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Culturally-Based Native Health Certificate Program

A Cherokee Native Student


The Culturally-Based Native Health Program provides a new approach to training for health professionals serving Native peoples, grounded in a tribal community, and integrated into the core of Western Carolina University.

We provide an undergraduate and graduate certificate program for health professionals who serve American Indian populations in the South and the East as well as training opportunities for Native youth through mentoring, summer programs, and research opportunities – training which will open career paths for young students.

Program Information

Program Overview

Location: Cullowhee - Main Campus

Undergraduate and Graduate Certificate

Time: 12 Credit Hours

App Deadline: Jan. 1, May 1, Aug. 1

Provides Cultural Competency Training

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Virtual Open House

Wednesday, August 7: 5-6:30pm

Join us at one of our upcoming virtual Graduate School Open House events on Zoom! You'll have the opportunity to learn more about Western Carolina University,  understand the Graduate School application process, and meet key program representatives.

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This interdisciplinary, online program requires 12 hours of courses and is intended to reach a population of students considered underrepresented and underserved. This culturally-oriented certificate option will enable professionals in the region, who are Cherokee or serve a Native American population, to acquire the cultural knowledge and methodological understanding to serve more effectively in their professions.

A certificate in Culturally-Based Native Health will enable students to utilize their training in a health-related discipline and apply it to Southeastern Indian cultures.

Program Courses

Courses are unique in providing cultural competency training, in that they are all developed with Native community members and health professionals.

To obtain the certificate, students must complete both NAS 474/574, Issues in Indian Health Cherokee and NAS 470/570, Cherokee Culture and History.

NAS 474/574 - Issues in Indian Health Cherokee

Historical and cultural context of disease in the Americas from 1500 AD to present, with focus on health of Indigenous Peoples of the Southeast.

PREQ: Junior or Senior standing. Will be one of two required courses for the Culturally Based Native Health Graduate Certificate.

NAS 470/570 - Cherokee Culture and History

Course provides a general introduction to Cherokee culture and history with an emphasis on relationship to health and policy.

PREQ: Junior or Senior standing.

Students will choose two (2) of the following to complete the certificate program. Not all elective courses are available each semester.

NAS 471/571 - Indigenous & Western Psychologies

Epistemologies and world views of Southeastern Native peoples will be discussed in comparison with standard Western approaches to addressing behavioral health. Course will increase students’ understanding of key elements involved in delivery of care that addresses needs of Native populations in behavioral health.

NAS 452/552 - The Roots of Health Disparities In Native American Populations

Course will introduce students to the current debate and literature of the connection between genetic and environmental factors which must be considered in approaching contemporary health issues in Indian country.

NAS 476/576 - Tobacco & Substance Use Among American Indians

Broad historic and contemporary survey of how tobacco and conscious-altering substance usages are situated within the culture and daily lives of Southeastern Native peoples.

NAS 472/572   Healing the Wounded Native Child

Course will increase students’ understanding of culturally sensitive care and key elements involved in addressing behavioral health needs of Native child and adolescent populations.

Program Director - Lisa J. Lefler, Ph.D.

Lisa Lefler

Associate Professor

Culturally-Based Native Health Program

Dr. Lefler


Dr. Lefler is director of Western’s Culturally Based Native Health Programs (CBNHP), a collaborative program with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and WCU’s Colleges of Health and Human Sciences and Arts and Sciences.

CBNHP offers a 12-hour graduate and undergraduate Native Health Certificate available online. The Native Health Certificate reflects a new national model, involving Native communities from the ground up to educate health professionals regarding Native cultures to improve health care delivery for indigenous people.

Dr. Lefler’s other interests include Indian youth and drug/alcohol abuse, diabetes and health-related issues concerning stress, historic grief and trauma, and applying Indigeous science to contemporary issues.

Contact Dr. Lefler

Rooted in the Mountains

This annual symposium integrates indigenous knowledge, language, health and the environment. It is an interdisciplinary forum where enthnography, literature, art, music, Native and Western science converge.

Learn More About The Symposium

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