March 26, 2007

First female Navajo surgeon

Navajo woman makes medical historyLori Alvord would not look conspicuous in her hometown of Crownpoint. Her story, however, is certainly quite unique.

The first female Navajo surgeon, she expected to become a teacher, and corralled her younger sisters at desks to lecture them. Alvord returned to the Four Corners recently, saying it felt good to be home when she spoke in front of nearly 100 people at Fort Lewis College.

"The future I could see as a child is not the future I have today ... but in some ways I have fulfilled that particular dream," she said.

Alvord serves on the faculty at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire as an assistant professor of surgery and the associate dean for student and minority affairs. She practices medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, N.H., and has written a book detailing her experiences. The book is titled "The Scalpel and the Silver Bear."
Navajos vs. Western medicine: After medical school, Alvord became acutely aware the modern health care system fit poorly with Navajo culture.

For one, many Navajos mistrusted hospitals because so many people died there, often from undiagnosed or misunderstood diseases such as tuberculosis. Physical examinations required people to strip naked, a potentially traumatic experience for Navajo people, whose culture does not encourage nudity in front of strangers, said Alvord. Finally, there was no time or space set aside for them to bring in sacred objects or say prayers.


Anonymous said...

The Anasazi might be an interesting subject for a screenplay, perhaps.

Rob said...

I believe Alvord is a surgeon surgeon, not a plastic surgeon.

The Hopi already look like the "Anasazi," since the Ancestral Puebloans (their preferred name) are Pueblo people with a Pueblo culture (kivas, etc.). The archaeological record makes that clear.

Thanks for giving Russ a chance to plug his screenplay, Voyageur. He doesn't get enough opportunities to mention it in this blog. ;-)

Rob said...

Actually, the Hopi have won their battles to keep their ancestral lands from the Navajo and to shut down the Mohave Generating Station. They've temporarily won their battle to stop the use of recycled water at the Snowbowl. They're on something of a winning streak, and they're not paying me to say so.

Rob said...

I don't know which Hopi "battle" you're talking about, but I'm talking about the Hopi battle with the Navajo over the Hopi Partitioned Land. It was recently settled, I believe, after 40 years of legal wrangling.

Here's a timeline that shows some 80 events between 1972 and 1997, when the timeline was posted. There's undoubtedly been another 30-50 events of the same type since then. Read it and learn what I'm talking about:

Hopi perspective on Navajo/Hopi dispute

As far as I know, no Hopi issue was settled or even raised during the occupation of Alcatraz. The only Hopi history related to Alcatraz was "the imprisonment of 19 Hopi men by the U.S. Army on Alcatraz Island in 1895." The PBS site on the documentary Alcatraz Is Not an Island seems to confirm the point.

For more on the subject, see Hopis vs. Big Mountain Trespassers. I've studied the Hopi in-depth since 1990, so I can pretty much guarantee I know more about this than you do. But if you want to challenge me on it, by all means try.

Along with the Hopi/Navajo settlement, I listed two other "wins" that occurred in the last year. I call that a winning streak. Repeat: three wins in one year, not one win in 36 years.

A "surgeon surgeon" means Alvord is a general or unspecified kind of surgeon, not the "plastic surgeon" you mistakenly called her. I have no idea where you got the notion that she was a plastic surgeon. Perhaps this was one of your misfired attempts at a joke.

Rob said...

No need to admit you were wrong about your Hopi comments. I'll do it for you: You were wrong.

I take as long as it takes to educate the uneducated, and no longer. In this case it took a few paragraphs to give you a handle on 100 years of Hopi history.

I agree that your comments tend to lose cogency when you post mile-long anecdotes and excerpts from your stories. You should try to be more concise, like me.