Saturday, May 9, 2015

Indian Health Service and Navajo Nation

It is a Saturday morning in early May here in Gallup, NM, and as I sit down to write this post, I am staring at a flurry of snow outside my window and a blanket of white upon the town. In Boston, the snow often cloaks and transforms the city, but here in Gallup, the snow only shades the imperturbable land and sky. Indeed, what struck me most when I came here was the vastness of the land, of the sky, of the history. It is overwhelming and humbling at the same time. 

Gallup is located squarely in the Navajo Nation, a tribal sovereign nation of close to 200,000 people who identify themselves as Navajo. It is bordered by other culturally and linguistically distinct tribes, the Zuni and the Hopi. 

Much like the land, the people here are enduring and have weathered storms in the past - from rival tribes, to colonization by European powers, to subjugation at the hands of the United States, to more modern threats including pollution from coal and uranium mining and now substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, and diabetes. 

Through it all, Dine, or "the people” in the Navajo language have persevered.

There have been bright spots in Navajo history, from the heroic role of code breakers in WWII to the establishment of the sovereign nation of Navajo to the retention and active use of Navajo language and traditions in everyday life.

The Indian Health Service and its hub in Gallup has pioneered a number of incredible innovations along the way to better service its constituents including the use of community health workers, the active treatment of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, and Tuberculosis, and the implementation of telemedicine to enhance care.

Over the next few blog posts, I hope to explore Navajo history and culture and highlight my clinical experiences.

Stay tuned.

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