Senator visits Center for Native American Health

U.S. Senator Patty Murray visiting with Center for Native American Health staff.
U.S. Senator Patty Murray visiting the Center for Native American Health on the WSU Spokane campus on Thursday, May 30, 2024. (Photo by Cori Kogan, WSU Spokane)

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray toured WSU’s Center for Native American Health on the Spokane campus Thursday, speaking with students, faculty, and staff about the vital work underway to address healthcare disparities across the region.

The Center for Native American Health includes a first-of-its-kinds clinical simulation space developed in consultation with Indigenous leaders to better meet the needs of their communities. As a result, the next generation of healthcare professionals receives valuable experiences and cultural knowledge to bridge gaps in understanding and build trust with their patients.

Murray worked to secure $1.47 million in federal funding to support the development of an Indigenous Health Simulation Center, which significantly expands the center’s educational and outreach capacity.

“It’s great to see up close the incredible work happening here at the Native American Health Sciences Center and to hear about how funding I secured is going to support that work by expanding the Indigenous Health Simulation Center,” said Sen. Murray, a WSU alumna. “The brutal reality is that our health care system does not work for everyone — entrenched bias and outright racism have led to tragic failures for communities of color, especially for Tribes.

“Tribal patients frequently have to travel farther for care and face cultural barriers, financial barriers, and of course discrimination and bias. And all of that adds up to some devastating health outcomes — a lower life expectancy by five and half years, and higher rates of many devastating conditions,” Murray added. “At this center, WSU is training a new generation of providers in culturally competent care and building our health workforce in underserved Tribal communities. WSU’s plans to connect students nationwide to these resources means they won’t just benefit Tribes in Washington state, it will help communities across the country. Projects like this make me truly proud to be a Coug!”

Following a tour of the center, Murray participated in a discussion with members of the university’s Native American Health Sciences Tribal Advisory Board. Board members and WSU officials discussed the importance of the program, the future of workforce development and training for healthcare professionals, and the vital work that remains to be done.

“This space is an investment in a future where our health care workforce is equipped with the skills necessary to avoid unintended implicit bias and missteps when providing care to Native populations, using culturally-centered knowledge and practices,” said Naomi Bender, director of WSU Spokane’s Native American Health Sciences program. “We are grateful to Senator Murray for her continued support in helping bring our vision to life — to balance the long-held primary focus of western medicine’s approach to patient care education with bridging indigenous frameworks and perspectives of healing, so they may co-exist and better serve communities.”

The work of Native American Health Sciences and its Center for Native American Health has received significant public and private support in recent years, including a pair of $250,000 grants from the Empire Health Foundation and Bank of America.

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