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The Campaign for UC Davis

Stories of inspired gifts … stories that inspire giving

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UC Davis
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Portrait of Health Education

Professor Dennis Styne is empowering Native American youth and communities to lead healthier lives.

Professor Dennis Styne, chief of pediatric endocrinology at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, has been studying the effects of healthy eating and exercise habits on young people for more than 20 years.

For much of that time the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation — an American Indian tribe in Yolo County — has been supporting Styne’s work. The group made a gift to create the Yocha Dehe Endowed Chair in Pediatric Endocrinology that Styne now holds.

With the help of the endowed chair funding, Styne created a program called Fit-Kid, Fit-Teen that teaches youth healthy lifestyle habits for eating and exercise. He introduced Fit-Kid, Fit-Teen to Native Americans living on the Round Valley Indian Reservation in northern Mendocino County, Calif., and, according to Styne, “They ran with it!”

“The children have inspired the whole community to start moving in creative and innovative ways,” Styne said.

Members of the Round Valley Indian Reservation community trained as lifeguards so the school’s pool could remain open in the summer, started a bike rodeo and created a family potluck program to encourage healthy eating habits for families.

The endowed chair also has allowed Styne to educate the community about Type 2 diabetes, teach community members how to conduct their own relevant health-related research, and train and employ post-doctoral researchers and new faculty members so as to expand the program’s outreach and ensure its longevity. The endowed chair also helped Styne and others leverage more than $1.5 million in additional funding to support his health programs.

“Without the support of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, we absolutely would not be able to do the things we have done,” Styne said. “Their foresight and generosity is paying off.”