Native Voices Exhibition Raises Awareness, Fosters Collaboration at the University of Utah

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – The Native Voices traveling exhibition spawned a lecture series about Native American health during its fall 2015 stay at the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library, University of Utah.

The Eccles Library is the MidContinental Regional Medical Library of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, which is sponsored by NLM. In addition, Eccles Library is home to the National Library of Medicine Training Center, which offers e-learning and in-person classes related to NLM’s products and services.

The library sits next door to the School of Medicine on the main campus of the University of Utah, which has an enrollment of over 31,000 graduate and undergraduate students. The library is named for Spencer S. Eccles, a prominent 20th century philanthropist in the city and an alumnus of the University.

Joan M. Gregory, associate director for Eccles Library’s Resources and Facilities, said the library organized the Native Voices Lecture Series to raise local awareness of Native American health-related issues and to bring attention to the exhibition, which was on the library’s main floor.

The opening and closing of the Native Voices traveling exhibition were celebrated with Native American blessing ceremonies led by Traditional Elder Rupert Steele of the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute.

The exhibition was accompanied by a display of artwork from local Native American artists, including a few associated with the University. The Eccles Art Gallery hosted the display, which was organized in partnership with the American Indian Resource Center and the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake.

Banners from the Native Voices traveling exhibition stand in front of portraits hanging on the library's wall.

The Native Voices traveling exhibition on display (with portraits of distinguished medical faculty members), main floor, Eccles Health Sciences Library.

The Native Voices Lecture Series began with a presentation by Franci Lynn Taylor, director of the American Indian Resource Center on campus. Taylor shared her knowledge and understanding of plants, botanical medicines, and other indigenous ways of healing.

Additional lectures in the series covered different aspects of working with Native American populations.

Phyllis Pettit Nassi and Lynne Hall from the University’s Huntsman Cancer Institute discussed how researchers should work with Native Americans to improve early cancer detection, encourage participation in clinical trials, and reduce cancer risks.

Prior to planning and assessing a health intervention campaign for Native populations, Nassi and Hall stressed the importance of working closely with and understanding tribal cultures and mores. Researchers need to understand “how complicated it’s going to be to get it right, and how difficult it will be for every researcher working with tribes, if they get it wrong,” Nassi said.

In the series’ third lecture, Dolores Calderon, JD, PhD, an assistant professor of education, culture, and society at the University of Utah, explored how Native culture affects doctor-patient relationships and how indigenous knowledge can be an asset when providing healthcare to Native populations.

The lecture series continued with Beverly Patchell, PhD, an assistant professor in the University’s College of Nursing. Dr. Patchell addressed mental health in Native communities. She noted how 19th and 20th century US government policies intended to assimilate Native populations prompted an array of lingering mental health issues among some Native Americans.

Dr. Patchell’s lecture was followed by a panel discussion on the medical ethics challenges that can arise when working with Native and other vulnerable populations. This discussion was sponsored by the Division of Medical Ethics and Humanities within the Department of Internal Medicine, University of Utah School of Medicine.

The series’ closing lecture focused on health disparities in Native populations. Lillian Tom-Orme, PhD, a research assistant professor in the College of Nursing, University of Utah, discussed how the health status of Native populations provides a persistent reminder of the health disparities across Utah and the US. Dr. Tom-Orme emphasized while it is important for health care providers to understand how care is perceived by patients, it is especially useful to understand the perspectives of Native Americans about health, an idea at the cornerstone of the Native Voices exhibition.

Dr. Tom-Orme’s lecture dovetailed with the ongoing Charles James Nabors, PhD Conference Series focused on the inclusion of patient voices within the health care delivery system. In keeping with the exhibition-inspired lecture series, the Nabors Conference offered a presentation titled “Patient Voices: Focus on Native American Health.”

Gregory, the Eccles Library’s Associate Director, was encouraged by how the Native Voices exhibition helped the library foster new connections with the community as well as within the University. “Our partnership with the University of Utah Health Sciences Office of Health Equity and Inclusion was just beginning to take form when we learned we were selected to host Native Voices,” Gregory said. “That relationship and a new relationship with the University of Utah American Indian Resource Center blossomed as we worked together to plan the ceremonies, lectures, and discussions.”

Related Information
Eccles Library Native Voices Exhibition and Events Information
Video: Native Voices Lecture Series
Native American Traditional Healing Bibliography prepared by Twanna Hodge, MLIS, Diversity Resident Librarian, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah

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