UA Colleges of Medicine and Navajo Nation Sign Agreement Establishing Scholarship Fund for Navajo Medical Students

The Navajo Nation Future Physicians’ Scholarship Fund will cover medical school tuition costs for up to seven Navajo students a year, for six years. The agreement then will be reviewed for renewal.

In a ceremony today at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, officials with the Navajo Nation Department of Diné Education and the UA Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix signed an agreement to establish the Navajo Nation Future Physicians’ Scholarship Fund to help more Navajo students pursue careers as physicians.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez; UA Health Sciences Assistant Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Francisco Moreno, MD; UA College of Medicine – Tucson Interim Dean Charles Cairns, MD; and UA College of Medicine – Phoenix Associate Dean of Admissions Tara Cunningham, EdD, were among those who participated in the signing ceremony.

“This agreement is historic for us,” President Begaye said Thursday. “We have never had a relationship with any medical school anywhere in the country. And for the University of Arizona to open its doors and its schools for this to happen is really phenomenal. We are excited about seeing seven students enter this program, and then bringing them home when they are done with their medical education.”

Dr. Cairns called the agreement “a major milestone in the history of the University of Arizona Colleges of Medicine. This is going to benefit not just the Navajo Nation and its students who want to become doctors. It's also going to benefit all of our students and faculty by creating a richer and more diverse learning environment."

Dr. Moreno commented: "As a medical school committed to increasing diversity in the physician workforce, it is a privilege and an honor to partner with the Navajo Nation to establish this important new scholarship fund. We know there is a nationwide shortage of physicians, particularly in rural areas, and that reservations are among the hardest hit. These scholarships will enable Navajo students to fulfill their aspirations of becoming physicians, while serving as role models for Navajo youth who want to follow in their footsteps."

At a meeting of UA and Navajo officials before the signing, Dr. Cunningham said, “It’s heartbreaking for us to know there are very bright Navajo students who want to come to our colleges, but we lose them to other schools that have been able to offer them more financial support. Now these students will know that the University of Arizona medical schools, both campuses, are committed to their development. It will change their trajectory. So this is a very exciting day for us.”

Increasing the diversity of the physician workforce is a top priority for both UA medical schools. The UA College of Medicine – Tucson’s Pre-Medical Admissions Pathway Program (PMAP), gives students a year of classes and academic counseling to prepare for the Medical College Admissions Test. The program seeks to enroll students from under-represented minority groups, particularly Native Americans, and those who have not had the economic and educational advantages that help other students qualify for medical school.

The UA College of Medicine – Phoenix offers a similar program, the Pathway Scholars Program (PSP). Both programs are funded through the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.

The agreement signed today goes into effect July 1 for six years, when it will be reviewed for renewal.

Other key points of the Navajo Nation Future Physicians’ Scholarship Fund include:

  • The fund will provide financial aid to cover students’ tuition, and academic support for up to seven Navajo scholars per year, to help them earn a medical degree from the UA College of Medicine – Tucson or the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix.
  • Current UA medical students will be eligible for the awards, as will students who are accepted into the PMAP and PSP programs.
  • Navajo medical students who receive support from the Navajo Nation Future Physicians’ Scholarship Fund, and earn their medical degrees, will be required to serve the Navajo people for a minimum of five years upon completing their post-MD medical residency programs.
  • The UA Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix will match the scholarship funds provided to students by the Navajo Department of Diné (Navajo) Education.

About the UA College of Medicine – Tucson

The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson is advancing health and wellness through state-of-the-art medical education programs, groundbreaking research, and advancements in patient care in Arizona and across the United States. Founded in 1967, the College ranks among the top medical schools in the nation for research and primary care and is leading the way in academic medicine through its partnership with Banner – University Medicine, a new division of one of the largest nonprofit health-care systems in the country. For more information, please visit medicine.arizona.edu.

About the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix 

The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix admitted its inaugural class of first-year medical students in August 2007 and currently has 320 students training to be physicians. The College inspires and trains exemplary physicians, scientists and leaders to optimize health and health care in Arizona and beyond.  The College of Medicine – Phoenix is uniquely positioned to accelerate the biomedical and economic engines in Phoenix and the State by leveraging vital relationships with key clinical and community partners. For more, please visit phoenixmed.arizona.edu.

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences

The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs almost 5,000 people, has nearly 1,000 faculty members and garners more than $126 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information, please visit uahs.arizona.edu.