Stroke Prevention with the Oneida: Building Successful Tribal Academic Research Partnerships

At the October 19, 2020 Population Health Science (PHS) Monday Seminar, Dr. Robert Dempsey presented “Stroke Prevention in the Wisconsin Native American Population: The Combined Roles of Science and Medicine in Population Health.”

Dr. Dempsey is a Professor of Neurosurgery at UW-Madison and has made significant contributions improving health around the globe. He currently leads the ‘Stroke Prevention in the Wisconsin Native American Population’, a tribal-academic partnership with support from the Wisconsin Partnership Program.  This project, drawing on expertise in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health and the Oneida Comprehensive Health Division, established a prevention program that aims to decrease the risk of stroke, vascular cognitive decline, and vascular deaths and disability in the Wisconsin Native American population.

The PHS seminar highlighted Dr. Dempsey’s extensive global health experiences and how these were intentionally drawn on to approach the Oneida community. Dr. Dempsey emphasized the importance of active listening – to involve the individuals who are subjects of interest and wait for an invitation to work together around mutual priorities. When one is invited, he noted, you’re welcomed. He drew parallels about the approach to global health work and to work with sovereign nations within the United States.

CCHE and Dr. Carey Gleason of the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) served to link Dr. Dempsey to Oneida colleagues and lent to the writing of the 2018 WPP application. CCHE also facilitated connections to our colleagues in the UW Native American Center for Health Professions (NACHP). Ms. Melissa Metoxen is a community and academic support coordinator with NACHP and a member of the Oneida Nation. She acted as a liaison for this project, introducing Dr. Dempsey’s team to the Oneida Medical Director, Dr. Ravinder Vir and Health Division Director Debbie Danforth.

Ms. Metoxen reflected on Dempsey’s team approach and how it helped get the project greenlit by the Oneida:

Dr. Dempsey’s team were transparent about what they wanted to do and how they wanted to do it. I connected them to our Oneida Medical Director and Comprehensive Health Director and they were interested in learning more. Stroke is a concern in our population the Directors understood this research could directly benefit our community.

As part of the process of getting research approved within the Oneida community, Dempsey’s team presented to the Oneida Business Committee. In making that case, they were successful by highlighting all their prior stroke work, providing ample information, recognizing Melissa as a project liaison, and being very clear and straightforward about their plans. The support of the Oneida Health Directors was also helpful.

Even before the project was approved, Dr. Dempsey included information about how they would go about developing the project together. It was really a partnership and he understood it would be a process. His commitment to the research and it benefiting our community is refreshing to see.

Dr. Dempsey presented on this project at the Population Health Sciences Monday Seminar in October 2020 and the video capture can be accessed here:

Research team photos courtesy of Stephanie Wilbrand, PhD