Indian Health Service
A historic relationship evolves on the health care delivery frontier.
Dartmouth’s commitment to native populations dates back to its founding in 1769. It reaffirmed and revitalized that commitment in the 1970s with the creation of an undergraduate Native American Studies Department that became a national model for programs of its kind. In 1973, Dartmouth hosted its first pow-wow, a gathering that has grown to become the second-largest pow-wow in the Northeast, attracting some 1,500 participants and spectators each year.
Dartmouth’s formal partnership with the Indian Health Service (IHS) began around the same time, in 1975, when Dr. Dean Seibert established clerkship opportunities for medical students at an IHS facility in Tuba City, Arizona. Since then, the partnership has broadened and deepened. The Geisel School of Medicine has added clerkship opportunities in Shiprock, New Mexico, and Fort Defiance, Arizona. In November of 2011, Dr. Susan Karol, Chief Medical Officer of the IHS, attended the Great Issues of Medicine and Global Health symposium at Dartmouth. She met with Molly Bode ’09 and Jen Murray ‘09 and began formalizing a relationship between The Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science and IHS. The partnership utilizes the combined strengths of Dartmouth, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and the Indian Health Service to improve the delivery of health care among American Indians and Alaskan Natives. This relationship explores the application of resources from Dartmouth College, its professional schools, and its academic centers to programs at American Indian and Alaskan Native sites. Three pillars support the work of the partnership:
The promotion of education and training opportunities for students seeking health care careers serving the Native population as practitioners or researchers.
The development of career, leadership, technical, and service opportunities for qualified IHS and Dartmouth researchers, clinicians, and allied health care workers.
Research into health issues addressing factors that impact the health and well-being of AI/AN populations.
In the coming months and years, Dartmouth, Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and IHS will work together to develop greater access to reliable, high-quality health care and preventive services that respond to the identified needs and health profiles of native communities. Of particular concern: American Indians and Native Alaskans suffer high rates of alcohol and substance abuse, heart disease, and diabetes — and a life expectancy that lags behind the American average by more than four years.
We are exploring ways to encourage IHS employees to participate in TDC’s Master’s in Health Care Delivery Science program. Aware that diversifying the perspective of medical educators is a major component of understanding underserved regional health care, the Geisel School of Medicine is actively encouraging Native American applicants for professorships. Finally, recognizing that 1% of the annual $4.5B IHS budget is granted for urban projects, TDC will work to build a program to expand its services to urban American Indian and Native Alaskan communities. And in that expansion, a symbol of Dartmouth’s historic and ongoing commitment, without reservation.