Teresa Brockie, the first Native American instructor to be on the faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, was inducted this month as a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing. It’s an acknowledgment of the White Clay tribal member's contribution to public health research.
Originally from Hays, on the Fort Belknap Reservation, Teresa Brockie is best known for drawing connections between historical trauma in Native American communities and adverse health effects later in life, like suicide risk and drug use.
She says that the biggest mistake most researchers make when it comes to Native American health is grouping communities from different places and with different health concerns under one umbrella and ignoring those differences.
"Then when you make that assumption, it's a racial risk, right? If you're Native, you're at a higher risk for suicide. But that's not necessarily true. Place has more of an influence than race."
Brockie got into the field because there simply wasn’t much data available. And as she pursued advanced degrees in order to improve health in various Native American communities, she noticed another issue.
"When I was here, I realized that there was not that many Native Americans who even had a master’s degree. I realized that if I wanted to do the work that I wanted to do — and that for me was to positively impact the health and healthcare of Native people — the best way to do that is with a PhD."
Brockie says that working with people inside one’s own community is a powerful reward. And she wants more ambitious young people to pursue that goal. Her advice to young Native American scholars?
"They need to remain committed and focused on higher-education, and the community to give back to your community. No matter where you come from and no matter what your past looks like, have that vision for yourself. I think that together we can improve health outcomes for Native people."
Brockie's next study begins November 1 on the Fort Peck reservation, where she’ll be working with parent-child pairs in the Head Start program.