Engaging Native American Populations

The Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research is developing engagement strategies specifically focused on Native American populations. These strategies include community-engaged education on cancer, diabetes, health and wellness; research and education outreach addressing communities' health priorities; and a partnership providing cancer care within communities.

American Indian/Alaska Native Cancer Information Resource Center and Learning Exchange (Native C.I.R.C.L.E.)

Culturally appropriate educational materials are essential tools for community outreach. Native C.I.R.C.L.E. provides materials about cancer and other health concerns to health care professionals and lay people involved in the education, care and treatment of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Native C.I.R.C.L.E. was established in 2000 within Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. It provides, develops, maintains and disseminates culturally appropriate cancer, diabetes, and health and wellness materials for American Indian and Alaska Native educators, health care providers and students.

The program's medical directors, Jonathan E. Baines, M.D., Ph.D., and Judith S. Kaur, M.D., review movies and print materials sent to Native C.I.R.C.L.E. from around the country. They check for medical accuracy, make modifications if necessary, and then distribute the to health care and community settings.


Access to current, regionally specific data has historically been a major challenge in American Indian and Alaska Native health research. Native C.I.R.C.L.E. collaborates with the University of New Mexico to provide up-to-date information for the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program. The collaboration gathers and disseminates data on the occurrence of common cancers in American Indian and Alaska Native populations in the following geographical regions:

  • Alaska
  • Eastern United States
  • Northern Plains
  • Pacific Coast
  • Southern Plains
  • Southwest

Find American Indian and Alaska Native SEER data on the University of New Mexico's website.

In 2017, Native C.I.R.C.L.E. began collaborating with the Center for Indigenous Cancer Research, part of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, to advance community outreach, mentor students and contribute to the science of cancer health disparities. The goals of this collaboration include:

  • Co-branding and distributing Native C.I.R.C.L.E. educational materials
  • Enhancing outreach on a local, national and global scale
  • Extending data sources — such as SEER data updates — in real time for different cancer types to allow researchers to use regional data and seminal background articles to support grant submissions
  • Mentoring the next generation of American Indian and Alaska Native health care leaders

Read more about the Center for Indigenous Cancer Research on Roswell Park's website.

Native American Research Outreach (NARO) program

Within the Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research, NARO brings Mayo Clinic health care providers, educators and researchers together with tribal and urban Native American populations in the upper Midwest. NARO's goal is to address Native American communities' priority health concerns while advancing science, cultural knowledge and understanding of the health disparities experienced in these communities.

NARO reaches out to and works with community stakeholders including:

  • Tribal health leaders
  • Intertribal organizations
  • Native-led health advocacy agencies
  • Native-led health research organizations
  • The Indian Health Service (IHS)
  • Academic institutions that share a commitment to addressing communities' priority health concerns

To achieve enduring, productive relationships, NARO is an active collaborator in outreach endeavors such as:

  • Formalized partnerships. NARO negotiates official working relationships with tribal and urban Native American health programs.
  • A tribal advisory board. NARO chairs the Healthy Nations Advisory Board, which provides quarterly opportunities for tribal health directors to engage with Mayo Clinic investigators, educators and health care providers. The board develops projects aligned with tribal and urban Native American communities' priority health concerns.
  • Sharing knowledge. NARO hosts the Native American Interest Group, which offers monthly presentations that are open to anyone who is interested in learning about the health and well-being of Native American communities. Topics include:

    • Research in and with Native American communities
    • Health disparities
    • The interplay between culture, history and health
  • Conferences, symposia and workshops. NARO organizes meetings to bring tribal leaders and groups, the IHS, Mayo Clinic, and regional academic institutions together to learn from each other.

NARO is oriented by three values, which are consistent with Mayo Clinic's core values:

  • Respect. A lack of respect jeopardizes the possibility of listening, understanding and acting in ways that lead to enduring and trusting relationships.
  • Integrity. Without integrity, people and communities cannot build trusting relationships nor ensure honest communication.
  • Persistence and constancy. Without persistence and constancy, no meaningful positive change can be enacted.

For more information, please contact Guthrie W. Capossela at capossela.guthrie@mayo.edu.

Phoenix Indian Medical Center (PIMC) partnership

Mayo Clinic has developed a partnership with the Phoenix Indian Medical Center (PIMC) in Arizona. A team of Mayo Clinic oncologists serve as staff physicians in the oncology Center of Excellence at PIMC. Every year, they see 100 to 200 tribal members with new diagnoses of cancer or blood disorders. As embedded cancer care providers, Mayo Clinic physicians are able to build trust with an underserved community and create pathways to quality care and clinical research.