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Native American History Month: Lori Arviso Alvord

In 1958, in the small town of Crowpoint, New Mexico, the Navajo community gained a new member when Lori Arviso Alvord was born. Her early childhood seems to remain largely private to Alvord. We tune into her journey as she graduated Crowpoint Highschool. From high school, Alvord did not cease her education, but went above and beyond to be accepted to Dartmouth College. The young academic veered toward liberal arts earning a Bachelor of Arts in both sociology and psychology in 1979.

Initially, Alford did not directly pursue medicine. Rather, she decided to set up shop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, working as a research assistant. In this environment, the young woman found encouragement to pursue medicine and received confidence from her peers. She was not quite ready for the trials of medical school, but ambitiously, Alford used the University of New Mexico as a segway toward medical school by preparing from there.

By 1994, Alvord saw her way through medical school and residency at Stanford University and was now Dr. Lori Arviso Alvord, and a surgeon no less. The first Native American Surgeon in the United States. This is where her career really launched.

She found herself back in her Navajo community and quickly realized that her work was going to treat one individual at a time, and for Alford, this was not enough. In her time treating the community, she pulled her experience from more than her medical schooling. As a Navajo, Alford saw the importance of patients’ psychology and the incorporation of traditional practices. The surgeon emphasized the importance of combining standard medical treatments with these in order to increase comfort and wellness for the ill and suffering.

Dr. Lori Alvord spent the 1990s into the 2000s working with the Indian Health Service, Dartmouth Medical School, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health to name a few, and remained an advocate for the practice of holistic medicine when responsibly used alongside standardized medicine. She has released in her time “The Scalpel and the Silver Bear ”, selling over fifty-thousand copies and serving as her autobiography. 

If you would like to learn more about Lori Arviso Alvord, our information was sourced from Changing the Face of Medicine and Wikipedia.