TULSA—A recently awarded $3.5 million grant to the OSU Center for Health Sciences will fund new programs and strengthen existing programs aimed at recruiting and preparing Native American students to enter medical school.
“Less than 0.2 percent of physicians in the US are Native American, even fewer in STEM careers. If students can see someone like themselves in medicine, and a path for themselves, they can create a vision for themselves in the future,” said Kent Smith, Ph.D., associate dean of the Office of American Indians in Medicine and Sciences. at OSU-CHS.
The Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) Centers for Excellence awarded the grant to develop a Native American Primary Care Center for Excellence. The renewable grant, which will be distributed over five years, is administered by Smith and Denna Wheeler, Ph.D., director of research and evaluation at the OSU Center for Rural Health.
The HRSA scholarship also provides scholarships and resources for Indigenous medical students, postdoctoral fellows, and educators.
“Ultimately, we want to increase the number of competitive Native American applicants by providing training and resources to those students applying for admission to the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine,” Smith said.
The grant will also provide funding for the development of a pipeline from undergraduate college to medical school for Native American students called Native Pathways, which leverage new and existing programs such as hands-on recruiting events that travel to tribal communities and pre-admission workshops specifically for American Indian students.
Smith said building and developing partnerships with Oklahoma’s tribal governments and their health systems is vital to the success of American Indian students in medical school, as these tribes provide residency, rotation, and outside opportunities to students.
“We want to identify students who are committed to giving back to their communities. Tribes want their own citizens to return home. That’s what this grant will help us do,” he said. “The trust and communication of physicians and patients is so important, which is why we are helping the tribes grow their own physicians, so to speak, and expand capacity for the tribal physician communities.”
Smith said the scholarship will also have a positive effect on current Native American medical students attending OSU-COM.
“We want to ramp up academic support for struggling medical students and make sure our Indigenous students don’t fall through the cracks. That they have the resources and support they need to ultimately be successful,” he said.
The US National Cancer Institute also recently awarded a $2 million education grant called Native American Youth Enjoy Sciences (YES), which aims to increase the representation of Oklahoma American Indian students in biomedical and cancer research.
The grant has been awarded to the partnership of the OSU-CHS, University of Oklahoma and the OU Health Sciences Center Stephenson Cancer Center and Smith is one of the co-directors of the program.
YES Oklahoma will provide a research training strategy where American Indian high school students engage in hands-on scientific research and professionalization activities with a strong emphasis on cancer research.
About Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences The Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences is a nationally recognized academic health center that focuses on education, research, and patient care through its OSU Medicine clinics located throughout the Tulsa metro area. OSU Center for Health
Sciences offers graduate and professional degrees through the College of Osteopathic Medicine, the School of Allied Health, the School of Health Care Administration, the School of Biomedical Sciences, the School of Forensic Sciences, the Physician Assistant Program and its newest site, OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah. OSU Medicine operates a network of clinics that offer a wide range of specialty services, including addiction medicine, cardiology, family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, and women’s health. Read more at medicine. okstate.edu.