MARQUETTE, Mich.  Too few Native Americans work in health care professions. For example, among the nations 2,700,000 nurses, only 13,000 are Native Americans.

To address this issue,  Northern Michigan University has launched "The College Prep Medicine Wheel," a new program encouraging Indian youth to consider health care careers.  

The College Prep Medicine Wheel will bring groups of Native American high school students to NMU this fall. Each group will stay for several days and engage in activities about nursing, clinical science careers and degree programs. They will also tour Marquette General Hospital and meet Native American professionals working in the field.

Dean Paul Lang said the program "has the potential to significantly impact the perceptions, realities and understandings that Native American high school students have regarding health care in the United States."

The school hopes to have 40 participants the from five federally recognized tribes in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. They also hope to welcome students from tribes in the Lower Peninsula, Minnesota and Wisconsin,

The College Prep Medicine Wheel program evolved in part from summer science programs with NMU's Center for Native American Studies and Hannahville Indian School students.

 "We need for these students to know that they have a place in our classrooms and labs, says center director April Lindala.