Born and raised in the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin, Dr. Fernandez’ Menominee name is Kenyukīw (eagle woman), and she is a member of the awāēhsaeh (bear) clan. Dr. Fernandez has built her research agenda on two decades of combined national and international social work and public health practice and service with Indigenous, Latinx and other marginalized communities in inpatient and outpatient health care settings, academic settings, and community-based settings. Her research examines the role of cultural practices that are dependent upon nature contact in the prevention of chronic and co-occurring diseases (e.g. mental health, substance abuse, diabetes) among Indigenous peoples.
Dr. Fernandez has over a decade of experience working on federally funded (NIH, SAMHSA), community-engaged research projects, focused on prevention of mental health, substance use, sexual risk, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes, from design through dissemination. Her long-term goals are to build on this knowledge and better define the role of engagement in Indigenous cultural practices that are dependent upon nature contact in prevention, and to respond to the significant gap in culturally informed measures that can be used to evaluate chronic and co-occurring health outcomes within culturally-grounded health interventions.
Dr. Fernandez also has 15 years of combined experience teaching and mentoring youth, undergraduate and graduate students in academic, professional and community contexts, and she has received outstanding student evaluations and departmental and university-wide nominations for teaching awards. She continues to mentor, present and guest lecture students across the country.