Why did you choose your specific health professional career?
Orthopedics is a fun surgical specialty that involves fixing and getting people back to physical function. It is the only specialty I liked at the end of all my clinical rotations.
What experiences did you have to make sure this profession was right for you?
After I found orthopedics as a specialty of interest, I selected orthopedics as the first elective rotation in my 4th year of medical school and took call often as a medical student so that I could experience everything about the specialty. Despite its long hours at work (now they have 80 hours limit per week, but during my time, they didn’t have hour limits per week) and a very busy operative on-call schedule (somebody’s got to fix those broken bones), I still enjoyed it.
Describe any obstacles or barriers to success that you encountered along your health professional career path and how did you overcome them?
Barriers and obstacles are many, but to list a few: 1) Pre-college academic preparation was poor. I had to work extra hard to catch up and studied many hours to keep decent grades in college. I learned how to take standardized examinations while going through college. 2) My family didn’t have money, so I applied for grants & scholarships and worked to support myself during school and pay for tuition etc. 3) Not many women in orthopedics surgery so when I decided to apply, I had several male surgeons trying to persuade me not to apply because I may not be able to physically handle the job. I worked mostly with men in orthopedics residency as well as my current and previous jobs in orthopedics. Unfortunately, since the beginning of orthopedic training and up to my last job, I have worked with some unpleasant men and experienced very unprofessional conduct by men at meetings/presentations and in the general work environment; in other professions, people get fired for such conduct.
What do you do in your current job?
In my current job, I am an Orthopedic Surgeon at Fort Defiance Indian Hospital. As such, I provide clinical and surgical care pertaining to musculoskeletal injuries and pathology.
What advice do you have for American Indian/Alaska Native students who are interested in health careers?
If you apply yourself and commit to hard work and time to achieve, the opportunities are endless. It takes some creativity in obtaining funds to go to school and live. It is in the end, a rewarding achievement, which is the opportunity to return home to work with the community you know and have lived in, and doing a job that mostly non-Natives have been doing for many years in our communities. Isn’t it about time we take care of our own?