Building the next generation of American Indian doctors
“Quite honestly, it is not easy to be a nerd on the reservation.” – Dr. Donald Warne
Pathways are not predetermined in life. But, without readily available role models to point to, it can be difficult for young people to know what options may be available as they advance toward adulthood.
Currently, there’s a shortage of health care providers for Indigenous populations, which have been linked to limited access to care and higher rates of chronic health conditions. As native physicians are more likely than non-native physicians to serve these populations, increasing the number of native physicians is a critical strategy for improving access for this population.
At the University of North Dakota, role-modeling is a key component to increase interest and build the next generation of American Indian physicians. Currently, American Indian or Alaskan native students make up about 1% of medical school students nationwide. At the University of North Dakota’s medical school, 1 in 10 students came from Indigenous background, the highest ratio in the country.
Since 1973, the Indians Into Medicine program has graduated over 250 American Indian and Alaskan Native physicians. It’s a growing presence in the health profession and the subject of a Leading to Health article published in the February 2021 edition of Health Affairs.
On A Health Podyssey, Alan Weil speaks with Dr. Donald Warne, a professor and director of the Indians Into Medicine program at the University of North Dakota and a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, to discuss the shortage of health care providers for American Indians and Indigenous populations and how the program helps create an interest in medicine at an early age for American Indians.