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The Center for Indigenous Health held a graduation ceremony for seven Indigenous scholars receiving advanced degrees from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health last month on May 27. 

The 2023 graduates include:

  • Jared Ellsworth, MPH (Navajo)
  • Breanna De Leon, ScM (Apache)
  • Sara Lucero, MPH (Navajo)
  • Tyrone Peterson, MPH (Navajo and Pascue Yaqui)
  • Natalie Joe, PhD, MPH (Navajo)
  • Rene Begay, MPH (Navajo)
  • Olivia Trujillo, MPH (Navajo)

Each recipient was given a handmade blanket from Snoqualmie Tribe-owned brand Eighth Generation and a Johns Hopkins frame to encase their new diploma. Family and friends of students were in attendance to celebrate the occasion and many shared stories about each of the students. 

Graduate Natalie Joe is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and has received a Bachelor of Science in Cellular & Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from Fort Lewis College, a Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Medicine and a Master of Public Health from John Hopkins. Joe spoke with Native News Online about her achievement. 

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“I felt incredible relief, excitement, immense joy, and pride for reaching this accomplishment,” Joe said. “I did not expect that I would have two graduate degrees at this stage in my scientific career.

As an Indigenous woman that holds a higher education degree, I truly hope that my path has solidified and created more pathways for other students that come after me because I am only where I am in part due to the brilliant individuals from historically marginalized communities that created this path for me and the allies that created space within graduate education.”

Throughout Joe’s academic journey, she has been driven to study cancer research by how the disease has affected her family and community. She is now working on-site at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., to continue her post-doctoral fellowship and continue training as a researcher. She is a first-generation college graduate and the first person in her family to get a Ph.D. 

“My family has shown immense support and expressed their pride for my accomplishments,” Joe said. “I could not have done each step along my career without their support, guidance, investment, cheering, and time.” 

“I am forever grateful to them … I am also proud to say that I am no longer the only PhD in my family and other family members have received their MPHs. I believe that my journey is a way to show my family members and community that this is a possible pathway if they are interested in STEM, and that anyone can take similar steps to achieve this.” 

The Center for Indigenous Health supports current and future Indigenous health professionals in their educational and professional development. The center is based at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and has awarded more than 2,000 scholarships to Indigenous students across various programs.

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About The Author
Kaili Berg
Author: Kaili BergEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.