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Six Native Americans In HMS Program

Six Native American students, ages 18-34, will conclude eight weeks of research and study at Harvard Medical School (HMS) this Friday.

The students participated in a program called the Four Directions Summer Research Program, a project founded and coordinated by the Native American Health Organization at HMS and sponsored by the HMS Division of Medical Sciences.

Now in its second year, Four Directions coordinators chose six students from more than 50 applicants to participate in the program.

"Students are engaged in research with mentors at HMS," said Daniel Calc, an HMS student who attended the program last year and now helps to coordinate it. "In addition to doing the research, they also form shadow teams for different doctors in the Boston area, as well as various other activities."

Participants, who share an interest in pursuing careers in medicine or science, also listened to presentations from guest speakers including Gerald Goodman, director of HMS admissions, and Alvin Pouissant, clinical professor of psychiatry, who spoke about the role of minorities in medicine.

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Some program activities have impacted the students more than others, Calac said. "Some have been really taken aback by the shadowing," he said.

"Karen [Samuelson, one of the students,] was really enthralled by the neurosurgery. She was very taken ,aback by it, just for the sheer excitement ofit, and actually viewing a human brain and seeingthe process unfold before her eyes," he said.

Four Directions was created to encourage NativeAmerican students to pursue careers in scientificor medical field and to increase awareness ofopportunities in those fields.

"The students are picked not so much for highgrades and test scores, but are picked on thebasis of their motivation, maturity and theirwillingness to learn new thing," according to theprogram's application.

"At the heart of this program are the closerelationships between American Indian medicalstudents at HMS with the future healers within ourcommunities both urban and rural," the applicationreads.

The HMS students who comprise the NativeAmerican Health Organization "are a unique groupof people as far as their creative ingenuity andtheir vision of Native Americans are concerned,"Calac said.

As Native Americans who have succeeded in thescience and research fields, the group has felt astrong urge to "reach back and pull up" otherNative Americans, Calac said. The group encouragesparticipants in Four Directions to do the same.

Denise Goodman, Leva Gensen, James Lamouche,Timothy Wilkie, Rodney Haring and Samuelson wereselected this year primarily based on theiranswers to questions on the application, Calacsaid.

The students were selected based on theirlong-term goals, how clearly they see theirfutures and how well they plan to apply what theyhave learned to Native communities, he said.

The Friday marks and program's end, and the sixwill give final presentations to a forum includingHMS faculty, both administrative and academic.

Lamouche will discuss his work in an immunologylab, Rodney will present research on proteinchemistry, and Samuelson will discuss work on DNAmutagenesis.

As a graduate, and now coordinator, of theprogram, Calac said he hopes funding for FourDirections will become available for future yearso that it can continue to provide science andresearch opportunities for Native Americanstudents

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