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Native health center welcomes first president's professor

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

03/28/07

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FAIRBANKS, Alaska--The author of the landmark study that linked maternal smoking to low birth-weight babies is sharing her insights and expertise with scientists at the Center for Alaska Native Health Research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The center studies weight, nutrition and health in Alaska Natives from genetic, dietary and cultural-behavioral perspectives.

Mary Sexton, a nationally renowned epidemiologist and consultant, is the first of 10 visiting UAF president's professors of biomedical research to work with CANHR scientists. Sexton has spent the last month sharing her wealth of experience in human-subject research design and proposal and manuscript preparation. "For CANHR, I am an outsider, I am a reviewer. I can say I don't understand," Sexton said.

"What we're trying to do is build what an investigator would experience if he or she was, for example, at the University of Washington medical school, an environment rich with scholars who can mentor and advise us in biomedical and health sciences research" said Gerald Mohatt, CANHR director and UAF professor of psychology.

Sexton's smoking study changed the course of United States public health policy in 1984; the expectations of CANHR and most scientists are considerably more modest. "We, as scientists, expect small advances," Sexton said. "However, the questions CANHR scientists ask are important for Alaska Natives and the general population and have the potential for a tremendous breakthrough."

"Jerry and his team have done a superb job of recruiting study participants and building a trusting relationship with those participants," Sexton said. Such community-based participatory research is fairly new and CANHR's has been successful in securing National Institutes of Health support.

Each of the 10 UAF president's professors of biomedical research will visit CANHR for one to two months at a time. The position is funded by BP and ConocoPhillips, through the University Foundation, as part of a charter agreement with the state of Alaska.

Sexton will be at UAF through April 6. Medical anthropologist Kim Hopper from the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research will be visiting CANHR April 30 through May 31. Gerontologist and medical anthropologist Nancy Schoenberg will be visiting June 6 through July 3.

ON THE WEB: www.iab.uaf.edu/news/news.php?newsrel=45

CONTACT:
Mary Sexton, Center for Alaska Native Health Research, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, UAF President's Professor of Biomedical Research, ffms4@uaf.edu, (907) 474-6186.

Gerald (Jerry) Mohatt, director, Center for Alaska Native Health Research, Institute of Arctic Biology, professor of psychology, department of psychology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, www.alaska.edu/canhr, (907) 474-7927, ffgvm@uaf.edu.

Marie Gilbert, public information officer, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, www.iab.uaf.edu, (907) 474-7412, marie.gilbert@uaf.edu.

Diana Campbell, communications specialist, Center for Alaska Native Health Research, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, (907) 474-5221, diana.campbell@uaf.edu.

Center for Alaska Native Health Research: The National Institutes of Health funds CANHR through its Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence program. CANHR investigates weight, nutrition and health in Alaska Natives from genetic, dietary, cultural and behavioral perspectives. The center partners with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation. Current projects focus on identifying genes associated with body weight and obesity, understanding what nutritional factors contribute to a person's weight and overall health, and understanding the Yup'ik approach toward health and treatment.

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