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Wyatt Pickner Awarded Māhina International Indigenous Health Traineeship

Wyatt Pickner Awarded Māhina International Indigenous Health Traineeship

Wyatt Pickner is Hunkpati Dakota, and has dedicated his academic career to improving the health of Indigenous populations.

Prior to enrolling in the Master of Public Health (MPH) in Community-Oriented Public Health Practice (COPHP) program, Wyatt earned his BA in Native Studies and his BS in Health Sciences from The University of South Dakota. Through two internships, the Sanford Summer Undergraduate Research Experience and Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Research Initiative for Student Enhancement Undergraduate Program (RISE-UP), Wyatt discovered his interests in research and public health.

Says Wyatt, “These internships exposed me to the practice of improving the health of communities through health promotion and disease prevention. From these experiences, I realized that many of the traditional Dakota values I have grown up with are in line with the foundation of public health. For example, the life we live is not just about taking care of our physical aspects, but it is also about how we think and interact with everything around us. Physical health plays a significant role in our health outcomes but is largely impacted by our emotional and spiritual health, which should be considered when trying to achieve a higher quality of life. I believe we need to address the fundamental issues related to social determinants health to make sustainable improvements to the health of communities. Therefore, I returned to school for my MPH degree and am enthusiastic about expanding my knowledge so that I can help all that I can.”

For his COPHP master’s capstone project, Wyatt worked with Gita Krishnaswamy (faculty advisor) and Abigail Echo-Hawk (site supervisor and community partner) from the Urban Indian Health Institute to complete a PhotoVoice project. The project aims to lift the voices of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) men and their experiences of police interaction in Seattle through representative photographs and storytelling.

Wyatt explains, "Police violence is an issue for many racial and ethnic populations through deaths, injury, trauma, and stress. Even though law enforcement is more likely to kill Native populations than any other racial or ethnic group, researchers have failed to produce information and mainstream media have largely ignored this topic within this population. Since little information is available, efforts to address the problem of police violence against AI/AN populations at any level (individual, community, state, federal) are insufficient. By providing first-hand stories of law enforcement interaction and associated perceptions within this population, this project aims to engage with the community in conversations on this topic to inform and influence local policing policy and practice."

Now in his second year of the COPHP program, Wyatt has been awarded a 10-week traineeship with the Māhina International Indigenous Health Research Program, sponsored by the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute at the University of Washington. As a trainee this summer, Wyatt will receive mentorship and research development skills from Indigenous faculty in New Zealand.

Wyatt reflects, “Over the last two years in COPHP, I have learned so much about public health and research. I made some amazing friends and gained a few incredible mentors/role models. As graduation draws near, I have been trying to figure out what’s next. While I’ve gained knowledge and experience, I still have so much more to learn and grow, especially, in working with Indigenous communities/populations to improve health through wellness. Therefore, I’m incredibly honored and excited to have been chosen for this traineeship. I am so grateful for the guidance and support that I have received, and I look forward to this new adventure. Pidamaya do (Thank you)!”

To learn more about Wyatt’s traineeship, visit: https://iwri.org/research/mahina/

Congratulations, Wyatt!!