Native News Network Staff in Native Health. Discussion »
OKLAHOMA CITY Dr. Nicole Stern was recently sworn in as the new president of the Association of American Indian Physicians, AAIP. Stern, a member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe of New Mexico, serves as an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
Dr. Nicole Stern - Mescalero Apache
In her outpatient practice she specializes in both general Internal Medicine and Sports Medicine. Her research interests include disease prevention through exercise, childhood obesity, and the prevention of other health disparities affecting American Indian communities.
A goal for Stern as Association of American Indian Physicians president is to expand the organization's efforts on exercise and healthy eating for American Indian and Alaska Native youth in an effort to prevent obesity and chronic diseases.
“We need a renewed commitment to raising healthy, active and physically aware children,”
Because American Indian people have higher rates of illnesses like diabetes, tuberculosis, pneumonia and influenza than other racial populations, Stern said it is also important for tribal citizens to be physicians and prevention specialists in their communities.
“It has been seen time and time again that tribal people respond better when their healthcare needs are in the hands of Native physicians who understand their culture and value both traditional and Western healing methods,”
One of Association of American Indian Physicians' primary missions is to motivate American Indian and Alaskan Native students to remain in the academic pipeline and pursue a career in healthcare or biomedical sciences.
Stern said there is a dire need to increase the American Indian and Alaska Native physician workforce population. The Association of American Medical Colleges released data last year that shows the number of American Indians accepted into medical school has substantially and steadily declined over the past eight years. As fewer Native physicians have gone into practice over the past decade, the American Indian and Alaska Native population, in contrast, has increased by 26.7 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to the US Census.
Stern said fewer doctors and larger Native populations is a troubling disparity that must be addressed for Indian Country.
“Another goal I have as Association of American Indian Physicians president is to grow the organization's membership with physicians trained in a diverse group of medical specialties and currently practicing across the United States,”
She said more member physicians would also help increase the number of mentors for up and coming med students.
“Helping those young people succeed and achieve their career objective in critical because they, in turn, can help the next wave of tribal health practitioners,”
Stern received her BA from Stanford University and her MD from the University of Arizona. She completed her residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and her fellowship in Primary Care Sports Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City. During her fellowship she completed a research project focused on identifying the age of onset of childhood obesity in an urban American Indian health clinic.
Also, while living in Oklahoma City, she co-produced a documentary film with the Association of American Indian Physicians about a young man living with AIDS. This documentary was distributed to American Indian health clinics around the country.
posted August 18, 2012 6:00 am edt