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UAF professor receives national rural health award

Submitted by Marie Gilbert
Phone: (907) 474-7412

07/05/04

Middle school math teacher, founding college president, university dean and professor, psychologist, and researcher are but a few of Gerald (Jerry) Mohatt's contributions to mental health issues in Native Alaska and American Indian communities.

Mohatt, professor of psychology and director of the Institute of Arctic Biology Center for Alaska Native Health Research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, was honored by the National Association of Rural Mental Health for his "significant contributions to the field of rural mental health" with the 2003 Victor I. Howery Memorial Award at the group's annual conference in Boulder, Colorado June 24, 2004.

Former First Lady Roslyn Carter was NARMH's first Howery Award recipient.

Two summers teaching middle-school math and social science at a Jesuit school on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota began Jerry Mohatt's lifelong commitment to providing mental health services to indigenous people.

"Jerry is above all things wise," said Karen Perdue, University of Alaska associate vice president for health. "He is wise about Alaska, its people, how to do research with communities, and how to bring out the best in people around him. When he speaks, people from village elders to university presidents listen with respect."

"Jerry is truly a visionary in the field of rural mental health. He has been instrumental in the development of innovative higher education programs that equip practitioners who provide services throughout rural Alaska," said Catherine Koverola, chair of the UAF department of psychology.

Mohatt established a UAF master's degree program in psychology that addresses cross-cultural issues and is working with faculty at UAF and UAA to develop a Ph.D. program in psychology with an indigenous focus, the only such program in the U.S.

He received a National Institutes for Health RO1 research grant for his project "People Awakening Project " that studies Alaska Native pathways to sobriety and has worked with FNA and TCC to develop and evaluate a children's mental health system that is Athabascan-specific because, he said, "we found children weren't identified or served (for mental health issues) until they were often part of the juvenile justice system."

Before coming to Alaska, Mohatt was founding president of the Sinte Gleska (tribal) College in Rosebud, South Dakota.

"Jerry has intrinsic integrity and the people he works with know this. It's a quality you know the moment you meet him," said David Lambert, NARMH president. "His emphasis is on building relationships and really understanding people and their values. He focuses on the importance of social context not simply clinical solutions when treating mental health issues."

NARMH was founded in 1977 to develop and enhance rural mental health and substance abuse services and to support mental health providers in rural areas.

Contact: Marie Gilbert, Publications and Information Coordinator for the Institute of Arctic Biology, at (907) 474-7412 or marie.gilbert@uaf.edu.

Gerald Mohatt, Professor of Psychology and Director, Center for Alaska Native Health Research, at (907) 474-6415 or ffgvm@uaf.edu.

David Lambert, Director, National Association for Rural Mental Health via e-mail at narmh@facts.ksu.edu, or www.narmh.org/pages/brdframe.html.