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'American Diagnosis': Two Indigenous Students Share Their Paths to Medicine

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Episode 9: “Two Ways, Two Future Doctors”

In 1890, Dr. Charles Eastman was among the first in the United States to graduate from medical school one of the indigenous people. Today, one of his descendants, Victor Lopez-Carmen, is a third-year student at Harvard Medical School. He described the sense of isolation there.

“I do feel lonely. I don’t have any Aboriginal people around me to turn to,” Lopez-Carmen said.

Less than 1% of US medical students identify as American Indian or Alaska Native. That’s according to a 2018 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Society of American Indian Physicians.

Lopez Carmen is trying to change that. In 2021, he co-founded the Ohiyesa Premedical Program, which provides guidance and support for Native American students in the medical school application process.

A digital illustration in pencil and watercolor. A smiling Indigenous woman wearing is wearing doctor's coat and has a stethoscope around her neck. She wears a pair of dangly beaded earrings which are orange, black, and white. The earrings appear to be radiating light, to emphasize their importance in the image.
(Oona Tempest / KHN, Little E Creations (earrings))

Ashton Glover Gatewood at America’s first affiliated Native tribe while Lopez-Kamen mentors prospective medical students in Boston, Oklahoma Medical school finds community. Gatewood attended Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Cherokee Nation.

“I told my husband about it and he said, ‘It sounds like they’re training you in a medical school. You have to leave,'” Gatewood said.

Noting a “momentum” in medical training, she said the health-care disparities experienced by Aboriginal people could one day be reduced.

Episode 9 explores the barriers that Native Americans face to becoming doctors, including the story of two medical students who join the ranks of Native American healthcare workers

Voiceovers for episodes:

    Victor Lopez – Carmen , Harvard Medical School student — @vlocarmen
    Mary Owen, Director, Center for American Indian and Minority Health, University of Minnesota , President of the Association of American Indian Physicians

Ashton Glover Gatewood , Stud in the Department of Otolaryngology, Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Cherokee Nation — @AshtonGatewoo10

  • The fourth season of American Diagnostics is a co-production between KHN and Just Human.

    Our Editorial Advisory Board includes Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Alastair Bitsóí and Bryan Pollard.

    To listen to all KHN podcasts, click here.

    Listen and follow US Diagnosis on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google or Stitcher.

    [Correction: This article was updated on July 27, 2022 at 11:15AM ET to accurately describe Dr. Charles Eastman’s academic milestones. ]



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