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Helping Attract Wisconsin's Native American Students to Health Professions

A newly developed partnership with tribal leaders in Wisconsin is helping the Native American Center for Health Professions attract new students and faculty. (UW Health/NACHP)
A newly developed partnership with tribal leaders in Wisconsin is helping the Native American Center for Health Professions attract new students and faculty. (UW Health/NACHP)
January 4, 2016

MADISON, Wis. - Working in a newly developed relationship with tribal leaders from across Wisconsin, the Native American Center for Health Professions is helping to identify and recruit Native American students to U-W Health professional schools and programs.

Dr. Christine Athmann, assistant director of the Center and a member of the Anishinaabe Tribe of the White Earth Nation, says many Native Americans living on one of Wisconsin's reservations never even think about going to college, much less becoming a physician.

"We have twice-a-year meetings with tribal leadership to make sure that we are meeting their needs," says Dr. Athmann. "That they help us figure out the best ways to reach the students, and so without them and without their engagement, we would not be nearly as successful as we are."

Dr. Athmann says many of the Native Americans on campus are first-generation college students, who have few role models in the academic or medical community. She says the Center helps them navigate the structure of academia and improve their experience on campus.

One of the tools used by the Center is a relatively new website, wearehealers.org, which Dr. Athmann says began on the U-W Madison campus, but now is achieving a very broad reach.

"It has been just a tremendous tool for us, and what's really cool is that it reaches Native students from all over the nation, not just Wisconsin," says Dr. Athmann. "It's just the most effective and beautifully done website."

According to Dr. Athmann, the Center, through the website and other programs, is discovering the best ways not only to recruit Native American students and staff, but through working with tribal leadership, is able to help improve the health and wellness of American Indian people.

"Because we don't have many Native providers, if any, in most of these reservations, a lot of these kids back home on reservations don't have mentors, they don't have role models for them to see that yes, you can go to college, you can become a physician," she says. "It's just a way for these Native students to see that there are Native docs out there and, yes, they can do this."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI