Medicine Pathways for Advancing Tribal Healthcare (PATH)

The Medicine PATH program supports 8 motivated Native youth currently enrolled in college or university on their journey to becoming physicians. This program is not just a solution for today but a pathway to a more diverse, culturally competent, and inclusive healthcare workforce in the future. If successful, the program can continue to be a part of the solution for years to come. 

The Medicine PATH program is sponsored through private donations and administered by the Front-Line Indigenous Partnership Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School Affiliated hospital, and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. The program covers costs for student travel, transportation, lodging, and food during the Boston 3-weeksummer medicine enrichment portion of the program. 

Executive Summary

Program Sponsorship

The program is funded through a private donation and administered through the Front-Line Indigenous Partnership Program based at the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative based at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Department of Global Health and Population.

Important Dates

Applications Open

Monday, December 15th, 2023

Applications Close

Thursday, February 29th, 2024

Awardee Notification

Sunday, March 31st, 2024

Program Start Date

Friday, May 31st, 2024

Program End Date

Friday, June 21st, 2024

Program Background/Origin

The Ohiyesa Premedical Program (OPP) conducted in 2022 marked a pivotal moment of program development as a successful pilot grant project supporting American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) Tribal community and college students pursuing careers in medicine. This pilot program propelled us toward new horizons and the launch of the Medicine Pathways for Advancing Tribal Healthcare (PATH) program.

Program Rationale and Potential Impact

According to the American Medical Association, AIANs represent 3% of the U.S. population but only 3,400 or 0.002% of physicians. Unfortunately, similar AIAN workforce disparities are seen in all other healthcare fields. Furthermore, only 9% of medical schools have more than 4 Native medical students, 43% have none, and only 11% of medical schools include Native American health content in their curricula. Native Americans also make up only .001% of medical school faculty nationwide.

The Medicine PATH program aims to increase the numbers of Native students entering medicine to address the significant lack of AIAN physician workforce necessary to provide culturally competent care to AIAN communities. This lack of Indigenous physicians is troubling given the significant AIAN healthcare disparities that currently exist including the AIAN life expectancy in the US that is 5.5 years less than all other races and the higher morbidity and mortality rates for many disease categories including liver disease, diabetes, unintentional injuries, assault/homicide, intentional self-harm/suicide, and chronic lower respiratory disease.

Concerted and multimodal efforts are needed to support motivated Native students interested in becoming physicians to better serve their communities. The Medicine PATH program is strategically designed to provide needed student resources and enrichment activities such as exposure to clinical medicine shadowing experiences, mentorship, and professional development skills.

Key Elements of the Program

A. Medicine Enrichment Summer Program

Based at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School Affiliated hospital. The Medicine PATH program begins with a transformative 3-week experiential summer program based at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

Participants will:

  • Shadow Physicians: Gain clinical exposure by shadowing physicians of different specialties in diverse settings that may include emergency medicine, primary care, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology, radiology, and a variety of surgical specialties.
  • Simulation Skills: Practice procedural skills through simulation-based workshops.
  • Interactive Panels: Engage in small group panels with physicians from various specialties, including Indigenous health.
  • Workshops: Explore topics such as neuroscience research, basic life support, Indigenous health, diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in healthcare, and more.
  • Cultural Outings: Immerse in Boston's cultural richness.
  • Research and Academic Medicine: Introduction to research, conducting literature reviews, citation management, and careers in academic medicine.
  • Professional development: tips on writing medical school admissions essays, enhancing presentation skills, practicing interview skills, and honing test taking skills.
  • Institutional diversity, equity, and inclusion presentations : Sessions on Indigenous and minority health disparities and current health systems initiatives to address health inequities.
  • Community building: Student team building activities to create a nurturing, mutually beneficial, and collaborative environment that extends beyond the program as an additional level of student support.
  • Reflection Paper and Final Presentations: Share insights on a topic of student's choice with Harvard Medical School students, trainees, staff, and faculty.

B. Longitudinal Component - Calendar Year Engagement

Following the onsite summer program, participants enter a yearlong engagement with the following:

  • Quarterly Virtual Group Meetings: Discuss tailored topics identified through a needs assessment.
  • Individual Virtual Meetings: Connect with faculty and resident sponsors/mentors for personalized support.
  • Discussion Topics: Address needs such as tutoring, research opportunities, Indigenous health, and leadership skills.

On successful completion of all elements of the program, participants will receive an official program certificate and a letter of support from the faculty program lead, a distinguished Harvard Medical School faculty member, that delineates the components of the program that can be used in future medical school applications and enrichment programs.

Application Process

This program can empower 8 Indigenous youth for maximum impact in their respective communities, for the benefit of their health careers, Boston’s medical community, and the health of Indigenous communities everywhere.  If successful this pilot program can be expanded for greater impact and outreach.

  • Timeline for application and selection process:
    • Application Open: Monday, December 15th, 2023
    • Applications Close: Thursday, February 29th, 2024
    • Awardee Notification: Sunday, March 31st, 2024
    • Program Start Date: Friday, May 31st, 2024
    • Program End Date: Friday, June 21st, 2024
  • Application Materials
    • Two short essays
    • 1-page resume
    • 2 reference letters from a faculty member at Tribal College or Community College and one other person of their choosing
  • Selection Criteria
    • Age 18+
    • Must be Native American and/or Alaska Native. Formal enrollment in ones Tribal Nation(s) mandatory
    • Currently enrolled student in college or university (preference given to Tribal community/college students)
    • Interest in becoming  a physician
    • Motivation to serve their community
    • Academic potential