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As the midway point was reached of a four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council was updated on the progress and success of its collaboration with the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and its Center for Indigenous Cancer Research (CICR).

The collaborative partnership provides pathways for Akwesasne youth into the field of cancer research and community health.

“This continues to be a great partnership and an amazing opportunity for our youth to explore and pursue their interests in health. To see many of our students put their hearts into their work with Roswell is very encouraging for our community’s future,” Michael Cook, the tribe’s health services director, told the tribal council.

With the support of the NIH grant, the partnership established the Akwesasne Research Centers for Health (ARCH) in 2021, emphasizing the significance of Indigenous wisdom in addressing healthcare challenges. ARCH has enabled high school and college students from Akwesasne to engage in medical research endeavors aimed at mitigating the impact of cancer on Indigenous communities, including Akwesasne. Their research is conducted in close collaboration with CICR's esteemed team of research scientists.

The Akwesasne Research Centers for Health offers three distinct components in coordination with the Tribe's Health Services and Education Division:

  • Mohawk Youth Health Ambassador Afterschool Program: A twenty-week program available at the Ronthahiiohsthà:ke Clubhouse for high school juniors attending Salmon River or Massena Central Schools.
  • ARCH High School Summer Research Internship: A three-week program hosted at Roswell Park for high school juniors, providing them with a hands-on experience in the field of medical research.
  • ARCH College Summer Research Internship: A ten-week program catering to college students, allowing them to delve into specialized areas of cancer research.

Since 2021, the Afterschool Program has engaged 31 high school juniors aspiring to pursue careers in medicine, with 25 students continuing their journey through the summer internships. Additionally, four post-secondary students participated in the College Summer Research Internship. All participants in the summer programs received stipends and accommodations at Canisius College dormitories in downtown Buffalo, New York.

Participation in ARCH is helping to solidify a student’s desire to keep studying medicine, with nearly 36% identifying as a “scientist” by the conclusion of the summer internship. It helped validate the decision of St. Joseph’s University graduate Jake Maresca (’23) to become a nurse, stating “I’m going to apply for the nursing PhD program. I’m hoping to get a job at Roswell Park as a nurse and I’ll be able to continue my research I’ve been working on this summer. When all these opportunities kind of lay right in front of you, I think it’s a good idea to take them.”

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