Promoting integrity and excellence in research in an environment

that is collaborative, supportive, and builds capacity.


Who We Are

Established in 1997, The Native Research Network, Inc. (NRN) is a leadership community of American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and Canadian First Nations promoting integrity and excellence in research.

NRN advocates for high quality research that is collaborative, supportive, and builds capacity. NRN promotes an environment for research that operates on the principles of integrity, respect, trust, ethics, cooperation, and open communication in multi-disciplinary fields.


NRN is a 501(c)3 non-profit professional organization.


       Download Our Official Brochure

Sample Activities

  • Planned/Coordinated the annual Native Research Conference since 2005 with the Indian Health Service.


  • Presented a Continuing Education Institute, "Conducting Research in Native Communities" at the APHA Annual Meeting.


  • Authored and edited a book on "Conducting Research in Native Communities" (edited by T. Solomon & L. Randall) published by the American Journal of Public Health books division.


  • Conducted a literature review and submitted a report to the Indian Health Service on research on Traditional Indian Medicine.


NRN operates on funds through multiple sources including grants from the Department of Health and Human Services, foundations, through funds received from services provided, through membership dues, and from public donations.

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors meet on a monthly basis, Membership meetings are held at least once a year during the annual Native Research Conference.


Board Member Categories

Co-Chair Elect (2) 1-yr. internship 

Co-Chair (2) 1-yr. term 

Past Co-Chair (2) 1-yr. term 

Treasurer (1) 2-yr. term 

Secretary (1) 2-yr. term 

Member-at-Large (3) 2-yr. term (1 student)

Current Board of Directors

Lillian Tom-Orme, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN (Diné)



Dr. Lillian Tom-Orme is a member of the Navajo Nation and speaks Diné fluently. She is currently Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Epidemiology at the University of Utah School of Medicine. She holds graduate degrees in transcultural nursing and public health from the University of Utah.


Lillian is a co-Founder of the NRN and serves as member of the numerous committees and organizations including Network of Cancer Researchers among American Indian and Alaska Native populations, the National Alaska Native and American Indian Nurses Association and the American Public Health Association’s American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Caucus.

Her research includes issues of public health and health disparity in American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) populations. She has mentored many AIAN students from different parts of the country through the University of Utah’s Native American Research Internship and in her involvement in national programs.


Naomi Lee (Seneca) 



Dr. Naomi Lee is a biomedical researcher that focuses on designing new vaccines. She also applies her expertise in chemistry and biology to improve the healthcare of the Native American community through community-based participatory research and STEM education. Finally, she is also a Captain in the Army National Guard.


Our Logo

The NRN logo is a stylized drawing of the hawk.  The hawk circles its environment, continuously studying and observing.  Like  the hawk, NRN is a vehicle for studying the research environment.  The circular pattern of the wings symbolizes the guidance, mentorship and nurturing the network offers its members and constituents.

Vanessa Simonds (Crow/Blackfeet) 

Co-Chair Elect

Dr. Vanessa Simonds, enrolled member of the Crow Tribe and descendant of the Blackfeet Nation, is an associate professor in Community Health at Montana State University. She earned her graduate degrees from the T.H. Chan Harvard School of Public Health with a Master of Science from the Department of Epidemiology, and a Doctor of Science from the Department of Society, Human Development & Health. Dr. Simonds uses community-based participatory research approaches to address health literacy issues ranging from chronic disease to environmental health among Native Americans. She is committed to strength-based, community-centered outreach strategies designed in partnership with Native American communities. 


Co-Chair Elect

Sharon Austin, PhD, MPH, MA (Diné)


Sharon’s work focuses on health equity research and community engagement with American Indian Nations/Tribes. She has a PhD and MPH in Public Health from the University of Utah and a Master's degree in Medical Anthropology from Stanford University. She is Diné and her formative years were spent on the Navajo Nation.

Her current position involves multi-faceted work: giving input towards community engagement studies, obtaining research permissions while having protections in place for Nations/Tribes, implementing procedures to create partnerships, and acting as a liaison and advocate for Tribes/Nations. She is also a board member for the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake.



Marla Pardilla, MPH, MSW (Diné)



Marla Pardilla is currently senior scientist with the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her research is focused on children and obesity with environmental approaches to prevention and working with tribal communities.  She is a co-Founder and past Co-chair of the NRN, 1997-2003.  She is also a long standing member of the North American Indian Women’s Association in cultural preservation activities.  She resides with her family in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.



Delight Satter, MPH (Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde) 


Senior Health Scientist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office for Tribal Affairs and Strategic Alliances, Center for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support. Former Director, AIAN Program, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. 


Delight E. Satter is a senior health scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office for Tribal Affairs and Strategic Alliances, Center for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support. Her primary job functions include coordinating CDC programs and policies that benefit or affect American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) populations, serving as the principal advisor and main liaison with policy-level officials, and acting as CDC's principal contact for all AIAN public health activities. Prior to joining the CDC, Satter directed the American Indian Research Program, which she founded at the Center, from 1998 to 2011. She has over 25 years in public health research, policy and public service and 15 years in for-profit environments.


Satter's public service activities include serving as a member of the board for the California Pan Ethnic Health Network and Native American Cancer Research, Inc. She served on the inaugural U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Minority Health; was a founding member of the Board of Directors for the Native Research Network, Inc.; was a founding member of the CDC American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Coalition; and was Past-President of the American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Caucus of the American Public Health Association.


Marc Emerson (Jemez/Diné) 


Marc Emerson is a postdoc researcher at the Lineberger Cancer Center at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is committed to meaningful research efforts focused on sustainable health equity that incorporates the history and context of subpopulations to address the unique challenges that lead to health disparities.


Priscilla Sanderson,  PhD, MS, CRC (Diné) 


Dr. Priscilla R. Sanderson is a member of the Navajo Nation. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Sciences, College of Health and Human Services, Northern Arizona University. She teaches undergraduate and graduate public health classes. She is a mentor to undergraduate and graduate students and junior faculty. Her research interests include cancer control and prevention, resilience, public health, vocational rehabilitation, disability rehabilitation, and evaluation. She is a Co-Founder of the Consortia of Administrators for Native American Rehabilitation. She served as a Co-Chair for Native Research Network with Dr. Janelle Palacios, 2012-2015.


Meetings & Conferences

The Board of Directors hold monthly business conference calls.  Membership meetings are held at least once a year.


Regular conferences and mentoring workshops bring the membership together with news of recent projects and events.

NRN Accomplishments

Since 2005, the Native Health Conference has been held annually, with upwards of 300 attendees. In 2015, the NRN will begin hosting a training summit bi-annually, in rotation with the conference. Over 200 Native students have been sponsored to attend the annual conference and other training opportunities (e.g., the Conducting Research in Native American Communities Continuing Education Institute). The NRN successfully partnered with the IHS to provide IRB training for research within Indigenous communities. A literature review conducted by NRN contributed to a report to IHS on Traditional Indian Medicine. Most excitingly, an NRN Founding Member became the first woman to Direct the Indian Health Service. 


During each conference, the NRN solicits funds to support student travel so they could become better engaged with Native researchers and prospective mentors, network with other students and community members, and to become familiar with health-related issues. NRN has supported about 30 students during each of the past conferences.

Our History

The NRN was formed in 1997 by Native researchers at an Indian Health Service (IHS) meeting, to address health and research issues affecting Native communities.


The bylaws were established to create NRN as an IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit. Initially, the NRN functioned under the auspices of the Association of American Indian Physicians, Inc. with fiscal support from the Office of Minority Health for development. 

How Can I Get Involved?

There are several ways you can get involved with NRN, including becoming a member, donating, and volunteering on a standing committee.



Standing committees help the Board of Directors accomplish the goals and objectives of NRN’s Strategic Plan. Each Board Member co-directs one or two committees. The Board encourages volunteers to serve—get involved, join a committee! Contact NRN Coordinator at for more information about volunteering for one of our standing committees.


  • Guide membership application processing, concerning eligibility and qualifications and shall recommend approval or denial of all applicants as voting or non-voting members. Membership Representatives will serve on the subcommittee.


  • Oversee all governance, planning, policy issues and evaluation in accordance with the By-Laws and corporate affairs and review the By-Laws and recommend amendments as necessary.


  • Oversee all communications, including audio or video, press releases, informational brochures, and all public relations issues to maintain the professional image and public relations of the corporation.

Budget & Finance 

  • Oversee all of the finances, audits, fund raising and financial operations of the corporation and maintenance of the records of the corporation.

Collaboration, Advocacy, & Legislation 

  • Oversee all collaborations, advocacy and legislation affecting or impacting the corporation.


  • Oversee all matters relating to ethics, compliance and standards applicable to research.


  • Oversee all matters relating to the election of officers.

Service to NIH

  • Current member may participate as a grant reviewer and/or consultant to NIH, on NRN-identified priorities.

Speakers Bureau

  • Current member may include name and professional expertise on the NRN Speakers Bureau list.

Service as Mentor

  • Current member serve as research mentor to American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian/ First Nations.


Ad Hoc Committees

  • Student Development Committee

  • Conference Planning 

  • Abstract Review 

  • Awards 

  • Leadership Transition 

  • Fundraising & Development 

  • Mentoring Workshops