The University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth campus today announced the school’s largest donation of $10 million by an anonymous donor, to establish a World Class Native American Research Center of Excellence. The gift will fund the center’s mission of collaborating with American Indian and Alaska Native communities, by creating a positive impact on their health through research, leadership and education.

“Minnesota has some of the best health outcomes and yet we know that we have some of the largest health disparities,” said Regional Campus Dean, Paula Termuhlen, MD. “The idea of creating the research center around all things Native American in regard to health and science is something that we’re really excited about.”

Medical School faculty and staff will help to determine how the gift will be used. Top investigators, including Melissa Walls, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biobehavioral Health and Population Sciences, and Benjamin Clarke, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, will help determine different topics in health disparities critical for Native American communities in Minnesota.

“For me it’s about how we can stimulate exciting collaborations with communities, but also tap into the vast network of experts on our campus,” said Walls. “We have people at the Medical School who have never worked with tribal communities, but their expertise could heal and connect with community resources that exist, and tell that story again through a scientific lens.”

The gift will also provide research and faculty support to the Memory Keepers Medical Discovery Team, full-tuition scholarships for Native American students, a Professorship in Native American Health Equities, and support for pipeline programs for the Center of American Indian and Minority Health (CAIMH).

“This gift allows for flexibility to create sustainability for the great work that we’re doing,” said Termuhlen. “It will also provide funds where we can have an immediate impact.”