STILLWATER, Okla. - Melanie Cain, 32, Santa Clara Pueblo and Jicarilla Apache, received a doctoral degree from Oklahoma State University's doctoral program in counseling psychology May 4, graduating with a 3.8 GPA. She spent the last six years studying, conducting research and working with Vietnam veterans at the Veterans Administration Hospital.
For her outstanding academic achievements, Cain was awarded an educational fellowship from the American Indian Graduate Center. She also received an academic scholarship from the IHS that requires her to give back by providing clinical psychological services to IHS in exchange for her scholarship.
Cain's internship at Spark Matsunaga VA Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, was the hands-on experience she needed in order to graduate. There, she worked with veterans who had suffered post-
traumatic stress disorder, a medical condition caused by repeated exposure to violence and traumatic situations of war, which can be helped by the proper medical treatment.
Cain, a U.S. Air Force veteran herself, said her work with the veterans ''opened my eyes to war and active duty ... It just made me want to continue to work with them. A lot of the Vietnam veterans waited so long to come in for help, sometimes it was too late. The VA is different today than it was back then. War is different. There are cell phones and Internet today. We need to do a 'needs assessment' for the soldiers so we know what to do for them and what they want. They are coming in so young. This way we can help them before it gets to be too late. Since I will be working for Indian Health Services, I want to be a liaison to the VA. I want the services to be both spiritual and emotional for the veterans.''
Cain's dissertation adviser, associate professor Carrie L. Winterowd, said about Cain's recent accomplishment: ''Melanie is a counseling psychologist. We are so proud of her. She is planning to give back to her community in many ways and work with other Native American people. Her research was very meaningful. She has a personal investment and knows people that have struggled with substance abuse problems and has done meaningful things about it. Being traditional is definitely a resilient and meaningful factor in her work.''
Cain has had a great role model in her mother, Melinda Rose Cain, Santa Clara Pueblo, and followed her footsteps in similar ways. Melinda Cain, a U.S. Army veteran, has a master's degree in social work and has been working for the IHS for many years now. Cain is also a third-generation soldier; her maternal grandmother, Evelyn Archuleta, Santa Clara Pueblo, also served the country. Mother and daughter both plan to continue to give back to their people in their own special ways.
The entire time Cain was in school, she met no more than 15 Native women who were psychologists or studying to become one. Winterowd said she hopes that more American Indians become interested in becoming psychologists because there is a strong need for them all over Indian country.
Today there is only a small group of female American Indian psychologists, otherwise known as modern-day warrior women, practicing psychology in the United States; and Cain is one of them.