Expert Panel Explores Marshallese Health Nov. 13

By Spencer Watson

The Marshallese Health and Health Disparities Forum will be from 9 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. and is open to the public.

Featured speakers include Marshallese health experts Sheldon Riklon, M.D., Nia Aitaoto, Ph.D., and Gregory Maskarinec, Ph.D. UAMS Northwest Director of Research Pearl McElfish will facilitate the program.

The forum is part of UAMS Northwest’s community-based participatory research effort to address health disparities in northwest Arkansas.

“Locally, the Marshallese community identified diabetes as their primary health concern, and our interprofessional student screenings show that approximately 50 percent of the adult Marshallese population has diabetes,” said McElfish.“We are excited to partner with the Marshallese community and Drs. Riklon, Aitaoto, and Maskarinec to begin addressing these disparities.”

Northwest Arkansas is home to 8,000 to 12,000 Marshallese residents, the largest Marshallese population in the United States. UAMS Northwest is building a community-based research program to address health disparities, including high incidences of chronic disease in underserved populations like the Marshallese.

UAMS Northwest has received more than $5.1 million in federal funding to focus on improving diabetes self-management in the Marshallese community of northwest Arkansas and address health disparities in the Hispanic and Marshallese communities in Benton and Washington counties.

Sheldon Riklon, M.D., is a native Marshallese physician raised in the Marshall Islands. He is one of only two Marshallese in the world who has completed medical school and residency training at a U.S.-accredited program. He has served as a primary care physician at Majuro Hospital in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, chaired the national medical referral committee, chaired Majuro Hospital’s Pharmacy & Therapeutics Committee, was a member of the institutional review committee and directed the Special Medical Care Program that provided health care to the radiation affected population in the Marshall Islands.

Nia Aitaoto, Ph.D., M.P.H., is a community-based Marshallese researcher affiliated with the University of Hawaii and the University of Iowa College of Public Health. She has more than 15 years of experience in the health and education fields focusing on diabetes and cultural competency assessment and support to ministries of health and community groups in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Gregory Gabriel Maskarinec, Ph.D., has more than 25 years of experience working with diverse communities including different ethnicities in the Himalayas, South Asia, Hawaii, Polynesia, and Micronesia. He is the author of three books on traditional healing practices. He has conducted numerous community research and education projects in Micronesia and works with the Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence to advance cultural competency and social justice training for medical students and residents.

UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; hospital; northwest Arkansas regional campus; statewide network of regional centers; and six institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and Translational Research Institute. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 2,727 students, 822 medical residents and five dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses throughout the state, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on FacebookTwitterYouTube or Instagram.