As part of the Tribal Health Scholars externship program , three high school seniors from the Warm Springs community spent four months working at the Indian Health Service Warm Springs Health & Wellness Center. Each student was paid an hourly wage to shadow 12 different health professionals for one hour per week, participate in three electives in the health care profession that interested them most, and attend an informational session on human resources, information technology, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Each week, students had a check-in with a “health pathway coach” who provided counseling and mentorship pertaining to health care careers and educational options.
The Northwest Native American Center of Excellence (NNACOE) piloted the program in February of this year, with the goal being to introduce American Indian and Alaska Native youth to future career possibilities and the culture of health care. The program was established by The Oregon Health & Science University under a 5-year grant from the Department of Health and Human Services . The NNACOE works to comprehensively and sustainably address the health care needs of all people by increasing the Native American voice in the U.S. health professions workforce.
Having known these outstanding students since they were infants, I am excited to see their life’s journey and commitment to become future health care professionals. Mentoring our tribal youth to become future IHS caregivers is our best way of addressing the growing staffing needs for our health care system.
According to Dr. Erik Brodt, director of the NNACOE and Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the OHSU School of Medicine, American Indian and Alaska Native people face significant health disparities, which is further jeopardized by a shortage of health care professionals who come from those communities. He said his organization aims to change that.
The Tribal Health Scholars externship program was created in partnership with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Warm Springs Tribal Health Services, The IHS Warm Springs Health & Wellness Center, Madras High School, the Jefferson County 509-J School Superintendent, and On Track OHSU . The plan is to expand to five tribal communities in the next two or three years, with a maximum of five scholars per site (25 scholars max per year).