Greetings from White Earth!
Team White Earth consists of Shirley, Emma, Devin, and Francis (aka “the most baller group”).
Today, we got a tour of Indian Health Services at White Earth and shadowed some of their physicians.
We arrived in the morning to meet with Deanna Pepper, a clinical nurse specialist and a quality improvement manager for the US Public Health Services. She gave us a tour of the facility, a surprisingly comprehensive care center for Natives.
The White Earth Health Clinic is a surprisingly modern and high tech facility for such a rural area. Consisting of multiple departments such as family practice, internal medicine, pediatric, dental, optometry, radiology, mental health as well as a pharmacy, the facility provides a tightly integrated, comprehensive array of services. This variety of care is virtually unheard of for such a small, federally supported, outpatient clinic.
As we soon learned, some of the major issues faced by the clinic are the rising rates of diabetes, drug use and suicides amongst the locals. During our tour of the facility, we were recounted the tale of how a grandmother, mother, and granddaughter had all been infected with hepatitis C through the use of unclean needles. A whole family line devastated in an instant through recklessness. Another tale involved the deaths of a mother and child and the rippling effects it had throughout the community. “She was my cousin; she was my aunt; I use to stay with her when I was younger.” In such a tight knit community, where everyone is seemingly connected to one another, sudden losses can have wide spread ramifications.
In the face of rising drug use, the clinic is faced with a dilemma. Do they provide clean needles to the population in order to prevent the spread of disease at the risk of potentially promoting drug use? What will truly help the community becomes a blurry line that is difficult to transverse.
Yet the clinic is far more than just a place of care, it is also a museum. Strolling through the facility, one can’t help but notice the photography, artwork and craftsmanship that line the walls. From past prominent figures in society to celebrations at the annual POWOW festival, the walls exude memories of the past. It’s not surprising to find someone pointing out a place where they use to live or a picture of their grandfather on the walls. If you look closely enough, you may even find a house where angels lurk in the shadows.