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Focused on women’s health

After searching for her Native American heritage from a young age, Sahar Nouri finally feels at home working for IHS.

Nouri, 32, is an Obstetrics and Gynecology physician at the Fort Defiance Indian Hospital in Fort Defiance, N.M. on the Navajo Nation.

She was recently named a winner of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s 40 Under 40 award.

Nouri is from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in Belcourt, N.D. and is Iranian. She was born and raised in Hawthorne, Calif. and her first name is Iranian Persian meaning “morning dawn.”

One of the challenges Nouri faced growing up was finding a balance between her Chippewa and Iranian heritage. She grew up with her father’s side of the family in Los Angeles, while her mother’s side lived on the reservation in North Dakota.

“I visit my reservation only a few times in my life,” Nouri said. “I was more exposed to my dad’s side and was constantly always searching for my other side of my culture.”

Nouri’s mother, Suzie Mickelwait is a controller for an accounting firm. Her father, Hassan Nouri is self-employed and owns three body shops called Anthony’s Body Shop in the Los Angeles area.

She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in history. During her time at UCLA, Nouri worked on a project with different San Diego, Calif. tribes called “The Helping Path Health Guide.” The guide helped educated California Indians on understanding what breast cancer is, diagnosis, how it is treated and how to give self-exams. The project was funded through the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Nouri went onto medical school at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Mass. While attending medical school Nouri had two children, a son named Kokonow, 9, and a daughter named Jasmine, 7.

“I went to my first day of medical school nine months pregnant and I got a lot of looks from people,” Nouri said laughing. “It was very hard, but having them motivated me even more to finish. I wanted to show them it was possible.”

She said her family came out to Boston to help her when she needed it but otherwise she was on her own going to medical school and raising two children.

“I definitely didn’t sleep much but had very supportive friends who would take (class) notes for me.”

In 2004, Nouri graduated with a medical degree. Following her eight years of schooling, in 2008 she went on to complete four years of residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Growing up, her biggest inspirations were her parents. Her mother went to college and had a full-time job while being pregnant with Nouri. Her father came to America from Tehran, Iran with nothing but the shirt on his back. In her eyes, her father is the most successful person she knows.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without my father. He motivated me and gave me the advice I needed.”

Nouri was always interested in women’s health growing up and decided she wanted to be an OBGYN when she was in high school.

“It started off when my friend in high school got pregnant,” Nouri said. “I went to all her appointments because the father was absent and I was there for delivery.”

She said teen pregnancy is a big problem and a lot of people don’t go to the doctor until they get pregnant.

“When they come into the doctor that is when you can catch them (patients) and teach them about how to stay healthy,” Nouri said. “It is also a great opportunity to help them before the medical problem comes.”

Nouri works with all ages, but the majority of her patients are in their late 20s and early 30s.

“I always wanted to come back and help my people (Native Americans) and this was an excellent opportunity to do that.”

In her spare time, Nouri works out on a regular basis running and lifting weights. She is also a Los Angeles Lakers fan, as well as sports in general. She also enjoys reading medical journals and fiction.