Three Affiliated Tribes

Potential areas of collaboration between MHA Nation and University discussed, especially in health education and outreach

Fort Berthold Reservation physician and councilwoman for the Three Affiliated Tribes Dr. Monica Mayer embraces UND First Lady Kathy Armacost after presenting First Lady Kathy and President Armacost with traditional star quilts during a visit to the Tribe’s new Interpretive Center in New Town, N.D. Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Mark Fox (left) looks on with Dr. Don Warne, director of UND’s Indians into Medicine program, in the foreground. Both Fox and Dr. Mayer are UND alumni. Photo by David Dodds/UND Today.

UND President Andy Armacost and First Lady Kathy Armacost were joined by Indigenous and public health leaders at the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS) last week for a visit to leaders of the Three Affiliated Tribes (MHA Nation/Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara) on the Forth Berthold Indian Reservation.

The visit was made even more special in that the tribal representatives at the meeting were Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Mark Fox and Councilwoman Dr. Monica Mayer, M.D., both of whom are UND alumni. Fox is a graduate of the UND School of Law, while Dr. Mayer is an alumna of the renowned Indians into Medicine (INMED) program at the School of Medicine & Health Sciences. In addition, UND visitors included Dr. Don Warne, head of UND’s INMED program; Danielle “Dani” Thompson, INMED program manager; Dr. Allison Kelliher, Practice-Based Research Network director at UND; and Dr. Melanie Nadeau, assistant director of the UND Public Health Program. Dan Muus and Laine Lyons of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation also were on hand for the conversations.

Speaking to a need to address health disparities in American Indian communities, Chairman Mark Fox and Drs. Don Warne and Monica Mayer (right) cited life expectancy data that is 20 years lower in Indian communities compared to the broader population. Photo by David Dodds/UND Today.

Premier programs

It was a friendly get-together designed for all parties to become more familiar with each other and to learn about each other’s work, UND’s legacy of service and education in American Indian communities — including the Fort Berthold reservation — and about the individual and collective histories of the Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara peoples. The meeting participants also spoke positively about potential areas of collaboration between MHA Nation and the University, especially in areas of health education and outreach, to address severe healthcare disparities on reservations and in under-served and under-resourced communities.

Speaking to this need, Chairman Fox and Drs. Mayer and Warne cited life expectancy data that is 20 years lower in American Indian communities compared to the broader population.

UND has long been on the forefront of Indigenous and rural health promotion, with programs such as INMED, Recruitment and Retention of American Indian Nurses (RAIN), and Indians into Psychology (INPSYDE), all based on the UND campus.  Also, data from the Association of American Medical Colleges has consistently confirmed UND as the nation’s premier educator of American Indian physicians. That leadership certainly was enhanced by the recent launch of the world’s first Ph.D. program in Indigenous Health at UND. And there’s more exciting news on the horizon at UND when it comes to Indigenous health.

Dr. Monica Mayer (left) reflects on her life growing up on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, her time at UND and why it was important for her to return to give back to her community. She is joined (from left to right) by Dr. Don Warne, director of UND’s Indians in Medicine (INMED) program; Dr. Allison Kelliher, Practice-Based Research Network director at UND; Danielle “Dani” Thompson, INMED program manager; UND First Lady Kathy Armacost; and UND President Andy Armacost. Photo by David Dodds/UND Today.

Gifts and a tour

Following a lunch in the brand new Three Affiliated Tribes Interpretive Center (a must-see on anyone’s tourism list), which overlooks Lake Sakakawea just west of New Town, there was an exchange of gifts. Chairman Fox and Dr. Mayer, on behalf of the Three Affiliated Tribes, presented President Armacost, First Lady Armacost and Dr. Warne with gifts of satin star quilts. Then the UND group was treated to a guided tour of the Interpretive Center.

UND has a legacy of service, collaboration and education among American Indian Tribes in North Dakota and beyond. A particular point of pride is that all five Presidents of North Dakota’s Tribal colleges are alumni of UND.