Rising Nurse Scientist Receives UA Health Sciences Career Development Award

Oct 29, 2015

Dr. Michelle Kahn-John, assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Nursing, is among seven up-and-coming faculty scientists selected to receive UA Health Sciences Career Development Awards.

As an awardee, she will engage in personalized coursework, mentored research and multidisciplinary consultations designed to help her build an outstanding, collaborative research career.

For her research project, Dr. Kahn-John, a member of the Diné (Navajo) tribe, will conduct a first-of-its-kind pilot study to assess changes in depressive symptoms and inflammation in Diné adults who participate in traditional Diné healing interventions for the treatment of depression.

Dr. Kahn-John recently obtained local support from the Fort Defiance, Ariz. community to proceed with her study and is in the process of obtaining Navajo Nation Human Research Review Board support. 

“This knowledge will help bridge the gap between western and American Indian healing practices,” said Dr. Kahn-John. “Culturally tailored treatments that incorporate a person’s perspectives and beliefs are needed in order to provide quality health-care interventions that meet the unique needs of the diverse populations we serve as health-care professionals.”

Compared to the general U.S. population, American Indians experience disparate rates of mental illness. These disparities are further compounded by psychosocial stressors in their communities, such as high rates of poverty, chronic illness, substance abuse and trauma.

A nurse for 20 years and a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner for 15, Dr. Kahn-John has spent most of her career working with the Indian Health Service on the Navajo Nation in Arizona. In 2005, she led efforts to establish the first inpatient adolescent psychiatric unit for American Indians on a reservation, where cultural wisdom and healing were integrated into the treatment model.

Dr. Kahn-John’s mentors from the UA College of Nursing include Dr. Terry Badger, professor and division director; Dr. Marylyn McEwen, professor and the Gladys E. Sorensen Endowed Professor for Diabetes Research and Education; and Dr. Thaddeus Pace, assistant professor. Additional mentors include Dr. Chiu-Hsieh (Paul) Hsu, associate professor in the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Department at the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, and Dr. Denise Saint-Arnault, associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing.

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About the University of Arizona College of Nursing

Faculty at the University of Arizona College of Nursing envision, engage and innovate in education, research and practice to help people of all ages optimize health in the context of major life transitions, illnesses, injuries, symptoms and disabilities. Established in 1957, the college ranks among the top nursing programs in the United States. For more information: www.nursing.arizona.edu