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Masie Cully’s passion for her heritage and a potential environmental health science career came full circle in the Pacific Northwest this past summer.

Cully, an East Central University senior from Norman and a Moore High School graduate, served an environmental health science internship in the Portland area, under Commander Celeste Davis, widely known as a strong leader in environmental health within Indian Health Service and the United States Public Health Service (USPHS). Davis is a graduate of the Environmental Health Science program at ECU.

Of Seminole and Creek heritage, Cully’s desire was to experience how Indian Health Service (IHS) worked in a different part of the country.

By the encouragement of Dr. Patrick Bohan, a former USPHS captain and current professor in ECU’s Environmental Health Science Department, Cully applied for the IHS externship in which she selected Portland, Oregon as her first preference. It was soon after in which she learned she would spend the summer there.

“As soon as I arrived in Portland, I was greeted with open arms and eager hearts,” said Cully. “It was then I sat down with Davis and quickly learned that she wanted me to experience as much versatility within environmental health as possible while I was in the Pacific Northwest.”

Cully spent the beginning of the summer learning about the inner workings of an area office of Indian Health Service, but during that time Davis was deployed after Cully arrived.

“During the time I spent with her, I was able to listen in on her day-to-day tasks of being director of the Division of Environmental Health and an emergency management coordinator,” Cully said. “After her departure, LCDR Matthew Ellis was quick to step in and help guide me around the Portland area for the rest of the summer.”

One of her initial projects she assisted with in Portland was composing environmental health assessments for Shoshone-Bannock and Nez Perce Tribes. Led by Environmental Health Scientist Jacob Phipps, these assessments would eventually go back to the tribes to help them prioritize health disparities within their communities, according to Cully.

“I helped condense and summarize asthma and vector-borne disease data obtained from the IHS Notifiable Disease and External Cause of Injury Reporting System (NDECI), as well as data obtained from the tribe’s data analysists at the clinics,” said Cully.

While spending time in Portland she was able to participate in the Native American Research Center for Health (NARCH) Summer Institute, hosted by the Northwest Portland Area Health Board.

“I was able to take three week-long courses including indigenous research methods, biostatistics and cancer prevention and control with other professionals working in diverse areas of American Indian/Alaska Native health from across America,” Cully said.

The second half of her summer was spent exploring the field offices overseen by the Portland area offices and addressing public health concerns in food safety, water quality, injury prevention, disease prevention and healthy housing, according to Cully. Through her trips she was able to experience different native cultures across Oregon and Washington, including Lummi, Swinomish, Samish, Yakama, Chehalis and Nooksack Nations.

“My duties in those communities ranged from conducting facility/housing surveys with LCDR Shawn Blackshear and legionella/sepsis outbreak investigations with Lt. William Burrows to working with tribal members one-on-one, doing health promotion with Lt. Cmdr. Stephanie Coffey for the health boards and IHS,” said Cully.

Cully believes the summer experience went way beyond her expectations, considering she not only got a taste of an enchanting area of the country, but was able to see her cultural experience fulfilled, something she requested at the beginning of the summer.

“Thanks to the EHS team in the Portland area office. Learning from passionate leaders across the Pacific Northwest and seeing a rainbow of techniques being implemented to raise the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health in Native American and Alaskan natives was a passionate thing,” Cully said. “I’m so excited to take all of the wisdom I gathered this summer and bring it home to share with my own communities in Oklahoma.”


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