At nearly 16.1 percent, American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest age-adjusted prevalence of diabetes among all U.S. racial and ethnic groups, according to the American Diabetes Association.
As a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians who grew up on the Allegany Indian Reservation in Salamanca, NY, Andrea John witnessed the devastating effects of the disease within her own family.
“When I learned that diabetes did not have to be my fate, I wanted to teach others,” she said. While she had been in the workforce for a number of years, she decided to return to school to set a new career in motion.
“I wanted to further my education in a career that I was passionate about and that made a difference to people,” she said. “As I used these values to guide my direction, I came across the exercise and nutrition science program at UB.”
“What really captured my interest was the strong clinical component to the program and the emphasis on special populations,” said John. “I knew that the population I wanted to work with was most likely going to suffer from some chronic condition. I wanted to be able to work closely in a patient care setting and use exercise as a modality for those chronic conditions, mainly diabetes and obesity.”
John completed the degree program’s 12-week internship requirement at the Seneca Nation of Indians Health System. After graduation, she was hired there on a permanent basis as an exercise specialist.
In the role, she tailors exercise prescriptions for her patients. She also conducts presentations about how exercise plays an integral part in diabetes prevention and self-management, develops programs to combat childhood obesity, organizes and facilitates community programs for the promotion of healthy lifestyles, and offers fall prevention programs for older adults.
John is also using her professional and life experience to help prepare the next generation of health care practitioners and professionals. "I am working closely with the School of Public Health and Health Professions to promote cultural competency within the field and to help teach health care providers how to offer more effective care to their American Indian/Alaskan Native patients," she said.
“I strongly believe that the education I received within the School of Public Health and Health Professions has given me the knowledge, confidence and the edge to do my job in a challenging field,” she said. “I feel fortunate to have been accepted into the program, to have learned from credible teachers, and to have gained the experience to follow my passion within the health and fitness field.
“I feel that I am on the front lines of a health war, and I know that my experience, education and UB faculty support will assist me in my fight for healthier people and communities.”