Patty Talahongva

Indian Country Today

Rez 2 Med was created to increase the representation of Native Americans in the Medical Field by med students Jasmine Curry, Diné, Tomoko Wilson, Diné, and Maliyan Binette, Penobscot. They created the social media accounts to share their medical school experience and to inform people about what they can do to stay healthy. Curry says her issues with med school curriculum stem from associating health disparities with certain racial groups without historical context. She says Natives are not genetically predisposed.

Indian Country Today freelance reporter Sandra Hale Schulman talks about her latest article on community arts activist Marcie Rendon, White Earth Anishinaabe Nation. She's an author, poet, playwright and activist who recently won the $50,000 McKnight award. The McKnight Foundation gave her the 2020 Distinguished Artist award, making her the first Native American woman to win the award.

Here are a few of their comments:

Tomoko Wilson:

"There are a lot of classmates who don't like that a lot of diseases are kind of highlighted with certain races or ethnicities. And I, a lot of people find issues with that."

Jasmine Curry:
"When they talk about Native Americans having higher rates of diabetes, I think it's important to put in context that the reason why we have diabetes so high is because the government took away our food sources and made us reliant on them on commodity foods. And that has been incorporated into what is now our traditional foods, leading to higher rates of diabetes. And then another thing that I've also heard in medical school is the stereotype of alcoholism and Native Americans. And a lot of people don't know that Native Americans, we have the highest rate of absentees as well."

"Yeah, so it's really cool at our institution they've recently created a subcommittee to overlook the curriculum and they're going to start putting things into historical context, not only for Indigenous communities, but also other BIPOC communities. And then they also have an elective just on Indigenous Health where they really go in depth in that."

"A lot of people just don't know about this but experimentation that went on, for example, on the Navajo reservation, we were used as test subjects to create the tuberculosis vaccine, as well as having experimental ophthalmology surgeries on eyes that led to blindness. So just those different things. And then, just telling our classmates, like when we're in class, it's like, 'Yeah, that's true. But this is why ...' that's how I've been approaching it."

Tomoko Wilson:

"You have to treat people holistically, like medicine can take care of one aspect of the person's health but you have to treat other aspects of a person. And I think that combining the two really like will treat the person as a whole and I think that's what medicine really should be about."

And since you know, your, your website or your social media account is, is like not even quite a month old at this point.

"They love it. People are really about it. They really like our message and they want to see more youth go into these fields. And they're glad that we're putting ourselves out there and, being representative of Natives in medicine."

"It was kind of a long path. I initially started wanting to go to nursing because I never thought med school was an option. And then through schooling and working at a hospital, I realized that I love science and just quitting, going to nursing and stopping the science classes, made me sad. And I really wanted to make the biggest effect in Native healthcare. So seeing these doctors and the nurses, I thought having Native people, having Native doctors care for Native people would have the biggest impact in my communities. And that's what I wanted. I wanted to be able to talk to people how they're used to, meet them at their level."

Jasmine Curry:

"Growing up, I saw my grandfather's conduct different ceremonies as traditional medicine men and that really instilled in me the wanting to help other people. And then he unfortunately suffered a stroke and then after seeing the care he received in an urban setting, he got really good care. But then when he returned back to the reservation, that lack of access I really found that he regressed. And at that moment I was just like, 'Oh, I wish I could help!' And that really inspired me to go into medicine."

"I want to do primary care right now, leaning towards OB/GYN, because I feel like in primary care there's a big chance to prevent these preventable health disparities."

Tomoko Wilson:

"I actually found out about INMED and all the different programs that are available to undergrad Native Americans who are premed, I found out about that super late in my undergrad career. So I really missed out on that. That's part of the reason why I think this platform's great so we can give those programs a shout out so youth can utilize them."

Jasmine Curry:

"It'll be really good to be able to converse with our elders in our traditional language. And that's something that I'm personally working on right now is to become more fluent but it'll be better to explain things in lay terms in our Native language. Health literacy is something we hear about a lot in medical school and making sure patients understand fully what is going on with them."

Tomoko Wilson:

"When you establish a relationship with a patient and you introduce yourself in your language, you establish that that kinship and just having that as a grounds for your patient-physician relationship really makes a difference. And even knowing like the cultural customs, a lot of Native American communication is nonverbal. So really knowing your patient is going to be really good."

Jasmine Curry:

"Our third partner's name is Maliyan and she's Penobscot from Maine traditionally. So unfortunately we're doing school virtual right now, so she's off in Maine and she couldn't make it right now."

Sandra Hale Schulman:

"Marcy just won, this is a really remarkable amount of money, it's a Minnesota based foundation called the McKnight Foundation and they give one award a year to a notable person in the arts in Minnesota and it's $50,000. She is the first Native woman to win this award since they started giving it in 1996. She's in her sixties. She's been writing for many, many decades and she is very interesting. She went to get a degree in criminal justice and she started writing mystery novels."

"There's two Murder on the Red River and then Girl Gone Missing and she's working on a third right now."

"She went to school and was studying criminal justice and was writing on the side and just became very successful. She's written four nonfiction children's books. She's written plays, she's written poems. Some of her poems are going to be included in the upcoming Joy Harjo anthology, which is also going into the National Library of Congress. So her work is really getting noticed now and this enormous awardI think will really help bring her to much more national prominence."

"As a writer myself, 2000-3000 words a day is a lot and you know, a good 2000-3000 words a day, that's several hours of work. But she said, since the pandemic working at home, it's become more challenging because she's got children and grandchildren there and animals and the kids are homeschooling. So she said, it's been a little more challenging. She used to be able to go out to a coffee house to get a break. And right now those are no longer available."

"Apparently she works with a lot of community groups and a lot of local organizations. She says the majority of the rest of her time is filled up with newspaper articles about the services that these groups are providing. She says she needs to do year end reports and quarterly reports. So she's quite a busy woman. And in the midst of writing this third award winning mystery series about a young girl. She's following the development of a young girl that was a teenager following a mystery and then a college age girl. So I'm assuming this next book, the girl was probably in her twenties and thirties, continuing on the story. It's kind of like Nancy Drew."

"Her most notable one was called powwow summer that she wrote and that came out a few years ago. And she's been working on plays. She has children and she has grandchildren and she writes for young adults so that seems to really be her focus, which is encouraging. I think she's taken the experience of Natives and Native culture and hoping to bring it to a younger audience and maybe grow with that audience a bit."

"I didn't specifically ask her about the money and what she planned to do with it. She did mention she was actually looking for an agent for this third novel. I told her, I think maybe this sizeable award might certainly help track an agent that might help."

"She seems to have a lovely life on the reservation there. She says they go to farmer markets and they buy their sweetgrass and all kinds of other things they need there. And Minnesota is a beautiful place with all the lakes."

Also in the newscast, correspondent Carina Dominguez with the latest positive COVID-19 news and case numbers.