A researcher who directs the American Indian Diabetes Prevention Center is coming to Duluth in late August to direct a new program for the University of Minnesota Medical School.

J. Neil Henderson, currently a professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Public Health, will lead what the school calls a Medical Discovery Team on health equity, rural health access and Native American health issues, according to a news release from the medical school.

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He will be a professor in the Department of Biobehavioral Health and Population Sciences on the Duluth campus.

The state Legislature funded medical discovery teams last year after Gov. Mark Dayton appointed a blue-ribbon commission to develop recommendations to strengthen the medical school. Four such teams will be developed, but the health equity team is the first to have named a leader.

"Neil Henderson brings a wealth of knowledge about rural and community-based healthcare access, extensive leadership experience and impressive research credentials to this new role," said Dr. Brooks Jackson, dean of the medical school, in the news release.

Dr. Paula Termuhlen, dean of the school's Duluth campus, said her campus "is proud to be the home of the Medical Discovery Team on Health Equity led by Dr. Henderson."

Henderson, an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, has a bachelor's degree from the University of Central Florida, a master's in psychological anthropology from Florida State University and a doctorate in medical anthropology from the University of Florida.

The American Indian Diabetes Prevention Center that he heads is funded by the National Institutes of Health and focuses on understanding diabetes and diabetes prevention.

The medical school's Duluth campus is not part of the University of Minnesota Duluth, although it's located on the UMD campus.