Dickinson student in American Indian medicine program 6-24-07

DICKINSON, N.D. (AP) - Except for a brief time that he wanted to be an action hero, John Hill has dreamt of being a doctor.

The Dickinson eighth-grader is attending the Indians into Medicine program through the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

More than 100 American Indian health career students are connected to the program. Another 100 students like Hill are attending annual summer enrichment sessions.

“Ever since I was little I watched 'ER' and all those medical shows,” Hill said. “In fifth grade, my dad told me about the program ... I decided I wanted to do it and become a doctor.”

“There aren't many Native Americans in this field and this program is a way to get them going early enough and interested in medicine,” said John Hill, his father.

The program was established in 1973 and is located where American Indian health needs are the greatest. American Indian populations on the 24 reservations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska are among the most underserved in the country, the program's Web site said.

Some 163 medical doctors have graduated through the program, which also enrolls students in nursing, clinical psychology and various other health specialties.

The medicine program is fully funded for Hill. Boarding and meals with a stipend for weekends are included. Hill is in the program through July 20.

He can reapply to be in the program next year if he keeps his grades up, the elder Hill said.

Hill's mother is Ethel Hill who works with Job Service in Dickinson. The elder Hill works in the oil industry.

Hill always been interested in science and math.

“I just like the idea of saving someone's life,” Hill said about his interest in medicine. “I remember when I was little helping my dad with cleaning an incision he had at the time. I found it so fascinating.”

With the Indian medicine program, Hill learns about the body and advancements in the medical field.

“I want to learn more about how an X-ray machine works, stuff like that,” Hill said. “In second grade, I did the St. Joe's hospital tour. I remember being so happy to do that, how they gave us gloves and masks, going through the emergency room area and seeing the X-ray machine.”

Hill said he has long doctor visits with his own doctor, Dr. Gary Peterson at the Dickinson Clinic.

Outside of school, Hill has been involved in baseball, swimming, band, football, track and Tae Kwon Do.

The elder Hill said it's a big commitment to be a doctor but he said his son knows that.

“More than anything, this is what he wants to do,” Hill said. “I remember the first thing he wanted to be was a Power Ranger.”