First Navajo woman to be board-certified surgeon to deliver lecture

Dr. Lori Arviso Alvord (submitted photo)

Dr. Lori Arviso Alvord (submitted photo)

The first Navajo woman to be board-certified in surgery, Lori Arviso Alvord, M.D., will deliver the Simon Ortiz and Labriola Center Lecture on Indigenous Land, Culture and Community on Thursday, Oct. 22, at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

The lecture, titled, “The Healing Properties of Navajo Ceremonies,” will be at 7 p.m. in the Steele Auditorium at the museum, 2301 N. Central Ave. Admission is free and the lecture is open to the public.

Dr. Arviso Alvord is currently chief of surgical services and a practicing general surgeon at Banner Health Page Hospital in Page, near the Arizona-Utah border, according to a press release. She also holds an appointment as associate faculty at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for American Indian Health in Baltimore, Md.

Her memoir, “The Scalpel and the Silver Bear” tells the story of her journey from the reservation to the operating room and of her work to combine Navajo philosophies of healing with Western medicine.

The Heard’s bookstore, Books & More, has the book in stock for $16 and it is available during its regular business hours; phone orders to 602-251-0258 will include a shipping charge.

“Ceremonies work at multiple levels, but primarily they heal the mind, which helps to heal the body. Chant, song, prayer, and guided imagery are used, in an elaborate form of mind-body medicine,” she said in the release. “Subsistence living and environmental sustainability principles are also found in ceremony teachings, and are examples of how interconnection can promote sustainability theory and teach humans a way of living that honors and protects our natural world.”

Raised in Crownpoint, N.M., Dr. Arviso Alvord is a member the Tsinnajinnie (Ponderosa Pine) and Ashi’hii’ Dine’ (Salt) clans.

She earned her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College in 1979, received her doctorate of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine in 1985, and completed her residency in general surgery at Stanford University Hospital, according to the release.

In addition to other medical practice and teaching positions, she served as a member of the National Advisory Council of the NIH Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine from 2008 to 2010. Her research has focused on surgical outcomes and health disparities in Native American populations. Additional interests include Native American health, Native American healing, integrative medicine, and the creation of healing environments.

Dr. Arviso Alvord has been awarded honorary degrees from Albany Medical College, Drexel University College of Medicine, and Pine Manor College, and has been a commencement speaker at five medical schools. She is featured in the National Library of Medicine exhibit, “Changing the Face of Medicine,” honoring pioneering women physicians over the past 150 years.

The semi-annual lecture series, which focuses on a variety of topics with an Indigenous American perspective, is co-sponsored by the Heard and Arizona State University’s English and American Indian Studies departments. It is named for the Labriola Center, a part of the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ American Indian Studies Department, and for Simon Ortiz (Acoma Pueblo), Regents Professor of English at ASU and poet, who founded the series.

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