Flagstaff's first Native med student to give back
By Cyndy Cole

Condensed by Native Village

Arizona:   Of all U.S. groups, Native Americans ar least likely to become physicians or osteopathic doctors.   Because of this, most reservation patients visit non-local doctors who can't speak their language.

Rowin Begay, 31, is Flagstaff's first Native medical school student, and is attending A.T. Still University for osteopathic medicine. The Navajo man was recruited by locals to someday practice family and sports medicine in his home region near Rough Rock.

Rowan can relate to health care problems for Natives. His own family's experiences have not been good.

One uncle needed treatment, but wanted to leave the hospital because the staff didn't understand what he was saying.

And an aunt, who died of lung cancer, misunderstood the prognosis to mean she might recover.  A lot of the time we were the ones that had to explain to her what was going on, even though we didn't know what was going on, Begay said ... I think that was more hurtful than anything false hope.

When Rowan completes his rotations and residency in a few years, he hopes to work in the Chinle area. Right now, he studies about 80 hours per week, on top of being a father of two.

Another student, Melissa Blessing, moved from Minnesota and has been a local for the last 10 years. Her undergradute course work at Northern Arizona University included classes in anthropology. 

 Melissa, 33,  was a former CPR volunteer instructor, advocate and resident. She also worked in the Tuba City emergency room. She lived near the Navajo/Hopi border in a home with no electricity or running water.

Melissa remembers an elderly and blind man who was moved to the city and told would be better. But couldn't tend sheep anymore. The man moved back home, fell and broke his hip, and died weeks later.

This, among other lessons, taught Melissa that a health care worker must understand the culture of their patients when helping them make good decisions.

Like Begay, Blessing was selected by locals to go to ASU to study medicine. Blessing now wants to be an emergency room physician, hopefully in Flagstaff.

graphics: heathersanimations.com

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