Program Encourages Regional Native American Students to Pursue Health Sciences

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The University of Minnesota (UMN) Medical School Duluth Campus will increase access to biomedical science careers for Native American students in the region with the new Gateways to Medicine and Research Master of Science degree program.

The program will launch in fall 2023, funded in part by a $750,000 grant from the Genentech Innovation Fund. A one-year medical track for students interested in health professions and a two-year research track for those interested in biomedical sciences will be offered.

The campus has a 50-year history of serving Native American and rural communities and ranks second nationally for graduating Indigenous physicians. However, few of these graduates are from Minnesota, so the goal is to enroll more students from the upper Midwest. Recruiting and retention efforts include scholarships covering full tuition, cultural support programming, and assistance in transitioning into medical or doctor of philosophy programs.

“As a sovereign people, Native Americans need greater autonomy and control of their health care,” says Benjamin Clarke, PhD, professor at UMN Medical School and a member of the Grand Portage Band of Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. “There needs to be more representation of Native Americans in clinics and in academic medicine. The Gateways program will provide a nurturing environment with regional and national visibility to recruit and retain students with a vested interest in promoting better health and vitality for the Native American communities.”