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Joycelyn Dorscher, M.D. - A Woman of Distinction

Joycelyn Dorscher
Joycelyn Dorscher, M.D., director of UMD's Center for American Indian and Minority Health.

Joycelyn Dorscher, M.D., director of UMD's Center of American Indian and Minority Health, was honored on Nov. 2 by the Duluth YWCA as a Woman of Distinction.

Dorscher was very pleased to receive the award. "It was a huge honor just to be nominated," she said. Referring to her two-minute acceptance speech at the awards luncheon she noted, "I really tried to thank everybody. So many people have encouraged me throughout my career. Dr. Bob Powless, Dr. Lorentz Wittmers, and Warner Wirta come to mind. I am also blessed with a terrific staff," she said. "If what I do makes a difference in other people's lives, that's wonderful," she added.

Dorscher was working as a medical technologist when a friend encouraged her to consider medical school. She accepted a challenge and attended the UMD Medical School which has, as its mission, a goal to nurture and educate Americans Indians to become physicians. She graduated in 1994. Today, in addition to her work as an educator and director, she also practices one day a week on the reservation of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. She is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

A Heartfelt Nomination
Dorscher was nominated for the Woman of Distinction Award by Regional Campus Dean Gary Davis, Ph.D. In his nomination letter, Davis wrote about Dorscher accomplishments since becoming the director of the Center of American Indian and Minority Health in 2001:

During those years, many young Native American students, from high school, through their undergraduate years and into medical school and graduate fellowships have been influenced by Dr. Dorscher and the programs she has created or grown. She has inspired them to go to school, stay in school, graduate from high school and college and then apply to medical school and succeed to graduate as Native American physicians.

As a clinical professor, she has taught them the art and science of medicine. And most important, she has helped them become “whole” Native American physicians – professionals who could integrate their spiritual and cultural background and beliefs with the science of western medicine.

Because of her dedication, and that of her staff, the University of Minnesota Medical School has become third in the nation in number of Native American MDs now practicing in the United States.

Davis went on to outline some of the work Dorscher has done in the local community:

Dr. Dorscher not only has worked tirelessly on the campus of UMD to build an educational program, she was co-chair of the Duluth American Indian Commission for three years with Michelle Gordon and a member of the Commission for a total of eight years. The Commission’s primary goal is to act as an advisory group to the mayor of the city on issues affecting the American Indian community, the largest minority population in Duluth.

During her tenure, Dr. Dorscher realized how important it is to be a voice in Duluth city decisions, and she is most proud of her participation developing a police/civilian review board; improving the way poor and minority juveniles were treated within the legal system; and continuing the work to create an American Indian Center downtown. She has also served on Fond du Lac’s cancer education team advisory board and has worked with the Duluth-Superior Area Community Foundation to develop programs to increase science interest within young Native students.

Women of Distinction Awards
The YWCA of Duluth hosts its Women of Distinction Awards luncheon annually to publicly honor and recognize women from Duluth who have made significant contributions related to the Y’s mission: dedicated to the elimination of racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. The nominees are evaluated on their leadership, overcoming adversity, role modeling, and contributions to community.

Other women who were honored as Women of Distinction on Nov. 2, 2011, were Gwen Updegraff, Legal Aid of NE Minnesota, and Pam Kramer, Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Liz Olson, congregational outreach director of CHUM, was honored as an Emerging Woman of Distinction.

Written by Kathleen McQuillan-Hofmann, Nov. 2011


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