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A photo of Shayla Hartz posing outside of the Dental Van in South Dakota

Amid Native American Heritage Month, SCU honors the importance of diversity in transforming and redefining health and healthcare education

November 2022 

November is National Native American Heritage Month. SCU is joining in paying tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans as part of our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and our ongoing efforts to increase the representation of populations underrepresented in medicine, who serve our community as healthcare providers.

SCU DC Student Shayla HartzIn honor of Native American Heritage Month, we’re spotlighting SCU DC Student Shayla Hartz, SCU Cal Chiro Vice President and SCU ICPA Secretary. Shayla is half Lakota Oglala and her family is originally from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Shayla grew up in Lennox, South Dakota, earned her undergraduate degree in Human Biology & Chemistry at South Dakota State University, and will graduate from SCU with her Doctor of Chiropractic in December 2023.

Shayla’s journey into healthcare

“I was unfortunately not exposed to a healthcare role model. Due to the conditions of the Pine Ridge Reservation, my family moved to a very small town that was almost exclusively Caucasian. My time working for Delta Dental was what inspired me to raise awareness for, and give back to the Reservations and underserved populations back home.

A photo of Shayla Hartz posing outside of the Dental Van in South DakotaI worked with the Delta Dental of South Dakota Mobile Program for three years. This program travels to Reservations and surrounding towns to provide free dental exams and treatment for kids. These are areas of the state that do not have access to transportation, healthcare, or healthy food. Many of the patients, some of who were 18, hadn’t learned about proper oral hygiene or owned a toothbrush. We would spend a week per area to allow enough time for exam and treatments and then move to a different location for the next week.

I’ll never forget walking into the elementary school on my first day and there was no soap or toilet paper in the restroom. This same day, we went to the small grocery store and the only fresh fruit had mold on it. All these poor kids had access to was pop and candy. There’s no healthcare or healthcare education, so to them it’s just the “norm”.

These experiences and time speaking with the elders are what inspired me to embrace my background and give back, once I become a chiropractor.”

How is being Native American an asset to you as a future healthcare provider?

“Being Native American has definitely helped me understand that you can never understand where people come from. I go into every setting with an open mind and an open heart, never assuming. I take every opportunity I can to hear about people’s background and their stories. It is so important to understand that everyone has a different level of education regarding healthcare and that everyone sees healthcare differently.”

Has diversity in your healthcare education at SCU helped you advance, academically?

“The diversity at SCU has helped me grow as a future healthcare provider more than I could have imagined. I have had the opportunity to learn about so many cultures and different views of healthcare from the interdisciplinary curriculum and opportunities offered. The education comes from not just the faculty, but also from our opportunities to experience Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, etc. I already have so many ‘tools in my belt’ to offer future patients in terms of treatment options.”

Are you involved with any cultural and/or DEI special interest groups on campus?

“I am currently a part of CalChiro and International Chiropractic Pediatrics (ICPA).”

Shayla Hartz at CalChiro 2022 where she was awarded the Diversity and Inclusion ScholarshipThis year, Shayla was awarded the 2022 CalChiro Diversity & Inclusion Scholarship for her commitment to advocating for diversity and inclusion in her educational career, as well as in the community, at large.

“CalChiro has allowed me to expand my network, introducing me to individuals throughout the country. My favorite part about advocating for diversity and inclusion is creating a space for others to thrive and feel heard. I have personally spent weeks on the reservations back home connecting with other Native Americans and taking the time to hear their stories, goals, struggles, etc. I love being a part of letting them know they are seen and empowering them to take the first step towards their goals. For many, I am able to connect them with professionals that can also serve as their mentors.”

SCU has several ways for students to enhance their academic, professional, and social development through involvement in one or more of the 20+ established Student Clubs on campus to gain experience, create meaningful relationships, network, and grow skills and knowledge.

The goals of the SCU CalChiro student club are to keep students informed about legislation at the state level, assist in making changes that benefit the chiropractic profession, and to encourage student involvement. The CalChiro student club aims to provide students with ample opportunities to learn from established professionals at both on and off-campus events.

ICPA provides Chiropractic students the opportunity to learn how the profession can impact children. ICPA networks with current practicing Pediatric Chiropractors to come to speak and demonstrate their techniques with campus. The club gathers to keep up-to-date on world events involving Pediatrics and Chiropractic as well as current research, perinatal techniques, and more.

After graduating from SCU, where do you plan to practice?

“As of right now, I am planning on staying in California to practice. I have been networking with local California tribes and hope to be able to provide services for Southern California Reservations. I absolutely will also be volunteering my time every year on the Reservations in South Dakota. I am hoping that beyond providing the benefits of healthcare, my story will inspire more people back home to pursue their education and career goals.”  


To learn more about how Native Nations strengthen our cultural competencies and recognize the contributions of Native people, especially in healthcare, visit the SCU Learning Resource Center (LRC) Native American Heritage Month LibGuide. The LibGuide offers Native American resources on topics ranging from: health & wellness; history; activism; arts & culture; in addition to Native American history websites.

And to identify, learn more about, and honor the Native people of the land that you live, work and recreate on, visit native-land.ca/. Native Land Digital strives to create and foster conversations about the history of colonialism, Indigenous ways of knowing, and settler-Indigenous relations, through educational resources including an interactive digital map and Territory Acknowledgement Guide.

We acknowledge that SCU is situated on the traditional homelands of the Chumash, Tongva and Gabrielinos Peoples. These lands continue to be a gathering place for Indigenous Peoples and we recognize their deep connections to these places. We extend our appreciation for the opportunity to live and learn on their territory. We encourage you to learn more about the Native Nations whose homelands SCU now resides on, and the Indigenous homelands on which you live and work. We also invite you to deepen your relationship to these living lands and waters.

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