TDI Student Recalls Indian Health Service Trip to Minnesota

On May 6, 2014 by Grad Forum
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Fond du Lac Cultural Center and Museum in Cloquet, Minnesota.

Sappho Gilbert, a graduate student at The Dartmouth Institute (TDI), spent this past spring break, March 15-22, visiting various Minnesota Ojibwe native tribes. This unique experience was part of the Indian Health Service (IHS) spring trip offered through the Geisel School of Medicine. The purpose of the trip was to learn about the health care and social issues facing Native American populations, engage in community service, and share these experiences with the Dartmouth community. Along with Gilbert, nine medical students also traveled to Minnesota.

During the trip, Gilbert and her fellow travelers had the opportunity to attend the Ain Dah Yung 16th Annual Cherish the Children Pow Wow; attended a community dinner with local tribal elders at the home of Dr. Angela Erdrich, a Dartmouth and Geisel alumnus who is now a pediatrician with the Indian Health Service in Minneapolis; toured the Min No Aya Win Human Services Center at the Lake Superior Chippewa reservation; and attended a dinner with Bemidji Area IHS Chief Medical Officer Dawn Wyllie.

The travel group was eventually split into three smaller teams and each visited various reservations for three days. While at each of the reservations—which included Red Lake, Leech Lake, and White Earth—Gilbert and the others had the opportunity to shadow various healthcare providers in tribal hospitals/health clinics, attend home health visits, facilitate interactive mentoring events at area schools, and even hold blood pressure screenings. On March 21, the group traveled to the Indian Health Board of Minneapolis where they learned more about the Board’s mission and health objectives over lunch. They also visited an urban Native community, Little Earth of United Tribes, where they learned about tribal efforts to reduce crime, increase education, and raise socio-economic opportunities in urban Native American communities.

Gilbert valued her trip to Minnesota where she gained much insight about the health of native populations and the IHS; she called the experience “eye opening.” More specifically, she learned that many reservations have what is called “contract health,” where if an American Indian health clinic does not offer a particular medical service, they are able to contract with a specialist within the same geographic area. Additionally, in Minneapolis, the Indian Health Service is considering a new accountable care organization (ACO) healthcare model, a model that is championed by many within our own Dartmouth public health community.

The trip was generously funded by the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation and was organized by Shawn O’Leary, the director of multicultural affairs in Geisel’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion; Dean Seibert, professor of medicine; and Ann Davis, associate dean in the Office of Student Services.

Gilbert wishes to thank all those who helped make this amazing experience possible!

by Hannah Woods 

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