A partnership between veteran researchers and professors at Harvard
Medical School and four Native American communities across the
country has strengthened science and biomedical education in high
schools attended by Native American students and is encouraging
Native high school students to pursue undergraduate training in
these fields at 4-year colleges. The program is funded by NIH.
The Native American High School Summer Program at Harvard: Opening
the Biomedical Pipeline for Native Communities arose from a suggestion
by Wallace Youvella, vice chair of the Hopi, Arizona, school board,
during a visit to Hopi Junior and Senior High School by a Harvard
team in 2001. The long-term goal of the program is to increase
the number of Native Americans entering medicine and biomedical
research. The program exposes students to, and demystifies, the
college environment. During the past five summers, teams of 10
high school students and two teachers came from four communities
to Harvard to participate in 3-week long programs designed to improve
students' learning and analytical skills, increase their science
knowledge base and refine their written and oral presentation skills.
||Native American/Hawaiian students
and their teachers attend a lecture by Prof. Edwin Furshpan
at Harvard Medical School’s Medical Education Center
as part of the Native American High School Summer Program.
Dr. Ernest J. Marquez, associate director for special populations
and director of the NIMH Office for Special Populations, arranged
funding through an NIH coalition. Marquez invited NIDA and NINDS
to join NIMH in support of the program in summer 2004. During site
visits to Harvard, Marquez remarked on the exceptionally high quality
of research experiences offered to the students and to the mentoring
and learning environment provided.
Neurobiology research professors Drs. Edwin Furshpan and David
Potter cohost the program at Harvard. From the beginning, the content
and format of the program and the choice of students and teachers
have been controlled by the participating Native communities. Their
core goal has been to increase the number of students from their
communities who go on to complete undergraduate and graduate studies
at leading institutions. The academic program resembles an informal
freshman seminar, following a case-based format, with daily lectures
The initial success of the program with a Hopi team in the summer
of 2001 led to requests to participate from the Fort Peck Assiniboine/Sioux
Tribe in Montana, starting in summer 2002, and from a Native Hawaiian
group and the Wampanoag Tribe (Aquinnah and Mashpee) on Cape Cod
in 2003 and 2004. In 2005, 38 students and 8 teachers from the
four communities took part. Vicky Takamini, the principal organizer
in Hawaii, introduced an intensive pre-program week in Hawaii focused
on Native Hawaiian history and culture, to bond the team of students
who had been drawn from public and private high schools on four
|Hopi High School and Native
Hawaiian students participating in the program collaborate
to solve a medical case in a tutorial facilitated by Prof.
At the request of the Native communities, during the summers of
2004 and 2005, the academic subject was substance abuse, with emphasis
on alcohol and methamphetamine. In summer 2005, psychosocial aspects
of substance abuse were added to the basic science of the brain
and the actions of abused substances via the brain's "reward system."
The Native communities have generally chosen new students each
year. A student from Fort Peck, who attended the program for three
summers after her freshman year in high school, is now a freshman
at Stanford. A second student from Fort Peck has begun her sophomore
year at Harvard. Program participants who have graduated from Hopi
Jr./Sr. High School currently attend the University of Arizona
(9), Arizona State (4), Northern Arizona University (5), Central
Arizona College (2), Fort Lewis College (2) and Dartmouth (1).
Among these Hopi students who have already declared a professional
interest are: pre-meds (6), nursing students (5) and engineering
As a major part of the close-out activities, the students wrote
and produced plays about the impact of substance abuse on their
home communities, for presentation at home. At the students' insistence,
staff and teachers were excluded from the writing and production
of the plays, so that the performances represented the students' unedited
voices. After the play, each group led a discussion of the performance.
The plays and discussions proved to be strikingly sharp and moving.
"Education is at its best when people are directly involved and
active in their learning," said Furshpan. "By undertaking thiswhole
enterprise entirely by themselves, the kids internalized the lessons
and were able to give them back. They talked about the effect of
alcoholism and substance abuse in their communities and demonstrated
a very secure understanding of the consequences of alcohol and
The Harvard and Native participants are now discussing extension
of the programs into the academic year through broadband technology.
The Indian Health Service has offered to provide broadband links
that can support two-way videoconferencing between two of the reservations
(Hopi and Fort Peck) and Harvard, over existing lines via the IHS
clinics. "These links can extend the scope of the summer programs
to include year-round activities and create an on-going virtual
community," said Furshpan.
In summer 2005, the program was supported by a Science Education
Partnership Award from the National Center for Research Resources
and contributions from the original three NIH institutes as well
as NIGMS and NIAAA.
"The program expands expectations and opportunities of talented
Native American students. Already, the program has demonstrated
results. College acceptance rates from the first two sessions are
promising and many of the students participated in Harvard summer
school as well. One girl from Fort Peck was accepted for undergraduate
studies at Harvard and last fall began her sophomore year. Furshpan
said: "She's thriving!"