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NDSU certificate student looks to impact health care for Native Americans

Photo of Kymberly Ludwig

Kymberly Ludwig

Kymberly Ludwig is on a mission to serve the nation’s American Indian population.

She is one of the few Native American pharmacy graduate students in the country who intends to work exclusively in Native communities. Her career goal is to manage her own pharmacy in a clinic located in a tribal community.

To help her on her path, Ludwig is among the first students enrolled in the NDSU Master of Public Health’s American Indian Studies certificate program.

Ludwig, age 27, is Anishinaabe and a member of the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa (Ojibwe) of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community near L’Anse, Michigan. She’s currently finishing up her didactic work for her Doctor of Pharmacy degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy.

“I chose NDSU’s program because it offered the only online, specifically-tailored Master of Public Health certificate in American Indian studies in the country. It was feasible for me to continue finishing my graduate program studies at UW-Madison and take a course or two at NDSU each semester via distance learning and technology,” Ludwig said. “I was also aware that NDSU was among the top-ranked schools in public health studies. This made me confident applying to the program, knowing I was going to be getting cutting-edge education in the field.”

Ludwig said the program offers a variety of educational benefits, including learning about American Indian historical movements, health care issues and longtime disparities in care. She emphasizes that social aspects such as unmet housing, food or financial needs must be considered in treating Native patients.

“We cannot hope to make lasting change if we do not know where our people came from, what they had to endure and the progress made since the age of our ancestors,” said Ludwig, who earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. “For me personally, everything I am learning is substantial to my future role as a healthcare provider. In pharmacy school, we are heavily taught about science and medicine, but I felt a gap in the connection between the patient and social health. With the additional education from NDSU, I am gaining the total package to become a well-rounded healthcare provider by being able to see the individual as a whole. In Native American culture, this is something we feel strongly about – treating the mind, body and spirit.”

Ludwig interned last summer at the Oneida Community Health Center Pharmacy, where she saw the need for the knowledge supplied by the NDSU certificate program.

“I fully believe this program has taken my education to a whole other level – the quality and effectiveness of this education is priceless,” she said, noting she’d also like to pursue research during her career as a pharmacist.

“If I contribute to making a positive change among Native populations in my community and I continue to love what I do on a daily basis, that is a success in my eyes.”

If you are interested in the certificate program, apply online through the NDSU Graduate School.

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