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Native Americans and Alaska Natives remain the most poorly served racial minority group in the American educational system.
Currently, over half of the NA/AN population is under 20 years old; there is HUGE opportunity in this statistic.
Low enrollment at the University of Montana, not high attrition, is the most significant factor in the small number of NA/AN pharmacy graduates.
Most students moving from very rural areas to Missoula will experience a major culture shock. Students are often homesick until they find a support system that serves as their home away from home for cultural events.
There are a small number of Native Americans pursuing advanced degrees in pharmacy, which results in a limited number of NA/AN role models for students considering pharmacy. We hope to increase the number of NA/AN role models at the University of Montana.
Only four other states have a percentage of Native Americans greater than Montana. The majority of Native Americans in Montana live on the State’s seven reservations; the rest are spread out in urban areas and represent 10 different tribes with 11 distinct languages: Blackfeet, Crow, Northern Cheyenne, Assiniboine, Cree, Chippewa, Sioux, Gros Ventre, Salish, and Kootenai.
NA/ANs face much higher levels of certain health risks than their non-Indian peers do. Thus, AN/NA health professionals are needed to provide education and care for their people.
Except for the University of Montana’s programs, there are no Native American COE-funded programs for students in pharmacy in the northwest states between St. Paul, Minnesota, and Seattle, Washington, an east-west distance of 1600 miles. The need is apparent.
Further attesting to rural needs, 93% of Montana’s counties have been designated at Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) the majority of which are also designated federally as Medically Under-Served Areas (DPHHS website).