The NARCH faculty development and mentoring project in Oklahoma was a collaboration between the Chickasaw Nation, the Cherokee Nation and the Office of Academic Affairs & Faculty Development at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC) that began in 2006. Project aims were to provide a learning and research skill building partnership between the Indian Nations and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Mentors and instructors from OUHSC Colleges, the Chickasaw Nation, and the Cherokee Nation were contributors to the project and structured course of study for participants.
The overall project objectives included: 1) Use of the key principles of Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR), to build a research learning collaborative between tribal health system employees interested in research and university faculty; 2) use of a faculty development approach to build a structured curriculum to promote the understanding of research principles and the application of CBPR; and 3) development of viable research questions with the potential to create pilot projects that would benefit the tribal communities.
Tribal employees/members working within a tribal health system partnered with academic faculty and other community members to learn to conduct health related research. Tribal and University personnel found a “common table” to develop research ideas and collaboration skills.
A project advisory committee was established and its vision was for program participants to acquire additional research skills which would facilitate increasing leadership from the Tribes in clinical and health services research involving Native American peoples. The five Advisory Committee members included three administrators from the Chickasaw and Cherokee Nations, as well as two administrators from the University.
University Core and Mentor Faculty:
Core faculty were integral participants in the learning community and mentor faculty were available to discuss specific and or technical aspects of research. Core faculty had experience in community-based research and/or public health and evaluation research, while mentor faculty worked one-on-one with participants to help refine research questions, outline and write research proposals, and develop survey questions for potential focus groups.
Tribal employees interested in research were identified by the Cherokee Nation and Chickasaw Nation as potential participants. Participants completing each of the Year 1 curriculum programs included six members of the Chickasaw Nation and four members of the Cherokee Nation. Participant backgrounds included a Research Assistant, Chief of Pediatrics, System Diabetes Manager, Health Promotion Specialist, Registered Nurse, Systems Analyst, Registered Dental Hygienist, Health Planning and Policy Analyst, Primary Prevention Specialist, and a Manager for Medical Support Services.
Using faculty development focused on tribal health system employees interested in conducting health related research, a research learning community was established. Using a structured curriculum and advice from an external advisory committee, a learning community approach enabled all participants to bring insights and expertise to the table to promote understanding of research principles and the application of community-based participatory research.