Kent Smith, Ph.D., founded the Native Explorers program as a way to recruit, train and educate the next generation of Native Americans in science and medicine. This non-profit, Oklahoma City-based organization focuses on anatomy and vertebrate paleontology, providing an array of hands-on activities to introduce Native American students to the scientific method.
Smith can trace his ancestry back to the Comanche, Chickasaw and Cherokee tribes. He currently serves as the Associate Dean of the Office of American Indians in Medicine and Science and is a Professor of Anatomy at Oklahoma State University's Center for Health Sciences. He’s also an Affiliated Research Associate at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman, Oklahoma.
One of his favorite places to take his Native Explorers students is Black Mesa in northwest Oklahoma, which has more dinosaur fossil remains than any other place in the state. At Black Mesa, the students have the opportunity to study archeology and natural history in the field with highly trained scientists, and many decide to pursue the field as a result.
Smith says his Chickasaw heritage is a great privilege and a source of much inspiration in his life. As Native Explorers continues to delve into the past, he says, the program will also pave the way for the next generation of scientists and physicians.