HST Students Go to Work on the Navajo Reservation

A group of us, students from the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology (HST), were recently offered the opportunity to volunteer with a non-profit organization staffing health screening clinics for preschoolers in Navajo Nation, a semi-autonomous Indian reservation that stretches across Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. There were five of us in total: three first year and one fifth year MEMP PhD students, and one fourth year MD-PhD student. Our scientific backgrounds ranged from genomic medicine to cardiac imaging to electrical engineering, but we were united by our interest in reducing barriers to health care.

As one might suspect, it was a savvy, hardscrabble, and mildly neurotic group. 


We flew into Flagstaff, Arizona where we were joined by a pediatric ER doctor, the trip organizer, two pre-meds from Akron, Ohio, and one graduate student studying child development in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Over the course of three days we traveled over 400 miles and set up a temporary clinic each day throughout the northern Arizona region of Navajo Nation. The western half of the Navajo reservation is impressively rural, with hours of driving between municipalities. The reservation is approximately the size of West Virginia, but has about 1/8th as many residents. Were it a state, its population density would be ranked 48th, between that of Montana and Wyoming, but the western half is even less densely populated.

Monday, August 8, 2016