A new iteration of the Native Elder Research Center (NERC) that has been continually funded since its inception in 1998, CHANGE will continue to increase the diversity of investigators conducting research with Native populations in the US. We maintain an 18-month cycle, draw on long- established best practices, offer innovative solutions to improvements identified by former NERC Faculty and Scientists, integrate a community-based approach, and expand our diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility platform to create a culture of inclusiveness and support for 9 diverse early-career faculty (3 per cycle).
CHANGE is led by multiple principal investigators Dedra Buchwald, MD, at Washington State University, and Julie Baldwin, PhD (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma), at Northern Arizona University. Together, they will co-lead the Leadership and Administrative Core. The Research Education Component will be led by Denise Dillard, PhD, at Washington State University; and the Analysis Core will be led by Richard MacLehose, PhD, at University of Minnesota, supported by Luciana Hebert, PhD, at Washington State University. Gary Ferguson, ND (Unangax̂/Aleut), at Washington State University, will lead Community Integration activities to embed community engagement and education into the Pilot Studies and all aspects of CHANGE, upholding our commitment to principles of participatory research. CHANGE also features several additional mentors: Clemma Muller, PhD, MS, at Washington State University; Valarie Jernigan, PhD (Choctaw), a former NERC Faculty and Scientist, at Oklahoma State University; Scott Okamoto, PhD, a current RCMAR Mentor, at University of Hawai’i at Mānoa; and Mandy Fretts, PhD (Eel Ground First Nation), at University of Washington.
CHANGE’s Specific Aims are to:
- Deliver the 18-month CHANGE curriculum to a diverse cohort of 9 Scientists pursuing careers in aging research with Native people;
- Provide state-of-the-art support for CHANGE Scientists’ Pilot Studies within a holistic framework of mentoring, professional development, and research excellence;
- Integrate CHANGE Scientists into a network of investigators, RCMAR alumni, and community partners who conduct Native health research and promote Native health interventions; and
- Embed principles of community outreach, engagement, and participatory research, as well as diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility across all CHANGE activities.
The literature on training programs for underrepresented minority investigators highlights the success of personalized, culturally-informed training and access to underrepresented minority role models. CHANGE will recruit scientists and provide them mentors, while concurrently accommodating the real-world limitations presented by the highly-dispersed and relatively-small community of early-stage investigators and senior faculty conducting aging-related research on Native health.