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Lori Arviso Alvord (Navajo Nation)

Lori Arviso Alvord, Surgeon, Navajo (1958-  ) 

Dr. Lori Arviso Alvord, a graduate of Stanford University Medical School (1985), is the first Diné (Navajo) woman to  become board certified in surgery. After graduating from Dartmouth (1979)  with a double major in psychology and sociology, she took a job as a research assistant in a neurobiology lab at the Veterans’ Administration Clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where a neurologist in the lab encouraged her to become a physician.  She returned to school to take pre-med courses at the University of New Mexico and then was accepted at Stanford Medical School. After she finished her training in 1985, she completed a 6-year residency at Stanford University Hospital and earned her board certification as a surgeon in 1994. After completing her studies at Stanford, she returned to her Navajo reservation in New Mexico to care for her people at one of the Indian Health Services’ facilities in Gallup, New Mexico. She understood at the outset that Western medicine and its technical capacity was not enough to treat her people; she needed to include the spiritual and psychological aspects of healing that are important to the Navajo. Her efforts to combine the two ways of treating her patients resulted in a more holistic approach. Her autobiography, The Scalpel and the Silver Bear, tells her intense and difficult journey as she followed the path of being a surgeon trained in Western medicine while simultaneously working to combine Navajo healing traditions and beliefs in the treatment of her people.  In turn, her approach in medicine lead to a more holistic ‘treatment’  of the hospital environment for the patients where artwork and nature, gardens, outdoor porches with views were incorporated into the design to heal and soothe the patients. Dr. Alvord has received a number of awards, honorary degrees and held important positions.  Of note, at the level of national recognition, in 2013, Dr. Alvord  was nominated for the position of U.S. Surgeon General.

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