Since 1995, Washington State University Spokane has been active in recruiting Native Americans students to health care fields through two programs – a student recruitment and retention program, and a two-week summer institute for Native American high school students.

Both programs are led by Dr. Robbie Paul, PhD, a member of the Nez Perce Tribe who had been leading both programs since they began. Over the years, Paul also has taken on roles in advising and mentoring students as well as other assignments aimed at representing Native Americans in the University’s health care education programs.

“The U.S. is facing a critical health care provider shortage and unfortunately, the shortage is even greater in Native American populations,” Paul says. “Native Americans and other minority populations represent a small percentage of the health care providers, yet there is strong evidence that a health care workforce which reflects the diversity of its people is able to provide better quality health care than one that does not.”

Native American Recruitment and Retention Program

The Native American Recruitment and Retention Program (NARR) was implemented at WSU in 1995 to increase the number of Native American nurses. The program successfully contributed to the graduation of more than 60 nurses during its first 18 years, and had recruited Native American students to pursue the highest levels of nursing degrees available (Doctor of Nursing Practice, Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing). After graduation, most nurses returned to their tribes or went to work in clinical settings that predominately serve Native Americans.

Today, the NARR program has expanded its focus to increase the number of Native American students entering all health science careers.

Na-ha-shnee Health Sciences Institute

Since 1995, Native American high school students representing various tribes from the Northwest have been given the chance to participate in Na-ha-shnee, a two-week summer camp at Washington State University Spokane. The program encourages youth to try out a career in the health sciences by providing hands-on learning experiences taught by health care providers, faculty at WSU Spokane and health sciences college students.

Students engage with life on campus at WSU Spokane, stay in a dormitory at Gonzaga University, gain exposure to health care professions, and participate in health care courses trainings. The courses cover a range of subjects from basic science, leadership, to Native American education. Other topics/skills training include:

  • First aid and CPR training
  • Basic nursing skills
  • Traditional medicine
  • Native American elder teachings
  • Substance abuse and education
  • Sex education
  • Diabetes education
  • Leadership skill building

Institute Sponsors

Each year the summer institute is made possible by the generous contributions of its sponsors. Past sponsors have included the Snoqualmie Tribe, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Squaxin Island Tribe, Tulalip Tribes and the Puyallup Tribe of Indians as well as the Trude E. Smith funds.


NaHaShnee Online Application »

NaHaShnee Application (PDF) »


Emma E. Noyes, MPH
Outreach Coordinator
P.O. Box 1495
Spokane, WA 99210-1495

Robbie Paul

Robbie Paul, PhD, Director
Native American Health Sciences