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SMSC to Match AAIP $100K Grant to Fund Program for Future Native M.D.s

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The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has agreed to match a $100,000 grant from the Association of American Indian Physicians (AAIP)to assist American Indian and Alaska Native students pursue careers in the health field, states a press release.

The tribe will contribute the donation once the AAIP raises the initial $100,000. “We hope other tribes and organizations will support this program so that more youth are encouraged to study the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields with the ultimate goal of helping tribal youth become the leaders of tomorrow," SMSC Chairman Stanley R. Crooks said in a statement. "Our people feel good when they see American Indian physicians and healthcare workers involved in their communities. We look forward to matching this pledge for $100,000.”

AAIP created the program, Careers in Health for Native Students, to increase the number of tribal members in the health and wellness workforce. The Association is establishing an educational program that will guide students in their education, training and career development.

“Encouraging Native students to pursue careers as physicians, health professionals and biomedical researchers is one of our primary goals and the gift from the Shakopee Tribe will allow us to continue this critical work,” said AAIP Executive Director Margaret Knight.

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AAIP President Dr. Donna Galbreath echoed Chairman Crooks sentiments on the importance of seeing tribal members in healthcare roles locally.

“Because Native American people suffer from chronic illnesses like diabetes, tuberculosis, pneumonia and influenza at far higher rates than other racial populations, we need to groom our own citizens to be physicians and prevention specialists,” Galbreath said. “Indian people respond better when their healthcare needs are in the hands of Native physicians and other professionals who understand their culture and value both traditional and Western healing methods.”

The American Association of Medical Colleges last year reported the number of AI/AN accepted into medical school has substantially and steadily declined over the past eight years. According to the organization, there were 465 medical school applicants and 202 enrollees in 2004; by 2011 those numbers had declined to 379 and 157 respectively.

As fewer AI/AN physicians have gone into practice over the past decade, Native population, in contrast, has increased by 26.7 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census.

“The cross-section of these two trends—fewer doctors and larger populations—is where we are today and why we must address this troubling disparity in our healthcare systems and increase the number of Native physicians in Indian Country,” Knight said.