Duluth's U of M Medical School receives $750,000 for Native American recruitment, new master's program

The funding will be used for recruiting area Indigenous students to join a new Master of Science program with tracks for health sciences and biomedical research.

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An aerial view of the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Tyler Schank / 2020 file / Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — The University of Minnesota Medical School Duluth Campus has received $750,000 to create a new master's program and to support recruitment of Indigenous students, the U of M Medical School announced Monday morning.

The award from the Genentech Innovation Fund, a biotechnology corporation, will help the school create the Gateways to Medicine and Research Master of Science degree program. According to the news release from the university, the money will go toward recruiting Indigenous students from the Upper Midwest and will provide them with full-tuition scholarships and cultural and learning support.

The Master of Science program will have a one-year medical track for students in health professions and a two-year research track in biomedical sciences. The university said the program aims to increase access to biomedical science careers in Minnesota for underserved students, with special focus on recruiting Native American students from the region. The program is in development and expected to be offered this fall.

As it waits for design funding from the state, the U of M is already looking at its Hillside neighborhood options.

“As a sovereign people, Native Americans need greater autonomy and control of their health care," Dr. Benjamin Clarke, a professor at the U of M Medical School Duluth Campus and member of the Grand Portage Band of Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, said in the release. "There needs to be more representation of Native Americans in clinics and in academic medicine. The Gateways program will provide a nurturing environment with regional and national visibility to recruit and retain students with a vested interest in promoting better health and vitality for the Native American communities."

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, 73 Native American students graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School from 2010-2019. The school has the second-highest number of Indigenous graduates, behind the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. Alex Smith, U of M media relations specialist, said the Duluth campus, with its pipeline programs and curriculum, is to credit for the high enrollment.


Fewer than 1% of medical school students and practicing physicians in the nation are Native American, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges and American Medical Association. The Duluth campus of the U of M Medical School has 11 Native students enrolled in its two-year program, which is 8% of the program's students.

A project to meet the Duluth hospital's interim parking needs could set the table for a much larger development.

While the University of Minnesota Medical School is one of the top schools in the country for graduating Native physicians, the university stated few of those graduates are from Minnesota. With the creation of this program, the school aims to attract and retain Indigenous students from the region to medical doctor and doctorate programs.

Laura Butterbrodt covers health for the Duluth News Tribune. She has a bachelor of arts in journalism from South Dakota State University and has been working as a reporter in Minnesota and South Dakota since 2014.
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