July 19, 2012
THHS select interns to increase tribal members in health care fields
By Lailani Upham
(L to R) Nicole Callahan, Alice Van Gunten, Jessi Cahoon, Adessa Durglo, and Thomas McClure are the selected interns for the first year launch of CSKT’s Tribal Health internship program to increase the number of tribal members in the healthcare field of study. (Lailani Upham photo)
POLSON — The new Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Health internship program is not only a work experience opportunity, but also a strategy to increase the number of tribal members to seek out health professions, says Brenda Bodner, CSKT Tribal Health Registered Dietician and Intern Planning Committee member.
The internship is achieving its goal.
Five young tribal members from different walks of life and experience were selected to participate in an innovative program to fill in a lack of tribal professionals in the medical field.
The internship program has been in the making for a while, says Bodner. The seven-member planning committee took the leap of faith to make it happen this year. “We really weren’t sure we’d get five interns. But were surprised once it went out – we had applicants from all over the country.”
The Tribal Health internship program’s goal is to plant seeds of medical interest in young students and to retain them through the years.
The idea is to mentor the students and bring them back on board on top of an increase in students each summer says, Cindy McAfee, CSKT THHS Clinical Practice Manager and Planning Committee member.
“The program’s goal is to recruit tribal professionals in the health field. There is a big deficiency of tribal members and professional degrees. This is an incentive for the young students to choose a health career,” says Bodner.
The five disciplines areas for the program are: medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy and physical therapy.
This year’s participants are local tribal member students: Nicole Callahan, behavioral health intern; Alice Van Gunten, medical intern; Jessi Cahoon, pharmacy intern; Adessa Durglo, physical therapy; and Thomas McClure, dentistry intern.
Callahan, a Salish Kootenai College senior in the Psychology program says the program has delivered a greater understanding to serve the (Indian) community in health needs.
Callahan, a 2006 St. Ignatius high school graduate says, she will be continuing on to graduate school at the University of Montana in Clinical Studies and her long-term goal is to return to CSKT Tribal Health as a professional healthcare staff.
“I hope to work for the CSKT tribe as a behavioral health therapist. The internship I have been fortunate enough to receive has opened many opportunities and professional connections. I am extremely thankful to this program.”
McAfee says that part of the program includes that the interns experience many areas of healthcare and switch positions to get a first-hand idea in what area might interest them the most.
Van Gunten, who is studying Human Biology at the University of Montana, says she is undecided in what area of medical study to commit to. Since working with several areas in the medical department at Tribal Health, Van Gunten says she is leaning toward Healthcare Administration.
Durglo, a St. Ignatius high School 2011 graduate and a sophomore at Montana State University in the exercise science program, says her involvement in sports drew her into the field. “My love of sports, being active and helping others has been my reasons for going into physical therapy. This internship has been a great experience and has helped me in many ways. I look forward to continuing with my education and coming back to work on the reservation I grew up on.”
Durglo competed in volleyball, track and basketball in high school and currently is on the track and field team at MSU-Bozeman.
McClure, a 2011 Arlee High School finished his first year of undergraduate study in the Human Biology program at the University of Montana.
McClure has been spending most of his time in the dental clinic observing procedures and relating to staff. “Working with the other interns has been a helpful and fun experience. McClure says through the internship experience he has found himself participating in dental dealings a lot more than when he first came on board. McClure admits the dental surgeries he has witnessed are “pretty intense” however; it has intensified his interest in pursuing dentistry studies.
Cahoon, a graduate student from Skagg School of Pharmacy in San Diego finished her undergraduate degree from the University of Montana in Human Biology. Cahoon expects to graduate with a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences in May 2015.
Cahoon says she heard of the internship program from the Native American Center of Excellence at the Skagg School of Pharmacy, and an ad in the Char-Koosta.
“During this internship I have been working closely with the interns in planning and promoting the Health Care Warrior Camp which is in August. I have also been working at the St. Ignatius Pharmacy under the supervision of Mike Hertz, which has been a great opportunity to gain practical experience in my field of study.”
The planning committee members that have worked and seen the program evolve into a success are: Dr. LeeAnna Muzquiz, Medical Director; Garry Pitts, Dental Director; Kim Azure, Behavioral Health Division Manager; Pearl Yellowman Caye, Community Programs; Clarice Cooper, Clinical Care Division Manager; Marcia St. Goddard, Physical Therapist; Brenda Bodner, Registered Dietician; and Cindy McAfee Clinical Practice Manager.
Yellowman Caye, who oversees Callahan, says one of the goals is for the interns to gain a better understanding how Tribal Health engages in community health education and reaches out.
One specific goal Yellowman Caye has for the interns is to build a better understanding of “prevention” and how to apply it strategically. To research and reflect on what kind of model is needed for prevention tactics.
Last and not least, is for the interns to leave with an understanding of a professional-setting and foundation of networking, says Yellowman Caye.
One other segment of the internship program design is for the interns to develop a summer youth camp for seventh graders who are CSKT tribal members or descendants to introduce and promote interest in healthcare professions.
“Another goal is to have the interns teach younger students about their experience in the field,” stated McAfee.
It is a little past the half-way point in the internship program and all five students have developed a summer youth program with guidance only from their preceptors, says McAfee.
“They did it all.”
The Healthcare Warriors summer camp, August 14 – 16, will be held at Blue Bay campsite.
Deadline for applicants is Friday, July 27.
The purpose of the summer camp is guide younger students to understand what is needed personally and academically through the high school years to plan for college admission and studying in the health arena.
Interns are paid and will also receive a $2,000 scholarship for the 2012-13 school year.
For more information and application for the Healthcare Warriors summer camp contact Brenda Bodner at (406) 745-3525, ext. 5020; or by email at: email@example.com.