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Three seniors from Madras High School get insight into potential health-related careers.

SUSAN MATHENY/MADRAS PIONEER - Dove Spector, left, program coordinator, introduces Warm Springs' first Tribal Health Scholars, Kaliyah Iverson, second from left, Enrique Ramirez and Lynden Harry, at the Madras High School awards assembly, held May 31, two days before graduation ceremonies.
Three seniors from Madras High School got insight into potential health-related careers during the new Tribal Health Scholars program, sponsored by the Northwest Native American Center of Excellence, MHS, On Track, and the Indian Health Service.

Before graduating this June, Lynden Harry, Kaliyah Iverson and Enrique Ramirez were handpicked by Principal H.D. Weddel for the 14-week job shadowing program at the Warm Springs Health and Wellness Clinic.

"The first year, we wanted to have rock star students who would create good relationships with the clinic staff," said program coordinator and mentor Dove Spector, adding, "Next year, we will have an application process."

Both the Northwest Center of Excellence and On Track are based out of the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. The Center of Excellence works to recruit and retain more Native American health care professionals, and has career education programs for middle school- through college-age students.

Once recruited, Spector said, "My counterpart, Warm Springs tribal member Rosa Frutos, of Portland, works to support Native American medical students, residents and faculty."

The On Track program, from OHSU, has been working for several years with students at the Warm Springs K-8 Academy to help them envision themselves as scientists or health field professionals.

Lynden, Kaliyah and Enrique were all in the On Track program before being selected as Tribal Health Scholars.

There was a need to give tribal students job shadowing experience so they could see health careers in action and maybe become interested in medical study.

"The goal was to get them into the clinic to shadow doctors, a dentist, pharmacist, and radiologist to see what they can do in a clinic or health professional field," Spector said.

Besides getting firsthand experience, the students also got paid $12 per hour for the work they did at the clinic. Beginning last February, every Monday from 8-9 a.m., the three seniors followed a set schedule shadowing different health providers at the Warm Springs clinic.

"They all got one-on-one experience, which is really important," Spector said.

The schedule was followed for 11 weeks, and then the last three weeks, the students got to pick an area. "That gave them an opportunity to dive into the area where their interest was," Spector said.

Enrique started out with an interest in nursing, but switched during the program and now wants to be a pediatrician, and is applying to attend Portland State University.

Lynden is interested in physical therapy, and students need job shadowing experience to get into physical therapy school, Spector said. "When she comes back from college, she will be able to job shadow in her hometown, which is a huge benefit," Spector said.

Kaliyah started out exploring dentistry, but now is interested in being a pediatrician. She got a letter of recommendation from one of the doctors she worked with, and received several senior scholarships.

"The program opened doors and connected them," Spector said, to careers in the tribal health field. "It was great to see the students transform and I'm very honored to have had them as our first cohort," she added.

After the program, Spector said her other role is to connect students to resources for higher education. "I provide a mentorship through social media to help them find scholarships," she said.

Looking at statistics across the U.S., Native Americans make up 2 percent of the overall population, yet only around 0.3 percent of Native Americans get into medical school.

"That is not a strong percentage. There are a lot of open positions in clinics that serve Native Americans, so there is a disconnect that could be served by Native American students," Spector said, noting the Tribal Health Scholars is a start toward that goal.

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