INDIAN HEALTH CAREERS
1975 there were only 72 American Indian physicians to serve
the medical needs of 1,000,000 American Indians, most of whom
lived on Reservations. The Headlands Indian Health Careers
Program was started in 1975 as an attack on this problem and
was the conception of the late Mr. Peter McCormick and Ms.
Kathryn Dumont Block (Osage). Mr. McCormick and Ms. Block
observed the disadvantaged status and conditions of the American
Indian population. They became especially concerned
about the almost total lack of American Indian health professionals
available to service American Indian people.
McCormick and Ms. Block approached the Chauncey and Marion
Deering McCormick Foundation in 1974 with their concern over
the low number of American Indians in the health professions.
Mr. McCormick suggested to the directors of the Foundation
that they sponsor an intensive summer program for a small
number of American Indian college freshmen who had evidenced
a desire to enter scientific fields of study. The program
would consist of courses drawn from the biological sciences,
chemistry, physics and mathematics with the idea of remedying
any deficiencies the students may have suffered in these areas
because of inadequate high school training. It was hoped that
these students could be reached at the critical point where
they were about to select their college major, and to guide
and encourage them in selecting a health profession as a career.
McCormick also suggested that Headlands, an estate formerly
owned by his father, Roger McCormick, and located two miles
west of Mackinaw City, Michigan, be the site for the educational
program. Upon Roger's death in 1968, the estate had been devised
under his will to the Chauncey and Marion Deering McCormick
Foundation. Peter suggested that the Headlands site, with
its existing buildings (Pool House and Guest House), could
be transformed into a mini-campus with complete dormitory,
dining, classroom and recreational facilities.
their approval of Mr. McCormick's suggestions the directors
of the Foundation approached the American Indian Institute
at the University of Oklahoma at Norman to formulate and administer
the program. The American Indian Institute had previously
sponsored preparatory health-career-development programs for
young American Indian students. However, these programs had
always been held on an established campus with readily available
resident faculty, existing dormitory and dining facilities,
and a limited geographical scope for student recruitment.
Consequently, the proposed Headlands program involved a high
degree of challenge. Mr. Boyce D. Timmons, (Cherokee) Director
of the American Indian Institute, accepted that challenge.
The program was developed in the spring of 1975, and the first
session was held that summer at the Headlands estate.
program became known as the Headlands Indian Health Careers
Program and continued to be held on the Headlands site, known
as the Headlands Conference Center, through the summer of
1993. During the summer of 1994 the program was held at North
Central Michigan College in Petoskey, Michigan. This summer,
the program will be held on the Norman Campus of the University
of Oklahoma. Future programs will continue to be held in the
State of Oklahoma.
program is now administered through the Department of Microbiology
and Immunology within the College of Medicine at the University
of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Joseph J. Ferretti, Ph.D.,
past-Chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology
and now Senior Vice-President and Provost, was in on the ground
floor of the development of the program. He was the
overall Program director from 1977-1979 and has served as
the Associate Director since that time. Mr. Tom Hardy,
Assistant to the Vice-Provost of Educational Services, has
served as the Resident Director most of the program's history
and has been overall Program Director since 1979 is responsible
for all phases of operation of the Headlands Program.
lack of adequate health care and education of American Indians
has been well documented. The gravity of the problem is reflected
in part by the low representation of American Indians in the
health professions. Surveys indicate that the underlying cause
for this shortage is that the American Indian college student
suffers from inadequate science and mathematics instruction.
By the end of the first or second year of college and after
low or even failing grades in science and math courses, most
students feel ill prepared to pursue a health career. As a
result, they pursue a career that does not involve courses
in science and math or in many cases they drop out of college
Headlands Indian Health Careers Program is an 8-week summer
program designed to increase the science and mathematics backgrounds
and communication skills of American Indian students interested
in a health career. Our immediate objective is that the participants,
upon completion of the program, should be better prepared
for the math and science courses required in pre-health courses
of study and should have better study habits for college work
in general, raising their chances of success in college and
gaining admission to a health professional school.
primary goal is to increase the number of American Indian
health professionals. We must first increase the number of
qualified applicants who apply to health professional schools
which, in turn, will result in the increased admission and
enrollment of American Indians in these schools. Because of
the currently low number of American Indian students enrolled
in such schools the Headlands program can have a significant
effect in increasing this number.
ultimate objective is to increase the number of American Indian
health professionals servicing reservations and American Indian
communities. We would like to believe that our students, after
completing a professional health science program, will return
to work in their communities. More importantly, however, is
that these students complete professional schools and enter
health professional careers. Only then can a decision
be made on their part to return to their community.