michael cain and susan karol.

Michael E. Cain, MD, and Susan V. Karol, MD, sign a memorandum of understanding marking a new partnership to serve the priority health needs of Native populations.

New Alliance to Benefit UB Health Schools, Native Americans

Published August 8, 2013

The University at Buffalo and the Indian Health Service (IHS) have entered into a historic alliance to improve the health of Native populations in New York State and Southern Ontario.

“Through this collaborative agreement, UB will work with regional tribal leaders to develop and offer robust public health programs.”
Michael E. Cain, MD
Vice president for health sciences and dean, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and Susan V. Karol, MD, chief medical officer of the IHS and a member of the Tuscarora Indian Nation, have signed an official memorandum of understanding.

The signing ceremony took place July 12 at the UB Clinical and Translational Science Institute in Buffalo.

All 5 UB Health Schools Involved

“Through this collaborative agreement, UB will work with regional tribal leaders to develop and offer robust public health programs,” says Cain.

Comprehensive services will involve all five UB health sciences schools—medicine, public health, nursing, pharmacy and dental medicine.

Goal is to Improve Health and Well-being

UB and the health service—a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—will work toward the ultimate goal of improving the health and well-being of Native communities in the region.

In the process, they will consult with tribal nations while honoring their sovereignty and self-determination.

Initially, UB will engage each of the regional tribal nations to determine health needs and build relationships.

UB to Provide Health Care, Education, Expertise

Through the partnership, an alliance of regional public health and medical institutions will be developed to encourage comprehensive research, training and services for Native American communities.

UB will collaborate with the IHS to provide:

  • research in tribal communities on health disparities and prevention strategies 
  • consultation and technical assistance, particularly in epidemiology, maternal and child health, infectious diseases, adolescent health, health communication, environmental health and program evaluation
  • community capacity-building, training and workshops for tribal communities 
  • contract health services and outreach programs for tribal communities that may address endocrine health, behavioral health and chemical dependency, dental care and telemedicine service
  • graduate education opportunities for Native Americans interested in health care careers, particularly professionals who want to work with Native American health programs

Building on Current UB Outreach Programs

The new agreement builds upon existing UB outreach to Native American communities in Western New York.

Through current programs involving the Seneca Nation, the medical school is working to address childhood obesity and diabetes, and a public health project aims to improve community health.

Native Americans Face Numerous Health Disparities

Native Americans face lingering health disparities, including lower life expectancy and a disproportionate disease burden compared to other Americans, according to the IHS.

They die at higher rates than other Americans from alcoholism (552 percent higher), diabetes (182 percent higher), unintentional injuries (138 percent higher), homicide (83 percent higher) and suicide (74 percent higher).

The IHS partners with tribal communities to provide health care for more than 2 million American Indian and Alaska Natives from more than 550 tribes.