BOZEMAN - Montana WWAMI Medical Program is seeking to increase Native American student enrollment and recruitment efforts.
WWAMI director Dr. Martin Teinze notes the current efforts to increase admission numbers while looking toward new ways to ignite the spark of medicine.
“At a minimum, our goal would be to have the number of Native Americans graduates of our program that is representative in the population in Montana,” Teinze said.
The Medical Mentorship Program allows for those in the WWAMI program to connect with tribal schools, high schools, and even middle schools to introduce the profession of medicine.
Nikki Brown — a Native American student in her second year of medical school — has participated in the Medical Mentorship Program, both as a student and a mentor.
“It was really valuable, it was to help minorities and build that pipeline into medical school…it was a big part of why I got into medical school, and when I was here it was great to be on the other side as a mentor,” Brown said.
Brown is one of a few Native American students in her class and expresses the need for representation in the field.
“I’ve never had a Native physician or provider at all, and I actually never met a Native American physician until 2018 or so. I knew I wanted to become a physician, but I just have never seen anyone like that,” Brown said.
According to the United States Census, Montana’s population is made up of 6.7% American Indian and Alaska Native. Teinze recalls having no more than three Native American students per cohort.
“The school cares, and we really want to get more diversity into our schools, it’s not just something that we’re talking bout, but something we’re taking action on,” Brown said.
Wondering what WWAMI stands for? According to their website - WWAMI is a cooperative program with the University of Washington School of Medicine and the states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho (the first letter of each state is where WWAMI gets its name). It gives students residing in the Northwestern United States access to high-quality, cost-effective medical education by decentralizing the educational process and sharing existing facilities and personnel in universities and communities in the WWAMI states. Support of WWAMI by the State of Montana allows 30 qualified Montana residents to be admitted to the program each year.