In the past few years, NorthLakes Community Clinic has doubled down in its response to the health care needs of undeserved communities in rural Northern Wisconsin. NorthLakes acquired three clinics in northeastern Wisconsin, an optometry clinic in Ashland, a retired dental practice in Birchwood, a new clinic in Hurley, along with new buildings in Turtle Lake and Hayward.
“These much needed investments in our communities’ economic development and the health of its members created some big liabilities in our financial outlook,” NorthLakes said. “Yet we survived and made it successfully to the other side.”
Now in a better financial place, NorthLakes decided it was time to pay it forward.
A NorthLakes doctor approached CEO Reba Rice with the idea of an endowed scholarship available to enrolled Wisconsin tribal members to go to college or technical school for front-line health care careers.
Rice agreed that creating practical and tangible supports to increase the number of Native people involved in health care is critical to the health of the communities in so many ways. The clinic chose to partner with the American Indian College Fund, which has a 32-year old track record in awarding and managing scholarships, for the management of the endowment.
Their minimum endowed scholarship is $25,000, so Northlakes went to work with that as its goal. Now, five months later, through appeal letters, emails, phone calls, and referrals, the clinic has reached $100,000 for the NorthLakes Indigenous Health Care Scholarship.
“We hope that this investment in education brings a sustaining economic impact to our Native communities and the health care entities of all kinds in our area,” NorthLakes said. “We are thankful for all of the many new and longtime NorthLakes donors who made this endowment happen. It was truly a community endeavor: individuals and organizations, businesses and private foundations.
NorthLakes said it was especially encouraging to receive such overwhelming support from many health care professionals from multiple disciplines: doctors, therapists, dentists, administrators. Several of the doctors who donated commented on the need for more Native American staff in health care settings.
“We all recognize that the lack of diversity is a cultural deficit in providing quality health care for everyone,” NorthLakes said. “Our collective hope is for the endowment to create a lasting positive change.”
The donors’ generosity established a scholarship in perpetuity to provide scholarship support –including tuition, room, board, transportation, books, and fees – to Native students in pursuit of college or technical school health care degrees and certificates, which is awarded on academic merit and financial need.
“We are so pleased to have surpassed our goal, yet we will continue with the fundraising efforts and events for the scholarship,” NorthLakes said.
Due to the process to establish an endowment, the NorthLakes scholarship will be available for the academic year of 2022-23.