SMHS remains top producer of American Indian physicians in North America

Fifty years ago this week—July 8, 1970—President Richard Nixon delivered his “Special Message on Indian Affairs.” This policy speech not only paved the way for reversing the federal government’s “Termination” policy, which had rescinded the sovereignty of American Indian tribes, but strove to improve American Indian health in several ways.

The UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS) is recognizing the anniversary because the policy reversal played a direct role in creating UND’s historic Indians Into Medicine (INMED) program.

“I teach American Indian health policy, and many of my students are surprised to hear that President Nixon was instrumental in promoting tribal sovereignty and Indigenous rights,” noted Donald Warne, M.D., M.P.H., director of the INMED and Master of Public Health programs at the SMHS. “On the fiftieth anniversary of his special message to Congress, it is important to acknowledge that the change in federal Indian policy from terminating tribal status to promoting tribal sovereignty and self-determination has created opportunities to improve health and educational systems. It also led to more investment in American Indian programming, including establishing Indian Health Service scholarships and the INMED program right here at UND.”

Since the founding of INMED in 1973, originally accomplished through federal appropriations, the SMHS has made advancing the health of American Indians one of its core missions. This mission includes both improving American Indian health and producing more American Indian health care providers, from physicians and physical therapists to occupational therapists and public health researchers.

With this mission in mind, the School is also proud to announce that recent data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has shown that the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences is again the nation’s premier producer of American Indian physicians.

Data culled from the AAMC’s “Missions Management Tool” shows that from 2018-2020 the SMHS ranked in the 100th percentile—higher than any other school in the database—for the fraction of its graduating medical student class to identify as American Indian. In recent years prior to 2018, the school ranked in the 99th percentile.

In nearly 50 years, INMED has produced almost 1,000 American Indian health professionals, including more than 250 physicians.

“We are very proud to have eight INMED students as part of our freshman medical student class of 2024 who began their studies earlier this week,” commented Joshua Wynne, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., vice president for Health Affairs at UND and dean of the SMHS. “I like to say that an organization like the UND SMHS is characterized by not just what it says, but also by what it does. The INMED program is a testament to our commitment to deliver on the imperative to move toward more health equity implicit in former President Nixon’s ‘Special Message on Indian Affairs.’”