Future career opportunities in clinical and translational research to improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Pacific People
A $15 million, five-year grant has been awarded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) to establish the Center for Pacific Innovations, Knowledge, and Opportunities (PIKO) to improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Pacific People (IPP), defined as Native Hawaiians, Other Pacific Islanders, and Filipinos. These communities comprise 40% of the state’s population and have disproportionately higher rates of physical ailments and mental health conditions, compared to Caucasian and Asian people in Hawai‘i.
This Institutional Development Award Networks for Clinical and Translational Research (IDeACTR) center represents a partnership between the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM), Hawai‘i Pacific University, Chaminade University of Honolulu, and a statewide network of community-based organizations (CBO). PIKO will be led by Joseph Keawe‘aimoku Kaholokula, PhD, professor and chair of Native Hawaiian Health, and Neal A. Palafox, MD, MPH, professor of Family Medicine and Community Health, of the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM).
PIKO will take a team-science approach to transform current research paradigms to accelerate clinical and translational research (CTR) to improve IPP health. There are seven core components to PIKO: Administrative; Professional Development; Pilot Projects Program; Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design; Community Engagement and Outreach; Clinical Research and Regulatory Support; and Tracking and Evaluation.
UHM has committed $1.5 million over five years toward PIKO, which will increase the number of new and early-stage investigators from IPP communities for CTR careers. With strong mentoring from established researchers, these emerging scientists will learn how to conduct community-responsive research to find real-world solutions to reduce health disparities and advance health equity.
Key to PIKO’s success will be implementation and dissemination of research findings back to the affected communities through a strong statewide network of CBO partners and community stakeholders, who will share best practices, translate discoveries, and leverage data to improve the health of IPP and other marginalized communities in Hawai‘i.
According to Dr. Kaholokula, “This is an unprecedented partnership and initiative in Hawai‘i to support talented junior researchers in doing culturally responsive and community-engaged research to improve the health and wellbeing of Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Filipinos, and other health disparate populations.”
Dr. Palafox said, “Achieving health equity in Hawai‘i’s marginalized populations requires a dedicated and sustained investment in relevant discovery and problem solving, tasks that belong to the people of these communities.”
By Paula Bender, JABSOM News