Background: Native Americans (NAs) experience significant health disparities compared to the general US population. Medical education has a key role to play in addressing these inequities; however, it is currently falling short. Providers lack sufficient knowledge of NA heritage, cultures, perspectives, and social determinants of health. Under-representation begins in the medical education pathway, with only 0.3% of residents and merely 0.15% of faculty serving the 2.9% of identifying NAs. Because NA health professionals are more likely to serve the NA community, training more NAs has the potential to address current workforce challenges in Indian Country. However, there is a void in literature specific to the recruitment, training, and development of NA providers in the US workforce. This likely contributes to the limited success of US medical schools to train NA physicians. Therefore, our primary objective is to increase awareness of osteopathic medicine, including introduction of osteopathic practice and philosophy, among NAs interested in pursuing a career in medicine. Our secondary objective is to provide prospective NA applicants exposure to the knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes necessary for successful matriculation to osteopathic medical school.

Methods: Due to COVID-19, the NAPA Workshops (Spring 2021 and Fall 2021) were held virtually via the telecommunications platform Zoom. This allowed nationwide participation for learning about the partnership between OSU-COM and the Cherokee Nation, Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, clinical skills, admissions acumen, current student perspectives, and how the principles of Osteopathic Medicine parallel traditional NA beliefs and practices. For example, the osteopathic tenets address the body as a unit, with the person representing a combination of body, mind, and spirit. These same principles embody wellness and healing beliefs for many NAs.

Results: When surveyed at the time of the inaugural NAPA Workshop, 56% of participants reported plans to apply to medical school within the next year, 33% within the next two to three years, 7% were unsure of their timeline, and 4% had already applied. In total, after the 2021 Spring and 2021 Fall NAPA Workshops, a total of forty-one students (twenty-seven in Spring, fourteen in Fall) had attended, nine students (one in 2020-2021 cycle, eight in 2021-2022 cycle) had completed applications, and two students(zero in 2020-2021 cycle, two in 2021-2022 cycle) had been admitted to the OSU-COM.

Conclusion: Building on Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine’s (OSU-COM) existing pathway programs focused on underrepresented groups, including Native Explorers, Native OKStars, Operation Orange, and the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS) Conference, the Native American Students of Osteopathic Medicine (NASOM) organization created the Native American Pre-Admission (NAPA) Workshop. The Student-led NAPA Workshop has resulted in an additional, culturally sensitive pathway for increased recruitment of NA medical students, the most underrepresented group in medicine, furthering OSUCOM’s mission to recruit, train, and retain physicians serving rural and tribal communities.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 18 Feb 2022
EventOklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Research Week 2022 : Poster Presentation - Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, Tulsa, United States
Duration: 14 Feb 202218 Feb 2022


ConferenceOklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences Research Week 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Native American
  • Medical Education
  • Osteopathic Physicians


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