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Naomi Bender, Ph.D.


  • Doctor of Philosophy degree in Teaching & Learning in Higher Education with a focus in Curriculum and Assessment. Dissertation focused on the Lived Mentoring and Support Experiences of Native American Medical Students and Resident Physicians during Medical School.
  • Master of Arts degree in Communication with a focus in Mentoring, Interpersonal Communication and Organizational Communication
  • Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with a focus in Law Enforcement

About Naomi

Naomi M. Bender, Ph.D., a proud (Peruvian) Indigenous Quechua woman, was born and raised in central Minnesota, but often spent months at a time during her childhood, with family, learning about her cultural ways in Peru. The granddaughter of Carmela Fajardo Ulco, and the daughter of Soledad Zumaran Henriksen, Naomi comes to WSU, Spokane’s Health Sciences Campus, from the University of North Dakota’s Center for Rural Health, School of Medicine & Health Sciences, Grand Forks. For the past several years, Naomi has been a Senior Program Coordinator who developed and managed Native American health and allied health science programs under the longtime success of the Indians Into Medicine (INMED) program and the Seven Generations Center of Excellence (SGCOE). Between both federally funded Native American pipeline programs, Naomi managed the daily operations of 20 successful pathway and academic support programs that focused on the recruitment, matriculation, support, and achievement of Native American pre-med and medical students, physician assistants, nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, medical lab science, Master of Public Health, social work, counseling, and other allied health science students. Naomi’s doctoral research engaged 19 Native American medical students and those in residency in the Northern Midwest, to share their lived experiences as they pertained to mentorship and supporting mechanisms during medical school, and how those experiences helped them succeed. By doing so, the voice of Native American medical students and physicians provide meaningful considerations for medical school administrators, faculty, curriculum, and their climate, as they engage in educating our healers.

Naomi has also served as a Senior Project Coordinator for the Center for Rural Health, where she researched national best practices in curriculum and policy to build a North Dakota statewide Peer Support Specialist workforce. In addition to Naomi’s work with Native American Health Science programs, she has taught undergraduate Communication courses for the past 12 years and developed workshops for Native American students and employees of INMED and SGCOE, for the past 6 years. Naomi has also facilitated Y2 medical student’s patient-centered learning experiences and led trainings for North Dakota’s Behavioral Health Division for peer support expansion. Prior to her work in higher education, Naomi was a former State Trooper and Canine Handler for the North Dakota Highway Patrol from 1999-2005, and a licensed Peace Officer of ND from 1999-2009. Naomi’s extensive background in areas that have helped meet the systemic and holistic needs of indigenous peoples, is deeply seeded from her love of working with Native American students and helping them succeed. As Naomi has lost her grandmother and other family members to disease and a lack of culturally appropriate and meaningful healthcare, it is her life’s work to make an impact where our healthcare providers’ learning begins. It is her goal, to pursue partnerships that will help further develop and expand Native American Health Science programs that will not only support Native American student success but bring healthcare into both urban and rural tribal communities. By doing so, we help promote and actuate real change in the healthcare and well-being of our tribal people of the Pacific Northwest. As access and opportunity are at the forefront for Native American success, and tribal voice guides these pathways, she hopes to build upon these foundations with holistic, cultural, educational, and collaborative efforts.