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Local Native Americans welcome PAW participants with a traditional dance at last year's workshop.

Upstate to host 26 students for special pre-admissions workshop for Native students

Upstate Medical University will once again host a special pre-admissions workshop for Native American students to help increase the number of Native students pursuing education and careers in health care.   

Upstate’s second-annual Pre-Admissions Workshop (PAW) provides pre-med/health American Indian and Alaska Native students a chance to network at Upstate, practice their interviewing skills and have their questions answered. The workshop is the only one like it in the Northeast and 26 students – six more than last year – from across the country are scheduled to attend Oct. 3 to 5.

Students will hear from a variety of Upstate departments including from the College of Medicine, admissions, financial aid and from a panel of Upstate deans. The participants will also spend time shadowing Upstate Internal Medicine residents and will attend a traditional dinner and dance at the Oneida Nation.

Incorporating cultural events into the workshop was very popular among last year’s participants, said Krystal Ripa, director of special programs for Upstate admissions. Upstate assistant professor Brian Thompson, MD – the only New York Oneida to ever graduate from medical school – said he’s proud of Upstate’s work to incorporate the region’s Native American culture into the students’ experience. 

“What makes this workshop exceptional is we are not only prepping them for medical school but the cultural immersion and sense of home they receive from the local Native communities is instrumental when these students consider Upstate for their education and evidential practice location within our community,” Thompson said.

Native American students are historically greatly underrepresented in medical schools across the country. Of 19,553 medical school graduates in 2019 only 21 identified as Native American, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. That number is especially low considering the need for Native students with medical training to return to their communities, which suffer from high rates of chronic disease and poor access to healthcare.

“Upstate should be very proud of their accomplishments and is recognized on a national level for holding this type of workshop,” Thompson said.

The workshop is co-sponsored by the Association of American Indian Physicians (AAIP). The University of Albany, University at Buffalo, the University of Rochester and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai are also participating partners. Upstate is working to establish a local chapter of The Association of Native American Medical Students (ANAMS), which is a student organization representing Native American graduate health professions students through the United States and Canada.

Upstate is providing financial support for the students’ participation in the workshop, which Ripa hopes is just the first step in a long and productive relationship between the institution and these students.

“We are constantly reminding them that they have a unique level of access and we want to be a piece of their journey that they can always turn back to,” she said. “This workshop is incredible for the content they get but it’s more so for the relationships they build.”


Caption: Native Americans from the Central New York area welcome students to the 2018 PAW with a traditional dance. This year's workshop will include several cultural events for students as well.