Thursday, May 28, 2009

Our forgotten minority

I got a chance to review the demographic profile of Native Americans today and I felt nearly ashamed of how easily we ignore their problems. I won't offer too much reflection today; instead, I'll just share the statistics comparing them to the rest of our population. Much of this data is a result of termination and assimilation policies forced through treaties.
  • 600% higher rate of dying from tuberculosis
  • 510% higher occurrence of alcoholism
  • 229% more vehicle crashes
  • 189% higher rate of diabetes
  • 1 in 3 Native American women have been or will be raped
  • 62% more suicides
  • Native American youth have the highest rate of suicide in the world
I think the saddest statistic from the bunch is the suicide rate. But think about it: what would you do if your tiny, impoverished community was in the middle of nowhere, where the nearest airport is only accessible after driving six hours on a dirt road in a crappy gas guzzling car, where the nearest court to incarcerate criminals is a day away, where your friends and family frequently suffer from all forms of abuse, and racism toward you and your people is prevalent and the norm. I don't know about you, but drinking myself to death might sound more enticing than waking up to another day like that.

Unfortunately, when their representatives go to Congress to lobby for inclusion in policy decisions that affect them, their concerns are ignored and rarely solicited. It occurred to me today that when we think about closing the disparities in health, education and socio-economic status for minorities, we often disregard the needs of our native population. This needs to change immediately- it's our ethical responsibility to be a guardian to these people and protect their rights. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

To be a rich grad student...

So there are zillions of divisions under the Department of Health and Human Services and all of these divisions work to make sure your tax dollars go to something useful. My program looks more specifically at divisions addressing minority disparities in education and health, which are staggering. But on a positive note, if you're interested in going to graduate school in science or math, there is a ton of money out there that can pay your way. The catch is finding out which divisions can give you money. So all you science and math grad students out there slaving away grading lab reports or working a second job, contact me and I'll see if I can direct you to a pertinent division with money!

Here's the main point: policy makers realize that America is slipping far behind in science and math, so they've allocated lots of money to address it, especially in education. Yet as a minority female aspiring scientists, a prime candidate for some of these federal funds, I had no idea these opportunities existed. I wonder what would happen if more people knew about the availability of all this money...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A foot in the door!

Hi! I'm fired up about sharing my thoughts and experiences during my internship at the National Science Foundation with you! Just for some background, I'm a grad student in Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado and I'm pursuing a grad certificate in science policy. I'm here in DC to learn about policies intended to improve science education, but I also want to move outside of my comfortable academic writing style and learn to share scientific information to the public; hence, my blog! I believe scientists should try to be more proactive in getting the public excited about science and technology, and that doesn't happen by plopping your publications in front of them. Maybe scientists should spend a little time writing for mainstream media, or educating school teachers, or developing nutty, scientifically-themed video games. I'll let you know if the NSF has some better ideas.

Share your thoughts, ask me questions, and give me lots of critiques, especially on my attempts to casually write about science. I'm excited to hear from you!