WSU Spokane to offer Indigenous students cultural education with new clinical space

Center For Native American Health Simulation Space
WSU Health Sciences students learn and practice in a simulation space in the Center for Native American Health
Washington State University

SPOKANE, Wash. – Washington State University Spokane medical students will learn about medicine and Indigenous health from Native instructors in a newly planned space at the Center for Native American Health.

Part of the Native American Health Sciences (NAHS) program, students and clinicians will get a holistic view of care with the help of Native instructors in medicine, nursing, pharmacy and allied health, and areas of traditional healing perspectives.

WSU said the space will give students the opportunity to learn about Indigenous health and wellness from Native healers.

“This program is creating pathways for Native American communities by reimagining both education and patient care in a way that is uniquely influenced by those it will serve,” said Kurt Walsdorf, Bank of America Spokane president. “Our partners at NAHS are providing a strong curriculum that tackles health disparities for tribal communities in the Pacific Northwest and beyond, while also developing a diverse future workforce. We appreciate the invaluable contributions of Dr. Bender and all those involved for ensuring that our region is a beacon for positive change.”

WSU said the space will include a patient exam simulation room, a hospital patient exam simulation room, a teaching and mediation room and storage for the spaces and accompanying healing modalities.

The new space is funded through a $250,000 grant from Bank of America, and will be called the Bank of America Indigenous Clinical Simulation Suites. It is part of the company’s focus on advancing racial equality and economic opportunity.

“Throughout our histories and across the world, it has taken the listening ears, minds and hearts of our allies and friends who wanted to see a more peaceful, kind and equitable world,” said Naomi Bender, director of WSU Spokane’s NAHS program. “Through this generous gift, Bank of America is honoring what so many others have set aside: Our ways of knowing and healing. Bank of America is investing in a future where our health care workforce will begin to eliminate health disparities through culturally-centered knowledge and practices that counterbalance western views, instead of perpetuating them.”

NAHS is also developing a 12‑credit Interprofessional Indigenous Healing Perspectives certificate that will use the space to advance cultural safety practices in medicine. The certificate will be available both in‑person and online for people across the U.S.

WSU said the center also represents a major milestone of NAHS’s efforts to recruit, retain and serve Native and non‑Native students, and tribal community partners. The number of Native American pre‑health students enrolling to WSU systemwide increased by 30 percent in the most recent academic year. WSU Spokane saw a 50 percent increase in Native student enrollment as well.

With this grant, NAHS also aims to provide support, space, training, collaborations and other work with tribal communities across the nation.

Currently, WSU Spokane boasts 45 Native American students and NAHS serves 189 WSU Native American pre‑health students. WSU said the center is open to all students and acts as an educational space for Native students and their peers.

This is the second recent collaboration between WSU and Bank of America, including a $250,000 grant to help launch the Spinout Space in Spokane (sp³nw), a new life sciences incubator to launch start-up companies.

WSU said the planned space is believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S.

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