Na-ha-shnee STEAM Health Institute
Despite Drawbacks of COVID-19, Native High School Youth Move Forward in Exploring Health Sciences Professions
Before there was a pandemic, there were inequities. Prior to coronavirus, access to health care was not equal for the underserved and in rural communities. Ahead of COVID-19, opportunities were not equal for Native youth and other youth of color who were interested in pursuing a health care profession. As one would guess, the pandemic has not improved these inequities.
Coronavirus is drastically changing the landscape of the nation and world. It follows that there are profound impacts to many communities already historically marginalized by society. Confoundingly, programs meant to improve these conditions are additional victims of the pandemic as they experience barriers associated with working and learning from afar. Programs like WSU’s Native American Health Sciences (NAHS) program are affected, which means their work to decrease Native health disparities by increasing access and support for Native students and bolster the overall number in health care and research is being impacted. This, at a time when it is more critical than ever that pathways are created for Native youth to access careers as nurses, pharmacists, doctors, and more.
Such was the case in spring 2019, when it was becoming increasingly obvious to NAHS faculty and staff that they would not be able to host, in-person, their first-ever Native STEAM Summer Research Institute, a three-week program for Native high school students interested in pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering, arts or mathematics, nor would they be able to hold their popular, annual Na-ha-shnee Summer Institute a 12-day free summer camp for Native high school students interested in health science careers. Rather than cancel either event, tireless and innovative NAHS faculty and staff pivoted to combine the two events and host them remotely. Native STEAM Director, Lonnie Nelson, took the additional bold step of redirecting some of his discretionary funds to support the effort and empower the next generation of Native researchers at WSU.