By Larry Di Giovanni
Note: This is the first of a four-part series examining the Geisel School of Medicine’s long-standing work in primary care with American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Read parts two, three, and four for more.
From New England to Alaska, the impact of Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine within American Indian and Alaskan Native populations, rural and urban, is strong and expanding.
The reasons are many: compassionate students with a desire to serve the underserved; new opportunities for clinical teaching in family medicine, which means more mentors and student experiences in Native American communities; primary care physicians who step forward to serve as role models; and diverse primary care clerkships and residencies that reach into American Indian/Alaskan Native country. In addition, a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian Health Service and Dartmouth, signed in 2012, is strengthening opportunities for collaboration.
Just as important has been Dartmouth College’s unwavering, long-standing commitment. Since 1769 as part of its founding charter, Dartmouth has been engaged in the education of Native Americans. Over the past few decades, that commitment has created a range of medical education experiences that introduce students to these communities and their health care needs, ultimately leading to improved health care delivery for Native Americans.
Just one such “incubator” program started by Shawn O’Leary, Geisel’s director of multicultural affairs, has grown in impact and importance. Each March since 2010, a new group of first-year medical students has accompanied O’Leary to northern Minnesota for the Geisel-Indian Health Service alternative spring break serving five bands of the Ojibwe (Chippewa) tribe.