Problem American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations are facing multiple health crises, including limited access to care, high rates of chronic disease, and early mortality that is far worse than other underrepresented minorities in the United States. According to the Association of American Indian Physicians, AI/AN people represent 2.0% of the U.S. population but only 0.2% of medical students and 0.1% of full-time faculty at MD-granting institutions. Increasing the number of AI/AN clinicians and scientists is one strategy to improve health outcomes in the AI/AN population and address these crises. Approach In 2010, the University of Utah partnered with research, cultural, and professional mentors to create a 10-week summer Native American Research Internship (NARI) program for AI/AN college students across the United States who are interested in pursuing biomedical careers. NARI attracts and supports AI/AN students by offering mentored summer research internships in an innovative, culturally aware framework that adapts to observed challenges to optimize educational experiences and support biomedical career aspirations. Outcomes During the first decade of the NARI program, 128 students from 22 U.S. states, representing 46 tribal nations and 57 colleges and universities, participated. Of those 128 students, 113 (88%) have completed a bachelor's degree and the remaining 15 (12%) are currently working toward a bachelor's degree. No NARI student has dropped out of college. Twenty-six (20%) NARI alumni have matriculated to medical school and 30 (23%) to graduate school. Eight (6%) participants have completed medical school, and 3 (2%) are pursuing a PhD in science. An additional 36 (28%) have gained employment in biomedical research fields. Next Steps The NARI program has increased the participation of AI/AN students in medicine and the biomedical sciences. The innovative, culturally aware, and adaptive framework is a model for other programs for AI/AN students and students in other underrepresented communities.
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