A University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health center will once again be the recipient of a competitive national grant to recruit American Indian and Alaska Native students into the field of medicine.

The Native American Center for Health Professions (NACHP) was recently awarded a nearly $1 million, five-year grant from the Indian Health Service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Indians into Medicine (INMED) grant provides support to help bring American Indian and Alaska Native students into health professions.

The grant is of vital importance to continue the School of Medicine and Public Health’s mission of increasing opportunities for American Indian students, according to Bret Benally Thompson, MD, clinical assistant professor of medicine and the grant’s principal investigator.

“What we are doing at NACHP has permeated our way of life for time immemorial. We are sharing with our young people the values and skills needed to care for the health of our communities,” he said. “NACHP does this by providing an academic and cultural community that supports each student's individual and tribal identity. We are giving Native students, no matter their age or background, permission to dream and succeed and then providing the support and resources they need to achieve those dreams.”

The grant’s objectives are to provide health career exposure to pre-college and college students, increase the number of qualified applicants for medical and health professional programs, augment culturally responsive programming through community-based learning opportunities to support a sense of belonging and student retention, and expand American Indian-specific health focused training to promote service to American Indian and Alaska Native people and communities.

This is the second time the highly-competitive grant – which is allocated in limited numbers – was awarded to NACHP. The first grant was received in 2014. This newly-allocated funding cycle will expire in 2024.

The grant will allow the center to continue its core mission, according to Danielle Yancey, NACHP director.

In the new grant, NACHP will continue to partner with five Wisconsin tribal communities including the Ho-Chunk Nation, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, Oneida Nation and the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican, as well as continue youth outreach services state-wide. 

NACHP will also collaborate with UW programs such as the Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE), the Information Technology Academy, Lac du Flambeau and Oneida tribal programs, the Area Health Education Center programs, Center for Pre-Health Advising and the Rural and Urban Scholars in Community Health program. In addition, NACHP will also continue working in partnership with the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council Native American Research Center for Health. 

Through these collaborations, NACHP will connect students to the resources and opportunities each of these programs provide to support their college and health professional program readiness.

The center works to enhance recruitment of American Indian students to UW health professions schools and programs, improve their educational experience and establish and enhance student health education opportunities. It also focuses on recruitment, retention and development of American Indian faculty and the growth of health academic programs (with regard to both research and education) within tribal communities.

Since the program’s inception in 2012, there has been a more than 300 percent increase in the number of American Indian and Alaska Native students pursuing health professional programs at UW–Madison, with a 240 percent increase in the application rates of medical degree students. Additionally, the UW School of Medicine and Public Health is ranked in the top 10 of U.S. medical degree-granting institutions for graduating American Indian and Alaska Native students, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. 

 “Although we have made strides in recruiting and supporting students into the health professions, there is still much work to do. Having the INMED program at UW will allow us to continue on this mission to improve the health and well-being of our people and communities,” Yancey said.