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Donna-Marie Palakiko
Donna-Marie Palakiko

Donna-Marie Palakiko has been making a mark for herself as the first Native Hawaiian nurse to be hired into a tenure track position at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene (SONDH). In the last year, the assistant professor of nursing and UH Mānoa alumna was selected as a Fulbright scholar and received a Hawaiʻi Community Foundation grant. With a particular interest in Native Hawaiian and other Indigenous communities, her public impact research for both projects will focus on asthma management, as someone who was diagnosed with adult-onset asthma.

“To be the first Native Hawaiian nurse hired in a tenure track position at the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene comes with kuleana (responsibility) and opportunities. The position itself is an honor and privilege. I am reminded from other mana wāhine (powerful women) to move through this with humility, grace and compassion; that as isolating this experience may feel, my kupuna are always with me; and that as the first there is still a lot to learn and more importantly do,” said Palakiko.

Palakiko received the 2022 Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholarship from the Australian-American Fulbright Commission, which is funded by the University of Newcastle. As a Fulbright Postdoctoral scholar at University of Newcastle, she will explore the role and influence cultural beliefs, values, practices and physical environment have on asthma and asthma management among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people in New South Wales. Her findings will inform the cultural tailoring of existing Australian asthma education materials.

Palakiko also received a $60,000 grant from the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation’s Robert C. Perry Fund. Her intent is to understand how COVID-19 impacted asthma management among Native Hawaiian adults residing in the State of Hawaiʻi.

“With both the fellowship and grant, I hope to understand the role and influence cultural beliefs, values, practices and the environment have on asthma management among Indigenous peoples in a world view context,” said Palakiko. “Understanding this will guide future research on how to provide health messaging within the context of culture as well as how to approach issues such as response to emerging health issues and vaccinations.”

She recently published an article “Understanding Native Hawaiian Caregivers’ Believes about Pediatric Asthma Management” in the Hawaiʻi Journal of Health & Social Welfare.

More on Palakiko

Palakiko has more than 20 years of experience as a community health nurse, health strategist, healthcare administrator and nurse researcher. She earned her PhD in nursing from UH Mānoa and was part of SONDH’s ʻIKE AO PONO program, which has supported the graduation of nearly 500 Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and Native American nurses.

Prior to joining the SONDH faculty in 2019, Palakiko worked in partnership with Native Hawaiian communities to address concerns around access to health care through developing programs, services and increasing the number of Native Hawaiian health professionals in the workforce. As a researcher, she was a founding partner for the PILI ʻOhana Partnership, a community-based participatory research program which developed a lifestyle intervention for Hawaiian and Pacific Island people in Hawaiʻi.

—by Arlene Abiang

Palakiko’s work is an example of UH Mānoa’s goals of Becoming a Native Hawaiian Place of Learning (PDF), as well as Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise, two of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

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