Understanding that you've likely had people from a variety of different backgrounds who've made an impact on you – who comes to mind for you when you think about National Native American Heritage Month?
There have been impactful people in my life, not all of whom were Native American, or a medical minority. These people were not able to empathize with me, but they could sympathize with me.
In the Native American population, especially the Lumbee tribe, you go to medical school with the mindset of pursing primary care — either becoming a pediatrician, a primary care physician or an OB/GYN. Not many of us have gone into surgery. I participated in several science fair competitions growing up. One year I won the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) National Fair. As part of the winnings, they gifted me a copy of a book by a female Native American surgeon – The Scalpel and the Silver Bear by Dr. Lori Arviso Alvord. That book showed me what was possible. She quickly became a very early silent mentor.
I also had a local mentor. I was doing my preceptorship with a local pediatrician, Dr. Katie Lowry, and she asked me if primary care made me happy. I was honest with her that it did not. She then told me the community needs certain specialists and surgeons was one of the specialties she named. I'm grateful for her guidance, and grateful to Duke for supporting my role at the cancer centers and providing treatment for people close to their homes.
This article by Morag Maclachlan was originally featured on Dec. 6, 2021, in Inside Duke Health. The interview was conducted in November 2021 during National Native American Heritage Month