Published: Carolee Dodge Francis, Noehealani Bareng-Antolin, Kira Tran

Carolee Dodge Francis, Noehealani Bareng-Antolin, and Kira Tran (all Public Health) share a noval approach to supporting American Indian and Alaska Native high school students in pursuit of higher education in the biomedical field, featured in a chapter of the book Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners and STEAM: Teachers and Researchers Working in Partnership to Build a Better Tomorrow.

As part of the book, they join a team of asset-oriented teachers and practitioners to share promising approaches in teaching and learning in STEAM subjects in K-16 education. Their work is detailed in “Balancing Cultural and Science Identity Frameworks for American Indian/Alaska Native High School Students: A Summer Research Journey.”

College graduation rates among American Indian/Alaska Natives remains a reach for many students, and at the same time health disparities such as type 2 diabetes, and HIV/AIDS rates continue to rise. Research by Dodge Francis, Bareng-Antolin, and Tran suggests that new approaches to student advancement in biomedical research skill building can occur during the high school years and may improve health disparity issues within tribal communities. Furthermore, the lack of minority scientists or AI/NA individuals that mirror the biomedical workforce is extremely small. Research indicates health outcomes of underrepresented minorities improve when members of similar ethnic and racial backgrounds administer care and are part of the solution. Therefore, building a community’s capacity to reduce these disparities encompasses both the education and professional development of its members.

In light of this research, they share insights from nearly ten years of coordinating the National Institutes of Health/National Institutes of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases Short-Term Research Experience Program for Underrepresented Persons, a high school biomedical bridge program. The research team incorporates notions of bicognition to blend students’ science and cultural identities. This bicognition support is a critical component to both their mentoring approach and success to higher education. 

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