Carol Ann Comenero

Carol Ann Comenero

Tribal Affiliation: Navajo
Current Position: Native Ways Coordinator & Counselor II, The Haven, Tucson, AZ
Health Professional Degree(s): Bachelor of Social Work (BSW); Master of Social Work (MSW)
Schools Attended: Pima Community College, 2002; Arizona State University, 2004, BSW; Washington University in St. Louis, 2006, MSW
Area of Focus/Specialty:  American Indian Women, Substance Abuse, Indian Policy, Historical Trauma

“The need for American Indian professionals in mental health is significant.”

Why did you choose your specific health professional career?

I wanted to decrease health disparities in Indian country to create healthier tribal communities and members.

What experiences did you have to make sure this profession was right for you?

I believe my own personal struggle as a Native women; growing up poor, seeing the health disparities first hand; and experiencing injustices throughout the system helped me decide that this profession was right for me.

Describe any obstacles or barriers to success that you encountered along your health professional career path. How did you overcome them?

The misconceptions individuals have today about American Indian people have been one of my biggest barriers to success. Focusing on my traditional beliefs and practices has helped me to overcome this barrier.

What do you do in your current job?

As the Native Ways coordinator and counselor, I provide individual/group therapy to American Indian/Alaskan Native women with substance abuse problems and I also provide educational trainings to the community about working with this population. My other duties include conducting needs assessments, crisis interventions, psychosocial, treatment plans, and discharge resources for patients. I also facilitate domestic violence and human diversity classes to current clients at the Haven.

What advice do you have for American Indian/Alaska Native students who are interested in health careers?

The need for American Indian professionals in mental health is significant. The current health disparities are a result of years of trauma that Indian people have experienced. Investing in the field of mental and behavioral health will better  impact the future of our Nations. It is in my work to plant ‘health seeds’ in our clients and teach them the tools they need to help them grow.

What would you like to see for your tribe’s future?

I would like to continue to minimize substance abuse and gang involvement among Native youth.

Do you practice traditional medicine? If you do, then how does traditional medicine interact with conventional medicine?

I have practiced traditional medicine since I was a child. Conventional medicine is common among today’s society, but I believe it is a choice to utilize either conventional medicine, traditional medicine or even both. I believe both can be used together successfully, but our traditional medicine is what our spirits and bodies have embraced for generations.