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."
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.