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University paves the way to get more Native Americans into health care

University of Minnesota Medical School is working to recruit more Indigenous students and provide them with fully paid tuition.
University paves the way to get more Native Americans into health care
Posted at 10:20 AM, Sep 21, 2023

Fewer than 1% of medical school students and practicing physicians in the United states are Native American, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association. But the University of Minnesota Medical School is leading the way when it comes to recruitment of Indigenous students.

The university received $750,000 in foundation money to create the Gateways to Medicine and Research master of science program. The aim is to recruit more indigenous students and provide them with fully paid tuition.

"The ability to train Native physicians to go back and work with rural communities builds an immediate trust with the physician and patient relationship that you can generate within those dynamics," said Kevin Diebel, interim regional dean of the school's Duluth campus. "But it also provides an opportunity for younger individuals to see someone that looks like that to say, 'I can do that too.'"

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According to the American Osteopathic Association, Indian reservations and other rural areas with large populations of Native Americans have long suffered from physician shortages and lack of access to health care. One of the contributors to that unmet need is the dramatic underrepresentation of Native Americans in the physician workforce. 

Kayli Posselt, a Minnesota medical student, said she one day hopes to open a birthing center on her reservation. 

"Representation is really important because a lot of people are feeling unsafe," Posselt said. "So it just kind of makes people not want to come in and get treated and be proactive about their health because there's that hesitation." 

Andry Warrington, another student in the program, said he's studying psychiatry to one day also help their community.

"I want to decrease the levels of incarceration and suicide and generational trauma in certain groups of Native Americans," he said.

These students believe this program has changed their lives, and they hope they will one day be able to help change their communities when it comes to modern medicine.

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