LaMere to present ‘From Whiteclay to Iowa: Healing Revisited’ Nov. 14

Native American Heritage Month

“From Whiteclay to Iowa: Healing Revisited”
Wednesday, Nov. 14
12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
Callaghan Auditorium (N110 CPHB)

portrait of Frank LaMereFrank LaMere is a noted Native American social and political activist from South Sioux City, NE.  He is a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and is generally recognized as the chief architect of the twenty-year effort to stop the illegal flow of alcohol from Whiteclay, NE onto the dry Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Mr. LaMere is the chair of the Community Initiative for Native Children and Families (CINCF) in Sioux City, IA, the associate chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, a member of the Board of the Siouxland Community Health Center, a member of the Winnebago Health Board, the Mercy Medical Center Patient Advisory Council, and a member of Nebraskans for Peace. He is involved with the Siouxland Street Project Detox Committee in Sioux City that is tackling the need for detox and halfway house availability, alcohol and drug treatment, homelessness, and needed mental health services for Native and non-Native men and women on the streets of Sioux City, IA.

Mr. LaMere has been recognized on numerous occasions for his work in Whiteclay and on many social and political fronts. He has been honored with the Outstanding Peacemaker Award in 2001 by the Nebraskans for Peace, the War Eagle Human Rights Award by the Sioux City Human Rights Commission in 2011, the Good Apple Award by the NE Appleseed Center in 2015, and the FDR Award given by the Nebraska Democratic Party in 2017.  He was also honored in 2017 by Project Extra Mile for his Whiteclay work. He has also been honored by Jackson Recovery Center in Sioux City, Iowa, and the City of South Sioux City. In October he was honored for his outstanding community service by the Sioux City Police Department. He was also named Member of the Year in 2016 by the National Indian Child Welfare Association.

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Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the College of Public Health in advance at 319-384-1500.

Global visiting scholar will discuss HIV risk in Kenya Oct. 15

Global Visiting Scholar Nema Aluku poster

Cultural and Religious Influences on the Risk of HIV Infection among Women in Western Kenya

Global Visiting Scholar Nema Aluku

Monday, Oct. 15
12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
Lunch will be provided.

Nema Aluku, PhD, MPH, is a research associate at Tangaza University College in Nairobi, Kenya. Dr. Aluku’s research is focused on the influences of religion and culture on HIV/AIDS and maternal and child health outcomes. In addition to her work at Tangaza University College, Dr. Aluku continues to provide technical assistance to a variety of NGOs in East Africa related to gender, religion, and health. She previously worked with World Renew and served as their Health and HIV Program Manager for East and Southern Africa.

UI students contribute to research on Roma health disparities in Romania

Romania political map. Illustration.On the edge of the thriving city of Cluj, Romania, is the decidedly not thriving community of Pata Rât. Located at Cluj’s former city dump, it’s filled with ramshackle houses, little indoor plumbing, pollution, and dirt roads that quickly turn to mud.

The population is about 1,500 people and almost all of them are Roma, otherwise known by the pejorative term gypsies. They are scattered throughout Europe and are subject to discrimination wherever they live. Pata Rât is an example of this. Many of its residents, about 350 people, once lived in a residential neighborhood in Cluj until the government evicted them and forced them to move to a landfill.

Health Care Disparities

Far from jobs and schools in the city—the nearest bus stop is about a mile and a half away, on the other side of a rail yard—and forced to live in a literal dump of a neighborhood, the people of Pata Rât have suffered significant health issues as a result. This summer, a group of 13 University of Iowa students from across the campus traveled to Romania as part of the Minority Health and Health Disparities International Training Program (MHIRT), a research training internship program to encourage under-represented minorities to pursue health careers. Two of the students—Darian Thompson and Breanna Kramer—worked with the Roma population in Pata Rât, on projects led by mentors at the Cluj School of Public Health that quantifies what that impact has been and help improve the lives of the children who live there.

“They met with Roma and held focus groups to determine what the health care disparities are between the Roma and the general Romanian population,” says Rema Afifi, professor of community and behavioral health in the College of Public Health who coordinated the training grant. She notes that the Roma—who make up about 8 percent of Romania’s population—have much higher rates of poor health outcomes than the general population as a result of the social, economic, and environmental conditions that surround them.

The students spent ten weeks in Romania, guided and mentored by researchers at the Cluj School of Public Health at Babeș-Bolyai University who have been monitoring health issues among the Roma for many years. They performed field work gathering data, and computational work analyzing the data. What they found was a largely homogenous population of white, ethnic Romanians with little acceptance of minorities such as the Roma.

Discriminatory Attitudes

Darian Thompson, one of the students participating in the MHIRT research internship, points to surveys that show 56 percent of Romanians do not feel comfortable living near Roma and 38 percent would not agree to have a Roma as a friend. While Romania’s unemployment rate is 8 percent, among the Roma, it’s 34 percent, and most of those who are employed work in unskilled, low-wage jobs.

Thompson is an African-American and so he’s seen and felt racism in the United States. What he saw directed at the Roma in Romania less subtle and more abrasive than the discrimination directed against minorities in the U.S.

“I was surprised by how openly discriminatory the population was toward the Roma,” says Thompson, a junior pre-med major from Cedar Rapids. “I realized that while we still have a lot of issues to work out in the U.S., we’re still pretty accepting of minorities compared to people in other parts of the world.”

Thompson spent most of his ten weeks of the project analyzing data, comparing past statistics to newly gathered data while looking for changes and trends. Meanwhile, Breanna Kramer, a Master of Public Health student in the College of Public Health, was in the field, talking with the Pata Rât Roma about their health.

Helping Children Succeed

Kramer’s work was focused on measuring the effectiveness of a Cluj School of Public Health program that’s designed to help Roma children in Pata Rât succeed in school. Because of transportation difficulties and fear of discrimination, most Pata Rât parents keep their children in a local, segregated school in the community. But Kramer says the school is substandard and the language of instruction is their native Romani, instead of the Romanian they will need to learn to be successful.

The program helps the students by providing bus transportation to better quality schools, new clothing, access to showers, hot meals, and other assistance to better prepare them for learning. Kramer says that preliminary research suggests the program is working to fulfill family needs at a basic level.

“It’s taking that weight off their parents so the kids can go to school and get the education they need,” says Kramer, from Donnellson, Iowa. “But poverty and discrimination still exist, and for that to improve, large-scale institutional change needs to happen, which will take years.”

Afifi says funding for the training program came from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, a federal agency designed to lead scientific research that improves minority health and reduces health disparities through promotion and support of the training of a diverse research workforce. All 13 of the UI students who participated were from minorities underrepresented in the health sciences.

Physician, author Ira Byock will present at Oct. 7 and 8 events

Palliative-care physician and author Ira Byock, MD, FAAHPM, will present “Saying ‘The Four Things that Matter Most’” at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, October 7, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The presentation, part of the UNESCO City of Literature Iowa City Book Festival, is free and open to the public.

Doors will open at 6 p.m. Prairie Lights bookstore will provide books for purchase, and Dr. Byock will be available to sign copies following his presentation. Pre-registration is recommended at

Dr. Byock will also be the keynote speaker the following morning, Monday, Oct. 8 at the professional conference “The Best Care Possible” from 8 a.m. to noon at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts.  His keynote presentation is entitled “The Best Care Possible: Clinical and Cultural Leadership in the 21st Century.” Fees: physicians $60; students $20; all other attendees $30. For additional information or to register, please go to and click on Upcoming Programs, or go directly to registration deadline is Friday, Oct. 5, 2018.

As one of the foremost palliative-care physicians in the country, Dr. Byock argues that how we die is among the biggest national crises facing us today. Byock’s first book, Dying Well, (1997) has become a standard in the field of hospice and palliative care. The Four Things That Matter Most, (2004) is used as a counseling tool widely by palliative care and hospice programs, as well as within pastoral care. His most recent book, The Best Care Possible (2012) tackles the crisis that surrounds serious illness and dying in America and his quest to transform care through the end of life. It has been praised by the Wall Street Journal, the Economist and other major publications, and won the annual Books for a Better Life Award in the category of Wellness.

These special events are supported by the following organizations: Iowa City Hospice, University of Iowa Health Care, Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Lensing Funeral and Cremation Service, Hills Bank and Trust, Mercy Iowa City, Oaknoll, US Bank, University of Iowa College of Pharmacy, University of Iowa College of Nursing, Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, Prairie Lights, the Senior Center, the Iowa Writers’ House, and Little Village.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the Continuing Medical Education Division in advance at (319) 335-8599 or Jane Dohrmann at (319) 688-4214.

Ashida named IIPHRP Policy Fellow

A portrait of Prof. Sato Ashida of the Department of Community and Behavioral Health at the University of Iowa College of Public Health.
Sato Ashida

The Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy (IIPHRP) has selected Sato Ashida, UI associate professor of community and behavioral health, as a 2018-2019 Policy Fellow.

The year-long Policy Fellow Program creates opportunities for primary faculty to enhance their skills for translating public health research into practice and policy. Each Policy Fellow develops and implements a project focused on a critical public health topic. Ashida’s project will bring key stakeholders together to develop policy to improve the delivery of emergency management services to older Iowans.

Older adults in the community are especially vulnerable to negative health outcomes during and after disasters. If various agencies involved in emergency management had pertinent information provided by and about older Iowans, outcomes of disaster response and recovery processes conducted by state agencies and local emergency management services could be vastly improved. However, there are barriers to gathering and sharing information about individual residents across agencies and institutions.

Ashida previously developed an online program called PrepWise that allows older adults to establish personalized emergency and disaster plans. The plans include information about medical care and medication needs, functional limitations, cognitive difficulties, emergency support network members, service animals, and other important health needs. Now, Ashida’s goal is to develop policy that will allow state and local agencies to access information pertinent to emergency management that PrepWise participants consent to share with agencies in order to enhance the delivery of emergency services to older Iowans.

Her first step will be to establish a core group comprised of state agencies as well as county experts in emergency management. This group will review efforts in other states and explore dynamics needed to implement a statewide policy that allows incorporating PrepWise into existing disaster management infrastructure.  Once policy recommendations are developed and vetted by this broad group, additional stakeholders will be identified and involved in expanding awareness and dissemination of this potentially life-saving tool.

Learn more about the IIPHRP Policy Fellow Program at