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Working to Bridge the Gaps Between Native American and Western Medical Approaches

It's easy to see why School of Nursing Dean Nancy Woods describes Selina Mohammed as a "shining illustration of a true scholar-citizen." Since 1994, the 35-year-old Ph.D. student has traveled off and on to Chinle, Ariz., to volunteer as a nurse at a hospital on the Navajo reservation. In the Seattle area, she developed and implemented a School of Nursing program to interest and mentor teenagers of color or disadvantaged backgrounds in the health sciences. "Diversity in nursing is a must, and there are a lot of young people who don't understand all the possibilities," Mohammed says.

Mohammed's family is steeped in the health sciences. Her father, from Pakistan, is a psychiatrist, and her mother, from Japan, has a Ph.D. in physiology. After getting a bachelor's degree in economics, Mohammed turned to nursing. "It really sang to me," she says, because of its holistic approach. She received a master's degree as a family nurse practitioner at the University of Michigan, and began Ph.D. studies at the University of Washington in 1998.

With the support of a National Institute for Nursing Research award, Mohammed works to better understand American Indians' cultural perceptions of diabetes. "I'm interested in examining how their traditions affect the way they interpret the illness," she says. She hopes to find ways to bridge the gaps between tribal and Western medical approaches.

This year she also received the Graduate School Medalist Award for outstanding commitment to the UW and its larger community.