Native News Network Staff in Native Health. Discussion »
ADA, OKLAHOMA A state of the art medical facility, clinics, pharmacies, wellness centers and nutrition training are just some of the ways the Chickasaw Nation is addressing the health care needs of its citizens. But these opportunities also provide inspiration for Native Americans to pursue an education in medicine and related fields.
Dr. Mahate Parker Chickasaw
The Association of American Medical Colleges recently reported that one of the most pressing health care challenges facing the country is the critical need for more minority physicians.
In the next 15 years, the US is projected to confront an overall shortage of physicians, but the need is, and will continue to be, particularly great for minority physicians.
Today, African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians together make up 25 percent of the United States population. However, only 6 percent of practicing doctors come from these groups.
Some progress is being made, as seen in Association of American Medical Colleges reports that show 12 percent of students graduating from a United States medical school are African American, Hispanic or Native American - and 15 percent of medical school applications are from these groups.
With opportunities in scholarship programs, internships, mentorships, and education, the Chickasaw Nation is doing its part to help increase those numbers.
For one Chickasaw doctor, returning to serve Native Americans is a calling she says is important for her and for the Native community.
Mahate Parker, a graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, is currently finishing her residency program in Obstetrics/Gynecology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Tulsa. Once her residency program concludes in July 2014, she plans to "come back to Ada" to begin her practice as an OB/GYN physician at the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center.
“When I see a patient in the clinic here, in Tulsa, who is Native American, I feel that I can relate to them more,”
“The fact that I am Chickasaw I think makes for a better physician/patient relationship and really helps them because they feel more comfortable.”
Parker said when she sees statistics like the percentage of American Indians physicians in the United States in 2004 was just 0.3 percent - or 2,457; she is inspired to encourage other Native Americans to pursue medicine.
“When I see a young person who shows some interest in being a doctor one day, I encourage them to get their feet wet by taking part in summer programs or shadowing someone in the field,”
“When we encourage them to pursue an education in medicine and then know that they are supported by the tribe through scholarships or other opportunities, I think we can turn those numbers around.”
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posted February 8, 2013 9:50 am est