University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center students and faculty are participating in the third year of the Healers of Tomorrow (HOT) mentoring program, aimed at increasing the numbers of indigenous health professionals. The program kicked off this month.

The HOT program hopes to support youth interested in health fields, giving them guidance and confidence to pursue their dreams, program officials said. There are 13 members of this year’s cohort representing five tribes – Dine’ (Navajo), Hopi, Santo Domingo, San Ildefonso and Hopi Nations.

“We know that in the majority of the health fields, American Indian and indigenous students are far underrepresented. If we can change this, we will have more culturally sensitive clinicians in our tribes’ clinics and hospitals, and we will have clinicians who are more likely to stay in these communities than those who come from afar,” said Alden Reviere, a coordinator for the Native Health Initiative and one of the organizers of the HOT program.

HOT, now in its third year, has four components: college preparation, one-on-one mentoring, shadowing experiences and guidance given to the students to develop a health project.

“We have a great group of students this year and an equally great set of volunteers that range from school counselors to health care professionals. We are hoping to make a real difference in these young people’s lives,” said Dr. Anthony Fleg, a professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the UNM School of Medicine .

The Native Health Initiative is a non-profit partnership that addresses health inequities through "loving service" – funding its work through volunteerism instead of monetary funds. Organizers of this year's HOT program estimate that it will take 700 hours of loving service, and only $300 of monetary funds to make the program happen.

For more information, visit the Native Health Initiative web site – www.lovingservice.us