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 Hawaii at Manoa’s Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing and is now the first Native Hawaiian Nurse Scientist to be awarded the UC Davis Betty Irene Moore Fellowship for Nurse Leaders and Innovators and is part of the 2023 LEADS Fellows Program at the University of Pittsburgh. The assistant professor of nursing recently completed a Postdoctoral Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Newcastle with the Centre of Research Excellence in Treatable Traits and her grant with the Hawaii Community Foundation. Both research projects focused on understanding asthma management and care among indigenous communities in Hawaii and Australia.
Palakiko’s current research builds on her passion to address asthma inequities among indigenous communities. Palakiko will receive $450,000 over three years from her UC Davis Fellowship to develop and test an existing evidence-based culturally tailored asthma mHealth tool among Native Hawaiian caregivers who have children with asthma.
The LEADS (Leading Emerging and Diverse Scientists to Success) Fellowship is a two-year program offered through the University of Pittsburgh in partnership with Minority Serving Institutions. As a Fellow, Palakiko will engage with other Fellows in on-line learning in year 1 and then focus on furthering her research and scholarship in year 2.
As part of her Fulbright, Palakiko presented on her research approach at numerous research symposiums in Australia and in the United States. She was invited to chair two research sessions and present preliminary findings of her Hawai‘i-based asthma study at the Annual Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand Conference held in Christchurch Aotearoa/New Zealand (March 2023). She also received an INNOVATE Award from the Centre of Research Excellence for Treatable Traits to learn big data analysis using the 45 & Up Study data from New South Wales, Australia, and a travel grant from Hunter Medical Research Institute’s Asthma and Breathing.
“During my time overseas, I had the opportunity to be mentored and learn from both indigenous and non-indigenous nurse scientists. Their mentorship has nurtured my passion to look for innovative solutions to address asthma care.”
Palakiko has more than 20 years of experience as a community health nurse, health strategist, healthcare administrator and nurse researcher. Prior to joining NAWSON 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 ‘Ohana Partnership, a community-based participatory research program which developed a lifestyle intervention for Hawaiian and Pacific Island people in Hawaiʻi.
Palakiko’s work is an example of UH Mānoa’s goals of Becoming a Native Hawaiian Place of Learning, as exemplified by the ‘Ike Ao Pono program, directed by Nalani Minton at NAWSON, which has supported the graduation of over 500 native nurses. Through this program, 32 doctorally prepared leaders from the Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and Native American communities have graduated, among them, Palakiko. And Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise, two of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan, updated in December 2020.