American Indians are also the single most underrepresented minority in the field of medicine, comprising 1.7% of the total United States population but only 0.05% of our nation’s physicians. Other health care professions, such as nursing, dentistry, and pharmacology, demonstrate a comparable disparity. There are many factors that contribute to this imbalance, deeply rooted in decades of racial inequities and marginalization.
Education is a powerful tool in addressing these disparities, yet the statistics demonstrate a gap in student achievement among American Indian children.
- In 2009, more than 64% of American Indian students failed to score “proficient” on a standardized science assessment (as compared to 27% of their Caucasian counterparts);
- A 2011 “Annual Report Card” generated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) showed that only 24% of American Indian students at BIA schools tested at “proficient” or above in science.
American Indian children face issues surrounding their cultural identity that can contribute to poor academic achievement. One study concluded that a curriculum incorporating American Indian culture and tradition might help prevent students from dropping out of high school. A need exists, therefore, for a health science curriculum that honors and incorporates American Indian culture and tradition.