Diversifying the Physician Workforce: American Indian Outreach Programs at Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine


  • Krista Schumacher, Ph.D. Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, Center for Rural Health
  • Denna Wheeler, Ph.D. Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, Center for Rural Health
  • Kent Smith, Ph.D. Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Nedra Wilson, Ph.D. Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Kayse Shrum, D.O. Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine


American Indian, Medical Education, Physician Diversity


Despite significant health disparities experienced by American Indian (AI) populations, considerable gaps persist between the AI physician workforce and patient need. This is of particular concern given the demonstrated benefits to health care of provider-patient racial concordance. Since 2010, the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine (OSU-COM) has worked in partnership with Oklahoma tribal nations to increase the number of AI students pursuing careers in science and medicine through several high school and undergraduate outreach programs that incorporate AI cultural traditions into student training. In 2014, OSU-COM established the Office for the Advancement of American Indians in Medicine and Science with the goal of increasing the number of AI physicians and scientists. To date, 175 AI high school and undergraduate students have participated in OSU-COM’s outreach programs and enrollment of AI students has steadily increased to 14% of all COM students. Of all AI students pursuing osteopathic degrees across the country, approximately one-fifth are enrolled at OSU. The COM continues to expand AI student outreach programs and diversify experiences through new and continued collaborations with Oklahoma tribes. Next steps include a formal evaluation of efforts to assess both quantitative metrics, such as increases in AI medical student enrollment and AI providers in tribal communities, and qualitative outcomes, such as student experiences and community impact.


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