Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences
Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences

OAAIMS Programs

Native Explorers

Native Explorers is a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Native Explorers provides educational programs and promotes partnerships that increase the number of Native Americans in science and medicine. The Native Explorers program at OSU-CHS is designed around the disciplines of anatomy and vertebrate paleontology to provide an array of hands-on, off campus activities to introduce Natives to the scientific method and traditional ways.

General themes include climate change, evolution, comparative osteology, stratigraphy, mapping, healthful lifestyles and Native culture. This educational program is focused on Natives18 years of age and older who are interested in higher education.

Partnerships include scientists and educators from the Chickasaw Nation, the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, the USDA Forest Service (Price District, Price, Utah) and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Native and non-native scientists and educators from the USDA Forest Service and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources demonstrate field methods used to manage the local resources and they provide insights into internships and careers as well. Native Explorers hopes to partner with every federally recognized tribe in the U.S as well as every educational institution interested in achieving the same goals.

Native OKstars

The OSU-CHS Native Oklahoma Science Training and Research Students program introduces Native American high school juniors and seniors to medical school and the programs offered by OSU-CHS. This program is designed to encourage American Indian students to pursue a career in the medical field and contains a cultural component from the OSU-CHS Office for the Advancement of American Indians in Medicine and Science.

Interns are matched with an American Indian faculty member and medical student and will learn about pathways to medical school and careers in science, technology, engineering and math. In addition to the faculty member, participants are paired with a Native American medical student who has completed their first year of medical school.

Native FATE

When Brandon Whitten died in a motorcycle accident in 2002, his father, Reggie Whitten, was devastated. A "walking dead man" in search of a reason to live, he found purpose in raising awareness of Brandon's addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol.  Brandon was a young Native American man with great promise.  To address the problems associated with substance abuse and addiction, the co-founders of the Native Explorers Foundation created Native FATE, which is aimed at preventing substance abuse and addiction in Indian Country. 

Native FATE strives to reduce the number of Native people who succumb to substance abuse by providing workshops and presentations on substance abuse and healthful lifestyles.  These programs are structured around science and health to pave a pathway for a life free of addiction to alcohol or drugs.  The absolute methods to preventing addiction include abstinence and prevention.

At Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, part of the curriculum for second-year medical students includes a course in addiction medicine.  The course is taught by experts (physicians, lawyers, and research scientists) in the field.  The course objectives are listed below:

  1. Defining addiction and review of the bio-, psycho-, socio-mechanism in an attempt to improve the attitude of the student in working with this patient population through improved knowledge of the disease;
  2. Motivate the participants to remain attentive to identification and treatment of this disease through a better understanding of its relevance in health care;
  3. Improve knowledge of the physician role and practice in recognizing, evaluation, and management of substance use disorders; and
  4. Understand the role of an addiction medicine specialist and the importance of integrating their expertise in a general medicine practice.

Research seems to indicate addictions are heritable because associated disorders require use.  Thus, to become an addict individuals must make a choice that is probably controlled by both the environment and DNA.  Therefore, a stronger understanding of addictions may result from the identification of genes which play a role in altered substance-specific vulnerabilities like variation in drug metabolism, drug receptors, and / or participate in shared vulnerabilities like variation in reward or stress resiliency (Goldman et al. 2005).

Native FATE provides educational programs and promotes partnerships that will significantly reduce the number of Native Americans that fall to substance abuse and addictions.  Native FATE hopes to partner with every federally recognized tribe in Oklahoma as well as every educational institution interested in achieving similar goals.

Cherokee STEM/Medicine Camp Participants
Cherokee STEM/Medicine Camp Participants

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