For Your Health
For Your Health

News from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences

Geiger named vice chair of the SMHS Department of Indigenous Health on interim basis

Jonathan Geiger, Ph.D., a Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS), has been named the vice chair (interim) of the SMHS Department of Indigenous Health (IH).

Working in coordination and collaboration with Melanie Nadeau, M.P.H., Ph.D., interim chair of the Department of Indigenous Health while a national search for a full-time chair and vice chair of the Department of Indigenous Health are underway, Geiger will promote and assist IH with the professional development of academic and clinical faculty members and help Nadeau recruit and retain highly qualified faculty.

Founded in 2020 by Dr. Donald Warne, the Department of Indigenous Health was the world’s first such standalone program – and the first to offer a doctoral degree in Indigenous health.

“Dr. Donald Warne is a true visionary in all that he continues to create and promote with regards to the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples,” said Geiger. “After meeting and getting to know Dr. Nadeau, I agreed to help the interim chair lead this amazing group of junior faculty members. I have never shied away from new challenges and opportunities, and because this is the first program of its kind worldwide, I am honored to help grow this department.”

Late last year, Geiger was named the principal investigator (PI), also on an interim basis, on the School’s five-year, $10 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (CoBRE) research award targeting Indigenous health. The grant’s original PI, also Dr. Warne, moved to Johns Hopkins University late last year. Before leaving UND, Warne asked Geiger personally to take on the CoBRE project. To date, UND has used the CoBRE grant to establish the world’s first Indigenous Trauma & Resilience Research Center (ITRRC). The ITRRC is designed to explore the impact of historical and unresolved trauma on health outcomes within the American Indian and Alaska Native population. The grant in question is renewable twice, meaning that part of Geiger’s job will be helping convince the NIH to renew the grant in 2026. The NIH approved the grant’s leadership change in Oct. 2022.

A longtime faculty at SMHS, Geiger earned his doctorate in pharmacology and physiology from UND in 1982. After many years teaching and publishing at the University of Manitoba, Geiger returned to UND in 2003 to chair what is now the SMHS Department of Biomedical Sciences. Specializing in brain energy metabolism, the regulation of intracellular calcium, neuronal cell life and death in neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease), and the neurological complications of HIV-1 infection, Geiger has over 200 publications to his name and has been cited thousands of times.