Avera Health established a scholarship fund for Native American Indians at The University of South Dakota (USD) Sanford School of Medicine that will provide educational opportunities for American Indian medical students. Recipients of these scholarships will be encouraged to provide care in under-served South Dakota areas.

Bob Sutton, Avera Health President and CEO, says this is a ground-breaking opportunity that will help build pathways to enhance health care in places where it is most needed. The fund will provide $24,000 for American Indian students who are enrolled members of federally recognized tribes located in South Dakota or the upper Midwest. The first recipient scholar will be announced in July.

“This partnership will allow Sanford School of Medicine to provide opportunities to promising American Indian students, who as future physicians will serve their communities directly,” said Mary D. Nettleman, MD, Dean of USD’s Sanford School of Medicine. “Indirectly, their examples will inspire future generations.”

The program aligns with Avera Health’s mission to make a positive impact on the lives and health of persons and communities, all while considering future needs and resources, including talented students. In addition to the funding, the program includes a mentorship program for students with Avera staff to support these students throughout their medical education.

Avera and the medical school will collaborate to recruit potential student scholars for the program, and the health system’s ongoing outreach on reservations will make the recruitment more effective.