Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
alert featured top story

Northern Arizona University professor joins National Academy of Medicine

  • 0
Elected to the National Academy of Medicine

Northern Arizona University professor Julie Baldwin has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine.

Northern Arizona University (NAU) regents' professor Julie Baldwin was recently elected to the U.S. National Academy of Medicine (NAM) for her work with community-based public health.

Baldwin, the founding director of NAU’s Center for Health Equity Research (CHER) and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is one of the first Native American woman scholars to serve with NAM as well as the first from NAU.

She has spent 32 years in health research, using community-based participation research (CBPR) to work with a variety of underserved populations on disease prevention and addressing health disparities. Her work as has included projects focused on HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, oral health and Alzheimer’s disease.

Baldwin first came to public health as an undergraduate at the University of Colorado, switching from her plan of medical school after volunteering at the campus health center. With the help of several “wonderful mentors,” she learned about CBPR and community needs research, and found a passion for working with the behavioral health disparities associated with substance abuse.

In part, she said, her focus was also inspired by watching her family members deal with substance-use disorders.

“It was heartbreaking not to be able to help my loved ones more, but I felt that ultimately I could have the most impact by developing community-based interventions that focused on the root causes of these health disparities," she said.

Baldwin added: "By focusing on these social determinants of health, such as access to medical and behavioral health care, quality education and well-paying jobs, reliable transportation and a clean, safe environment, and by respecting and embracing cultural beliefs regarding health and medicine, we can achieve lasting change by working across sectors and partnering closely with communities.”

Baldwin first worked at NAU from 1994 to 2004 before spending a decade at the University of South Florida’s college of public health. In 2015, she returned to NAU to help develop CHER, which works with communities to build the foundations for health and well-being.

She credited Bill Grabe, vice president of research, and Robert Trotter, associate vice president of research, with creating the center, which has since grown from a “small but mighty” team of five to more than 45.

Elected to the National Academy of Medicine

Northern Arizona University professor Julie Baldwin, left, has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine. Baldwin is sitting with staff of the Center for Health Equity Research.

“We try to really actively engage community members in their research projects and partnerships, because we believe that really helps empower people to take action and to build lasting change,” Baldwin said.

Current CHER projects Baldwin is involved in include the Culturally Centered Research Training Addictions Program (C-CART, which she co-directs with Ramona Mellott) and COVID-19 studies focusing on the mental well-being of Arizona Indigenous nations as well as vaccine uptake and oral health care for mothers and infants in tribal communities.

She is also the principal investigator for the center's Southwest Health Equity Research Collaborative (SHERC), which works to address health inequities across the Southwest -- with an emphasis on diverse populations.

In October, SHERC was renewed for another $21 million of funding over the next five years. Priorities for the funding include a new leadership development program and focus on translational research, team science and diversity. 

Baldwin was one of 100 new members NAM elected in its October meeting.

"This extraordinary class of new members is comprised over exceptional scholars and leaders who have been at the forefront of responding to serious public health challenges, combating social inequities and achieving innovative discoveries," NAM President Victor J. Dzau said in an announcement. "Their expertise will be vital to informing the future and medicine for the benefit of us all."

NAM is one of three national academies, collectively known as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Formerly known as the Institute of Medicine, NAM has worked to address health issues and policy across the U.S since 1970.

The guilt felt by Connor McDaniel's father, David, is overwhelming.  "He had more personality than a whole bunch of people put together. I miss him terribly. I miss him every day," David said. "I'm his father. I'm supposed to protect him, even from himself, and I failed. It's very, very hard to deal with."Last year, the 26-year-old veteran sent his last email to his loved ones. "He felt like his entire life would've been a series of bad experiences."His family tried to stop him. His father called law enforcement for help.  El Paso County sheriff's deputies found McDaniel first, where he provoked them to shoot and kill him. The district attorney's office ruled the shooting was justified.  David is now fulfilling a promise to his son that he would never be just another number."My son made it very clear in his note to us that he didn't want to be a gun violence statistic, a veteran suicide statistic," he said. David wants to ensure every veteran receives access to mental health care after they return home. And data shows the need is rising. SEE MORE: Suicide Rate Among Younger Veterans Has Increased, VA Data Shows The Department of Veterans Affairs projects a 32% spike in outpatient mental health care over the next 10 years. And one-third of veterans who received care from the VA were diagnosed with at least one mental health condition.But there are barriers to treatment. Stigma and shame are two of them, according to Bob McLaughlin with the Mount Carmel Veterans Service Center. "It's about resiliency, right, and when that breaks when people feel that they're weak that's against the culture," he said.In a 2018 study from the peer-reviewed BMC Health Service Journal, researchers found a majority of veterans were worried about what others would think if they sought treatment.  University of Memphis President Michael Rudd also says troops on active duty can face consequences for reaching out for help.  "Ultimately, the concern is about the impact on career progression, the impact on your deployability, the impact on all sorts of things in terms of advancement," he said. "That's how stigma is maintained."Some veterans told the BMC that fear lingers long into retirement. In an effort to erase stigma, the VA created a national campaign called "The Veterans Know," where former service members encourage each other to take charge of their mental health. "It really is quite empowering to hear veterans talk about their struggle, how they became aware of the struggle and then all the different kinds of ways that they got help," Department of Defense Mental Health National Director for VA Christopher Loftis said.Even when veterans look for treatment, the BMC study found that many had little confidence in the VA health care system. Veterans who were interviewed pointed to "appointment problems, staffing issues" and "limited follow-up" from providers and staff.  "It's just starting to build back up into another waitlist scandal," Concerned Veterans of America Coalitions Director Joshua Stanwitz said. Before the problem hits a crisis point, like the waitlist scandal in 2014, Navy veteran Paula Pedene accused VA officials in Phoenix of lying to the federal government about shorter appointment wait times.An audit from the VA Inspector General found systemic problems throughout the VA, discovering the average wait was really 115 days and at least 40 veterans died without the chance to see a doctor. "There was 111 VA facilities that were using the same methodology and manipulating the wait time data to make them look good," Pedene said.VA Secretary Eric Shinseki stepped down in the wake of the scandal and then-president Barack Obama signed 19 executive orders to improve VA hospitals.  On its website, the VA says it implemented new methods of calculating average wait times to be more accurate so patients can check how long it will take to see a provider. The wait times change daily, but when we last checked within 50 miles of Chicago, the wait was anywhere from 9 to 13 days. Under the VA Mission Act of 2018, which aims to provide broader access to health care, veterans should only wait a standard of 20 days after requesting a mental health appointment. Rural areas also face unique geographical hurdles, like in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.When we last checked, there is one treatment facility in the area with a 15-day wait.  The center with the second-earliest availability is 95 miles away. If veterans can't get the help they need, the VA Mission Act says the VA is supposed to pay other health care systems to take over, like community care.  But an investigation from USA Today last year found

Baldwin had worked with NAM before becoming a member, serving on the Board of Population Health and Public Health Practice and the Round Table for Health Equity. She later served on other panels and committees, conducting research and helping write two consensus reports (“Opportunities to Improve Opioid Use Disorder and Infectious Disease Services” and “Getting to Zero Alcohol Impaired Driving Fatalities”).

In 2019, CHER and NAM co-hosted a national meeting on the ways the juvenile justice system impacts public health for youth and families of color.

Hearing that she had been elected to join NAM was “incredibly exciting and a tremendous honor,” Baldwin said.

“It makes me feel incredibly appreciated being acknowledged for my work by my peers,” she said. “ ... I’m very grateful to my husband, children, mother, extended family members, friends, colleagues [and] mentors who have supported me so much during my career. It wouldn’t have been possible without them.”

As a member, she said, she's excited to continue serving on committees, creating reports, leading more local workshops and initiatives, and to work more on health policy initiatives. Recent health issues have given her firsthand experience with problems in the health care system, she said as an example.

“[I] discovered firsthand how fragmented our health system is,” she said of the experience. “The coordination of my care completely fell apart, and I was in a very vulnerable and life-threatening situation. I hope that as part of my role I can become more actively involved in serving on some committees that are addressing health care reform in this country, because it’s sorely needed, especially in rural and underserved areas of the United States.”

At NAU, she hopes to continue mentoring “the next generation of health equity researchers.”

“I am a strong advocate that one of the best ways to arm, so to speak, communities, and to address public health issues is that you have to build a cadre of scholars and practitioners with the knowledge, skills and confidence to address those issues in their communities,” she said. “I hope I can continue to play a major role in mentoring here at NAU and open up doors for more women and people of color to enter the fields of population health research and public health practice to serve as leaders in their communities and on a national level.”

More about NAU’s Center for Health Equity Research can be found at


* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News

Breaking News (FlagLive!)