Diné College School of STEM Professor awarded NIH-NIGMS-SEPA award to run “CONVOY: A Cultural approach of Navajo Youth to Biomedical Sciences”

Diné College School of STEM Professor awarded NIH-NIGMS-SEPA award to run “CONVOY: A Cultural approach of Navajo Youth to Biomedical Sciences”

08 September 2023

TSAILE, AZ — Diné College School of STEM’s Professor of Biomedical Sciences and Microbiology, Dr. Shazia Tabassum Hakim, is the principal investigator of a new award from the National Institute of Health Sciences (NIH) and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) under their “Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) Program”. Co-Investigators are Professor Dr. Babatunde Ojo (Pharmaceutical Chemistry), Ms. Benita Litson (Director of Land Grant Office), and Ms. Winifred Jumbo (Director of External Campuses and Sites). This team will join the SEPA network of researchers and investigators to identify complementary strategies that link traditional Navajo epistemologies with modern scientific practices to motivate Diné College, Navajo Nation’s high school and Junior high school students to study and pursue careers in Biomedical Sciences and related fields.

“The 5-year project “CONVOY: A Cultural Approach of Navajo Youth to Bio-Medical Sciences” will positively impact underserved communities and communities across tribal nations, especially the Navajo Nation, and other neighboring tribes within Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado by providing opportunities for students to pursue careers in biomedical sciences, allied healthcare, and basic or clinical research that will positively impacting local workforce development. It will also improve community health literacy in minority communities with health disparities”, said Dr. Hakim, PI of the grant award. Dr. Hakim with a background in clinical microbiology and infectious diseases research joined Diné College’s School of STEM in August 2018. She is current program lead for the Certificate in Medical Assisting and BS in Biomedical Sciences, also supervising 6 Master students in the MS in Biology program to complete their dissertations with projects surrounding infectious diseases.

“Through this grant we will make efforts to foster holistic practices that bridge the gap between Navajo traditional practices and western medicine; we will introduce our participants to the foundation of Navajo traditions and culture to help them develop a stronger bond with their roots while at the same time learning basic biomedical sciences concepts”, said Benita Litson, Director of Land Grant Office.

Ms. Jumbo, Co-investigator of this grant and former dual credit program director at Diné College, mentioned that we will prepare students to enroll in institutions of higher learning and provide learning opportunities so they can be motivated to earn college credit in high school through Dine College’s and other Dual Enrollment Program available across Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.

“The CONVOY SEPA project will spark Navajo youth’s curiosity in biomedical sciences and inspire them to pursue rewarding careers in health sciences and serve their communities”, said Dr. Ojo, a pharmaceutical chemistry professor at Diné College.

“NIH grants are very competitive and I am sure this award will provide an exceptional opportunity for Dr. Hakim and her team to highlight the work that is scheduled to motivate and train Navajo Youth in biomedical and health Sciences with zealous faculty, passionate community, enthusiastic students and warrior approach not only for Navajo Nation or tribal communities but for all underserved communities throughout North America”, said Mr. James Tutt, Dean of STEM.

“This is not to say that we do not have challenges. Some are out of our hands and some we can control. In order to meet the needs of a changing Navajo society, a changing Navajo healthcare system, a changing Navajo economy, and a myriad of opportunities before Diné College and as an extension of the Navajo Nation, we must be ready and we must be prepared. This award is one of those opportunities we look forward to build a truly unique Navajo University system to support a stronger and more self-sufficient Navajo Nation”, said Dr. Charles Monty Roessel, Diné College President.

Diné College is the first tribally controlled college established in 1968. As a postsecondary educational institution, Diné College awards associate degrees, bachelor degrees, a master degree and certificates in areas important to the economic and social development of the Navajo Nation. To comply with the College mission, personalized instruction is guaranteed to each student because of the low student-faculty ratio. All are welcome to apply


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