Native Americans are the most underrepresented racial/ethnic group among physicians and scientists. According to the CDC, the number one cause of death among Native Americans is cancer. This is in contrast to the majority population for which heart disease is the number one killer. With the large number of tribes in Arizona, the state’s universities are ideally positioned to train a greater number of Native Americans for biomedical careers. It is anticipated that this can be an effective approach to addressing cancer health disparities in Native American communities.
The NACP Training Core provides Native American students with mentoring and research experiences of importance to their own communities to help them achieve their training goals for a career in the health sciences. Activities in which NACP trainees engage include:
- Summer programs to transition from high school or community college to the university
- Mentored projects with investigators conducting cancer-related research
- Summer internships at other institutions
- Development of an individualized career plan
- Attendance at national meetings focused on health research in Native American communities
- Mentoring sessions with Native American researchers as role models
- A graduate programs primer that provides guidance on applying for post-baccalaureate degree programs.
Evaluation data shows that the NACP Training Core is making an impact. Between 2009 and 2014, the 6-year baccalaureate graduation rate for Native American students in the US was 38%. In contrast, the NACP Native American students had a substantially higher graduation rate of 68%. NACP began another 5-year project period in September, 2014. The Training Core looks forward to continually increasing the number of Native Americans in biomedical careers, so as to reduce the burden of cancer in their communities. The overall goal of the proposed NACP Training Core is to provide Native American students with mentoring and research experience to help them achieve their individualized career development plans in cancer-related research.