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Reframing the Conversation: Eradicating Health Inequities in Native American Communities

November 3, 2021 @ 12:00 pm 1:00 pm MDT

Reframing the Conversation: Eradicating Health Inequities in Native American Communities

Since the first European contact, the Indigenous peoples of the Americas have suffered from diseases that had no immunities. It is estimated that over 55 million people perished between 1492 and 1600 due to smallpox, measles, and influenza alone.

The U.S. Constitution codified the sovereignty of American Indian Nations and established a government-to-government relationship between the U.S. Federal Government and American Indian Nations. Because of this relationship, American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/NA) people signed treaties with the U.S. that promised health care and other necessities. However, due to underfunding and other deficits AI/AN people today continue to experience some of the greatest health disparities of any U.S. population. The percentage of AI/AN people living below the federal poverty level is 2.5 times greater than the percentage of Whites living in poverty. According to the Indian Health Services report, AI/AN populations have an average of 3-times greater incidence of every major disease when compared to White populations. This panel will discuss some of these disparities and how to reduce them.

Reframing the Conversation is a monthly hybrid series. Attendees can join in person at the Hinckley Caucus Room (Gardner Commons 2018) or virtually at diversity.utah.edu/rtc.

Kali Dale

Kali Dale
Graduate Student Researcher, University of Utah


Born and raised in rural Minnesota, Kali is a citizen of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe Indians. She completed her undergraduate studies in Biochemistry at the University of Minnesota Morris in 2014. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Oncological Sciences at the U, working at the Huntsman Cancer Institute researching transcriptional regulation mechanisms of melanoma. When Kali isn’t in the laboratory you can find her reading, skiing, or dancing at a concert.

Dena Ned

Dr. J. Dena Ned, MSW PhD
Associate Dean, Office for First Generation Access
Associate Professor, College of Social Work


J. Dena Ned is an Associate Professor in the College of Social Work at the University of Utah. In May she was named Associate Dean for the Office for First Generation Access which supports the growing diversity of first forward students. Dena upholds social responsibility as a citizen of both the United States and the Chickasaw Nation. Her experience as a social worker motivated her to explore issues of social justice and systemic equity, and promote comprehensive & holistic policy change from and by the perspective of historically resilient Peoples. Dr. Ned holds a Master’s in Social Welfare from UC Berkeley, a PhD. in Social Work from the U, with additional training as a fellow at the Center for American Indian Health Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, and a postdoc certificate in Global Mental Health: Trauma and Recovery from the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma.

Kristina Groves

Kristina Groves, MSW LCSW
Red Mesa Behavioral Health Program Director, Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake


Kristina Groves (Ute/Hopi/Chinese) graduated with a B.S. and MSW from the U. She is an LCSW and has worked at the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake (UICSL) since 2008 in both the Cedar Point Wellness and the Red Mesa Behavioral Health (RMBH) programs; in 2019, she became the director of Red Mesa Behavioral Health Program.

“My family always taught us to give back to our community and working with Native people was always my goal. Working with Native clients showed me the need for meaningful treatment in our community, as well as the ways that mainstream substance abuse treatment and mental health therapy do not always work for our population. In my work, I have been able to understand the significance of culture and spirituality to Native clients and the importance of a holistic approach to health and healing.”

Dustin Jansen

Dustin Jansen
Director, Utah Division of Indian Affairs
Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies, Utah Valley University


Dustin Jansen is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. Dustin is currently serving as the Director of Indian Affairs for the State of Utah and has been doing so since 02/2020. Since 2015, Dustin works as an Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies at Utah Valley University, where he also coordinates their American Indian Studies Minor. Dustin has worked as an Attorney/Judge in Indian law since 2006. Dustin received an Associate’s in science from Utah Valley University; his Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University; and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law. He and his wife Chauma Kee-Jansen just celebrated their 20th anniversary. Dustin and Chauma and their four children currently reside in Mapleton, Utah.

Scott Willie

Scott Willie, BA
MD-PhD Program Coordinator, MD-PhD Program
School of Medicine


Scott Willie, BA attended the University of New Mexico and moved to Salt Lake City, Utah to coordinate the Native American Summer Research Internship (NARI) in the Department of Pediatrics in 2016 . Scott brings his uniqueness and Diné heritage to the University of Utah to elevate indigenous representation within the Health Science campus. He is passionate about providing equitable opportunities for American Indian and Alaska Natives in the fields of Medicine and Science. Scott’s goal is to help any indigenous student interested in advancing their academic, professional career or network through opportunities and career channels. Scott received several university awards for his role working with AI/AN students and initiating successful programs that promote readiness for graduate/professional school. It is his goal to have more American Indians enrolled in the School of Medicine, various residency programs, PhD programs, faculty positions, etc. by creating indigenous environments for all.

Reframing the Conversation


Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion strives to contribute to an ecosystem of learning by hosting annual and monthly events aiming to educate all its participants on varying aspects of experience and identity. Reframing the Conversation brings together experts from across campus and the community to spark important conversations around racism, othering, and safety.

While continuing to identify and remove barriers and bias incidents targeting our campus community, persistent strides towards an institution where every member is given the opportunity to be educated on equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts will remain at the forefront of our work.

MEDiversity Week, Intersectionality in Health Education and Care

MEDiversity Week


This event is part of MEDiversity Week.

The mission of MEDiversity Week is to highlight the equity, diversity, and inclusion work within U Health; while addressing health care disparities and offering solutions for the training of our current and future providers. The week’s events will focus on intersectionality in health education and care and facilitate discussions on how to continually advocate for equity and inclusion in our daily personal and professional lives.

Hinckley Caucus Room (GC 2018)

260 Central Campus Drive, Room 2018
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
+ Google Map
801-581-8501
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Organizers & Partners

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

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Hinckley Institute of Politics

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American Indian Resource Center

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University of Utah Health Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion

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MEDiversity Week Committee

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