The experiences of Native American women physician faculty in US medical schools: culture, diversity, and retention

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The experiences of Native American women physician faculty in US medical schools: culture, diversity, and retention

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Along with their knowledge surrounding the issues of critical health disparities and needs of Native American people, Native American women physicians, with their unique cultural perspectives regarding race, gender, and health care are invaluable assets to medical school faculties. However, while Native American women make up 0.8% of the county's total population, they are only 0.2% of all physicians on medical school faculties. The focus of this study was to explore the experiences of Native American women physician faculty along with associated factors in medical education and school cultures to gain fuller understanding of their lack of representation. In today's increasingly diverse nation, a diverse medical school faculty is a key component of excellent medical education. These faculty guide students in their development of the attitudes, skills, and knowledge needed to deliver quality care for all of their future patients. Diverse faculty can also influence and enrich curricular offerings by ensuring the inclusion of minority health issues and they often conduct research on health disparity issues concerning diverse populations. Despite their ability to contribute, retaining diverse faculty members has been historically problematic largely due to multiple barriers in the cultures of medical schools. This study used existing data from interviews with five successful Native American women physician academicians along with publications regarding academic medicine found primarily over the past five years. Analysis resulted in four major themes related to faculty development and retention of underrepresented minorities, including Native Americans, in medical schools: (a) diversity in medical education, (b) mentorship, (c) importance of Native American culture, and (d) institutional factors. Perhaps the most salient finding was the embodiment of Native American culture and community connection in all areas of the lives of the women interviewed. Better understanding of the experiences and issues encountered by Native American women physicians in medical schools will help increase their numbers and alleviate underrepresentation.


University of Minnesota Ed.D. dissertation. December 2013. Major: Educational Policy and Administration. 1 computer file (PDF); iii, 110 pages, appendices A-E.

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Wirta Kosobuski, Anna Rebecca. (2013). The experiences of Native American women physician faculty in US medical schools: culture, diversity, and retention. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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