Physicians Pow Wow At Health Conference Event in Anchorage, Alaska

A pow wow and a health and wellness conference bringing two organizations together for the first time to address issues critical to native communities is set for July 31 to August 5, at the William A, Egan Civic Center, in Anchorage, Alaska.

“This will mark the first time Native Hawaiian physicians and American Indian physicians will come together to share research and ideas on Native health and wellness,” said Dr. Donna Galbreath, president of the Association of American Indian Physicians (AAIP).

The event, “Advancing Native Health and Wellness,” is a partnership between AAIP and the University of Hawaii—the Center for Native and Pacific Health Disparities Research. It will gather native health care providers and native communities in the U.S and Pacific.

It will the first joint annual meeting for the organizations and is being held in tandem with AAIP’s 41st annual meeting.

“This unique partnership and opportunity will bring together ideas and opportunities that can help us all better address the multitude of health issues that are critical to our organizations and to indigenous population,” said Galbreath, who is also a family physician.

“This conference will also embrace cultural practitioners and traditional healers who are key to defining who we are by honoring our past . . . as we move forward to take ownership of our health and wellness,” said Dr. Marjorie Mau, director of the Center for Native and Pacific Health and Disparities.

Galbreath, who expects 350 people to attend, said the event should be of interest to physicians, medical students, social scientists, nurses, allied healthcare professionals, cultural practitioners and any healthcare provider who serves Native or Pacific people.

The topics for the 6-day conference include sessions on traditional healing, workforce diversity in biomedical and healthcare field, Native-driven research, social determinants of health and public/private collaborations to address wellness.

Also to be discussed are health disparities in Native communities, models of healthcare delivery and community engaged interventions. Because the event is in Alaska, attendees will also be able to learn about the renowned Alaska health care programs.

Galbreath said the single biggest health issue for Native Americans is two opposite trends: fewer doctors and larger populations. “This is where we are today and why we are working so hard to address this troubling disparity.”

She cited the report of the American Association of Medical Colleges that states the number of American Indians and Alaskan Natives accepted into medical school has substantially and steadily declined over the past decade. In contrast, the population has increased by 26.7% from 2000 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census.

After this conference, Galbreath said, AAIP, headquartered in Oklahoma, will continue to foster multiple programs that directly address health disparities in tribal populations through educational forums, workshops and conferences.

“With more than 560 federally recognized tribes in the United States, it is critical to maintain and expand the educational pipeline to medical school for tribal members who are on a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math career track,” she said.

Outside of the conference room atmosphere is a cultural component. The Center for Native and Pacific Health and Disparities is hosting a fun run/health walk for meeting participants.

On August 3, Friday, a “Cultural Celebration,” will be held at the Explorers Hall at the Egan Convention Center, from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. The event will feature performances by Native Hawaiian cultural. Dances will be interactive and open to the public.

“We hope to learn from each other and expand our knowledge base. This event represents the spirit of our joint meeting; it is what this whole conference is about—coming together, giving, sharing and taking those ideas home,” said Galbreath.

Also open to the public is the pow wow on August 4, Saturday, also to be held at the Egan Center. AAIP, which has hosted the dance annually, will continue to take the lead role but the Hawaiian delegation has a special presentation planned.

The evening schedule starts with the 6 p.m. Gourd dancing, followed by the 7 p.m. Grand Entry and a variety of ancient and modern hula at 8:30 p.m.

A contest dance is another feature. It has four categories for women—cloth, buckskin, fancy shawl and jingle dress. The four dance categories for men are grass, fancy, straight and traditional. Also part of the program is the Tiny Tot dance categories for children.

Local arts and crafts vendors will be featured at the pow wow. Music will come from two host drum groups, the Mt. Sustina Singers from Anchorage, the Northern Drum, and Sizzortail from Shawnee, Oklahoma, the Southern Drum. Tim Tallchief (Osage) has been named the Master of Ceremonies.