Delivery of Healthcare on the Hopi Nation

Native American Physicians

March 3, 2023

As a member of the Hopi Nation, I am deeply concerned about the lack of Hopi tribal members who are physicians practicing medicine on the Hopi reservation. This shortage of healthcare professionals is a pressing issue that affects the well-being of our people and demands attention. Having Hopi physicians gives our people a sense of safety, shows youth that they are capable of completing medical school, and helps to increase the longevity of our Hopi Sinom.

The Hopi reservation is located in northeastern Arizona, a remote area with limited access to healthcare facilities outside of the Hopi Health Care Center. While the Indian Health Service (IHS) provides medical care on the reservation, the shortage of Hopi physicians practicing medicine on the reservation is a problematic considering the availability of the IHS scholarship, IHS loan repayment, and Indian Preference in hiring.

According to the American Indian Medical Association, only 0.4% of physicians in the United States are Native American. This lack of representation in the medical profession is reflected in the Hopi community, where very few tribal members pursue careers in medicine. Many factors contribute to this shortage, including the lack of mentors, motivation to pursue higher education, high cost of medical education, and a lack of awareness of available opportunities.

The shortage of Hopi physicians practicing medicine on the reservation has far-reaching consequences. Patients often have to receive care from non-Hopi physicians who may not understand the cultural nuances of the Hopi people. This can lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings that can negatively impact the patient’s health outcomes.

Furthermore, the shortage of Hopi physicians practicing medicine on the reservation creates a sense of disconnection between the community and the medical profession. When Hopi tribal members do not see themselves represented in the medical field, it can discourage young people from pursuing careers in medicine and perpetuate the underrepresentation of Native Americans in the healthcare workforce.

To address this issue, it is essential to increase access to healthcare resources and opportunities for Hopi tribal members. This can be accomplished through partnerships between medical schools, the IHS, and tribal governments. These partnerships can provide funding for medical education, internships, and mentorship programs that encourage Hopi tribal members to pursue careers in medicine. Moreover, tribal leaders and decision makers within the Hopi Education Endowment Fund (HEEF) do not make healthcare education a priority despite IHS being the most beneficial employer on the Hopi Nation.

Additionally, it is crucial to prioritize cultural competency training for physicians and other healthcare professionals working on the Hopi reservation. This training can help bridge the gap between healthcare providers and patients and improve health outcomes for the Hopi community. In addition, having Hopi physicians may lead to more personalized care as opposed to care provided by someone who is only working with the Hopi people in order to repay student loans.

In conclusion, the shortage of Hopi physicians practicing medicine on the Hopi reservation is a critical issue that requires immediate attention. By updating the HEEF funding priorities, increasing access to healthcare opportunities and prioritizing cultural competency training for healthcare professionals, we can work towards a more equitable and effective healthcare system for the Hopi people.

Below are some interesting articles and figures:

Physicians who have practiced at the Hopi Health Care Center

Job vacancies at the Hopi Health Care Center and surrounding area

IHS Loan Repayment/