UMD Medical School Graduates the Second Highest Number of Indigenous Doctors

Duluth, Minn. –The University of Minnesota Duluth’s Medical School has the distinction of having graduated the second largest number of native or indigenous medical professionals in the nation.  Only Oklahoma State University has more.

The Center of American Indian and Minority Health Department has been a part of UMD’s Medical School for more than 40 years. Dr. Mary Owen, an indigenous person from Alaska and the Tilgit  people leads the program.  Owens came to UMD for her medical education because of this program and the doctor leading it, Dr. Gerald Hill. “I had never met a native doctor, never met anyone who knew the system like he did and who was able to legitimize the things I had felt growing up in our health care system.,” said  Owen

A similar scenario of never seeing someone that looks like them in their healthcare,  played a big part in why a number of current students chose UMD.

Meghan Byrens a current student said, “Dr. Owen was also the first indigenous female doctor that I had ever met and that’s when I was 14 or 15 years old. So it felt really full circle to come back and start my education where I had my first female physician. ”

II was struggling always, like as a child ,with this internal feeling that physicians and health care providers didn’t really care for native people, they didn’t care for my relatives, they’re just truly a disease and not a person,” said Zhaa Zhaa Greensky.

.Dr. Owen says the American Indian and Minority Health Department has had a positive impact on the Native Americans who are working to become physicians. She says part of the success for the program is because of the way the native students become a part of a community.  “One of our main jobs of the center is to create a community for the students who arrive here, because we know from the research that native students, they struggle with, in general, leaving their own community. So we have to create a new one for them to support them all the way through. ”

The program is making a difference for indigenous people across the country says  Dr. Owen. Graduates are now working with Native Americans directly in clinics and hospitals  while others have gone on to  develop similar programs for native and indigenous people at other medical schools.

” From our program we now have leaders of the OHSU program and the University of Washington native program are led by graduates of this program.”

Next year the medical students who choose the indigenous health pathway will receive 90 hours on native health and the issues that surround it.  All medical students will receive at least 10 hours on Native Health.

The UMD Medical School has been awarded a $750,000 award trom the the The Genenich Innovation Fund. The money is for the creeation and operation of the Gateways to Medicine and Reesearch Master of Science degree program.

Recruitment efforts focused on Native American students, as well as full sccholarships for the indigenous students, will help increase national visibility for the school.

The new program is currently under development and is expected to begin this fall.

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