American Indian/Alaska Native Healthcare Workforce Summit Addresses Disparities in Health Education

ALEXANDRIA, VA – The American Indian/Alaska Native Healthcare Workforce Development Summit will be held in Washington, D.C. on July 26 and 27, 2022. The summit’s goal is to improve Native health education and health outcomes. Highlights for the summit include Dr. Don Warne (Oglala Lakota) who will deliver the keynote “Indigenizing Approaches to Student Development” and a panel discussion on “What is Indigenous Success in Health Professional Fields?”

This summit is the third in a series of meetings planned by the Indigenous Health, Education, and Resource Taskforce (IHEART). IHEART consists of numerous tribal and national partners, including the Association of American Indian Physicians (AAIP), the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), and the Association of Native American Medical Students. IHEART was formed to address the shortage of Native healthcare professionals and the educational barriers that Indigenous students face entering any health profession.

“What is exciting about this summit is the collaboration between all these different organizations who serve Native youth,” said Dr. Mary Owen, President of the Association of American Indian Physicians and Director of the Center of American Indian and Minority Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth campus. “Now is the time to start working together on these systemic issues to really move the dial on increasing the number of Indigenous health professionals in every occupation.”

The purpose of the summit is to address: developing regional infrastructure to identify educational pathway programs to support and encourage Native students to enter the health professions workforce; establishing connections within each region to build a network of pathway programs for students and practitioners, ranging from kindergarten to employment; promoting and developing educational pathway programming grounded in Indigenous values; highlighting models and programming that promotes success for Indigenous health students and professionals; and developing and advocating for local, state, regional, and national policies that support academic enrichment and advancement of Native students.

“Every professional, parent, or community leader concerned about the academic or career benchmarks in the process of nurturing future healers is invited to attend the summit,” said Reno Charette, Director of the AIHEC Aseto’ne Project. “Indian Country suffers from the lack of Indigenous healthcare providers, administrators, and researchers. If we work together, we can eliminate obstacles and embrace broad support for knowledge of healthcare careers and safety nets for Indigenous students engaged in journeys to become the healthcare workforce that Indian Country needs.”