Diversity in the Health Professions

Health Consortium Recruits Native American Health Professionals

hile California has the largest Native American population in the country, the health care field faces a shortage of Native American providers. Of California’s 93,000 physicians, only 65 are Native American. As a result, rural, geographically remote Native American communities experience some of the most significant health disparities in the nation.

Statistics reveal that minority health professionals are more likely to practice in shortage areas, yet the relatively small number of Native American students entering health programs makes recruiting and retaining Native American health professionals a daunting challenge. Increasing the supply of qualified Native American health workers is an important strategy for underserved communities to access quality, culturally competent health services.

"Many [Native American] elders prefer to receive medical treatment from someone they know and someone they feel understands them when they try to communicate," said Marilyn Pollard, administrative services department director with the California Rural Indian Health Board (CRIHB). "The fast pace of the dominant culture puts off most elders. They do not feel that the person has time for them or cares about their particular illness or situation and therefore will not go to a doctor’s office under those circumstances."

In March, TCWF awarded a three-year, $250,000 grant to CRIHB to recruit and retain Native American professionals in the health field. With 11 member programs that serve approximately 66,000 patients at 28 clinic sites, CRIHB has been working since 1969 to develop policies and services that elevate the health and social conditions of the Native American people of rural California.

CRIHB’s recruitment efforts include offering scholarships to Native American students pursuing careers in the health professions, building relationships with educational systems, assessing program staffing needs at member clinics, and building an Internet database of qualified Native American health providers as a recruiting tool. A tribal recruitment and retention specialist, a position that will be possible through TCWF’s grant, will coordinate these efforts to abate high turnover rates and professional staff shortages experienced at most member clinics.

The provision of culturally competent care for Native American communities plays a large role in these efforts. Native American health professionals have a better understanding of the unique communication styles of different tribal groups. For example, clients at one of the clinics may speak more generally, downplaying medical problems. What is described as a "bellyache" may, in fact, be something much more serious.

CRIHB encourages participation in all professional levels of health care. While recruitment efforts are geared towards medical doctors, other health professionals - such as pharmacists, dentists, registered nurses, medical record clerks and data input operators - are also supported.

“Maintaining a diverse workforce of health professionals is a necessary step in ensuring that all Californians have access to quality health services,” said Alicia Procello, TCWF program director. “CRIHB’s recruitment efforts ensure that rural Native American communities will receive culturally competent health care of the highest quality.”

For more information, please visit www.crihb.org

Summer 2003

Young Californians Advocate for Healthier Communities

Honoring senior volunteers

Recruiting Native Americans for careers in health professions

Center’s services for at-risk women aim to reduce infant mortality

Staff Profile

How To Apply

Grants Listing

What’s New


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