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WesternU enhances outreach to American Indian students

by Rodney Tanaka

March 20, 2012

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Western University of Health Sciences will welcome the Inter-Tribal Education Collaborative (ITEC) to its Pomona campus on March 22, 2012, among its many outreach activities with American Indian communities.

ITEC includes representatives from local tribes, tribal schools and Native American advocacy groups, as well as UC Riverside, Loma Linda University, Cal Poly Pomona, University of Redlands and Pitzer College. WesternU will give guests a tour of the campus and highlight the Western Diabetes Institute in the Patient Care Center.

WesternU Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Development Elizabeth Rega, PhD, will also attend the San Manuel Higher Education Fair on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 on behalf of the American Indian Health Career Ladder. Numerous other groups from WesternU, including the professional colleges and the Center for International and Community Health, will be participating.

The American Indian Health Career Ladder brings students from Sherman Indian High School in Riverside and other high school students from Southern California, including members of federally recognized and unrecognized tribes, into WesternU’s Career Ladder program, which encourages and prepares students to become health professionals. The WesternU students who volunteer to teach ladder workshops also benefit from the exchange.

“Our educational-based obligation is to expose students to multiple viewpoints and patient populations,” Rega said. “Our health professionals do not necessarily reflect the communities we live in or serve. We’re part of that national conversation. If they come in contact with that diversity, it’s going to strengthen them as health professionals by giving them a nuanced view of human health and experiences.”

One of the best ways to serve the local community is to partner with other institutions, Rega said. Pitzer College has a Native Pipeline to College program, a two-week, on-campus college life experience for Native students entering grades 10-12. The Pipeline incorporates Native issues into a diverse curriculum and is designed to teach students what they need to succeed in the university setting, according to Pitzer’s website.

WesternU has a linkage program with Pitzer and will provide health and well-being lessons for the Native Pipeline to College program. WesternU will also be participating in Cal Poly Pomona’s Native American Youth Leadership Summer Pipeline to College.

“We will show them how they can enrich themselves and their communities in a variety of different ways by taking care of their health or pursuing a health profession,” Rega said. “There is a whole level of energy and activation saved by having WesternU groups mobilize with relationships that are already established.”


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