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Tom Hardy

Program Director

Headlands Office



In 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.

Mr. 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.

Mr. 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.

Upon 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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 altogether.

The 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.

Our 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.

Our 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.


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