Student Highlight April 2020
Being born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico and participating in my Pueblo traditions in Cochiti, New Mexico, I am thankful that I am apart of these two very distinct communities. I am pursuing an education that will create positive change in both communities. As an American Indian, I am a part of the Pueblo of Cochiti, Pueblo of Jemez, and Diné. As a first-generation student I call the University of New Mexico my home in earning a Bachelor of Science in Population Health and a minor in Psychology. I am proud to be a part of the 2nd of its kind, College of Population Health in the United States.
I first became interested in Population Health my sophomore year of college when I discovered that a majority of healthcare is reactive, and I wanted to learn how to take a more proactive approach to prevent illnesses and diseases. Population Health consists of the multidisciplinary study of health, illness, and disability. We learn about the societal, behavioral, and organizational causes of health and disease and explore the ways to reduce health disparities. In my classes I examine policies, health systems, and public health practices that can curb health risks in communities and large populations.
My motivations to earn an undergraduate degree in Population Health began with my professional aspirations to better my American Indian community. I intend to conduct research and help develop preventive programs to reduce diabetes with the Albuquerque Area Southwest Tribal Epidemiology Center (AASTEC) as my senior capstone project in the Spring of 2020. After graduation, I plan to attend graduate school to earn an MPH and/or Master of Social Work with an American Indian Concentration. Schools I am interested in applying to are the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis which develops the knowledge and skills to serve Native American communities by understanding the extent, effects, and causes of issues facing Native peoples then evaluating and implementing the best practices with cultural competencies in mind. Other schools I intend on applying to are North Dakota State University with the American Indian Concentration and the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins.
In the future, I am eager to develop a healthcare system that increases the access of healthcare services on Southwestern reservations. According to the Navajo Area Indian Health Service (NAIHS), the department delivers health services to over 244,000 American Indians on the largest Indian reservation in the U.S. The Navajo Nation covers more than 25,000 contiguous square miles where NAIHS has a total of 222 inpatient hospital beds at only four hospitals. The issue of lack of healthcare access for Native Americans has geared me towards an educational plan to pursue a career in public community health. The societal problem I am planning to address is the health disparities of American Indians by first working with the Albuquerque Area Indian Health Board by becoming a project director after I finish my graduate program. Then, I intend pursing a more significant role in regional planning and public service. I believe in advocating and serving disadvantaged Indigenous people using a holistic framework consisting of emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Working in public service I would be the voice representing our people on director boards and on large scale government committees.
I am passionate that I will be able to take what I learn in my degree now, capstone project and graduate program in the future, and apply it in regional Indigenous and American Indian communities to reduce health disparities and increase access to healthcare services. I am proud to state that I am a 2019 Udall Scholar for Native American Heath care. I have taken the initiative to prepare for my future educational plans and career goals by taking on two internships currently to begin addressing issues that face American Indians and public health. I am the first intern for the College Horizons Scholars Program to develop student success programming for Native students on campus and help retention rates and set them up for their future and lead them to graduate programs. Secondly, I have become a Future Community Leader for the Center for Social Sustainable Systems Leadership Institute. I have currently taken a proactive role in my community to prepare and execute an action plan aimed at addressing and understanding water, land, health disparities, and social justice issues affecting New Mexican Communities. As part of my project publication I am focusing on legislation and policy development to sustain our local farmers, acequias, and to ensure that water is available to our Pueblos south of Albuquerque.
Receiving financial aid has equipped me to focus on my plans and goals for graduate school and my career which I am eager to begin. I have a focused plan to assist Indigenous communities in the future, and I am determined to reduce health disparities and increase access on reservations while preserving our cultural traditions. This funding is helping provide me the education to support my community and pave the way for me to give back to future generations, so they have the same amazing opportunities as me.