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Literature shows that students who enter the science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medical-related (STEMM) pipeline at earlier stages of their career are more likely to be successful. This is especially true for under-represented and economically disadvantaged students. Despite the increasing number of students entering the pipeline, American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) students still have a higher attrition rate compared to other ethnic groups. Educators and government agencies have worked to improve the success rate for AIAN students across all levels and fields by developing various programs aimed at training and mentorship. In 2007, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD, increased their outreach efforts for recruiting AIAN students for the summer internship program. Our goal was to develop a culturally tailored research-training program that could recruit and retain AIAN students into STEMM degrees and careers. We adapted an existing program that provides training in biomedical science and mentorship at an NINDS research laboratory. From 2007 to 2016, of the 41 AIAN interns who participated, 35 (85%) remained in STEMM fields. Five interns obtained post baccalaureate positions at NIH and four entered graduate or medical school. These successful outcomes were brought about only after navigating myriad obstacles. We identified obstacles for AIAN student participation, and made adaptations to the summer internship. We made design decisions regarding recruitment, feasibility, lab placement and mentorship, supporting research and social networking, and sustaining AIAN culture. This design case highlights the obstacles and strategies for success that we developed.
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