The Navajo way: Summerim blends healthcare, culture

Healthcare summerimPhoenix has cutting edge health care and biotechnology centers that attract interest from all over the world, but Thunderbird Professor Karen Brown, Ph.D., also wanted her students to see how the medical industry works on the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona. After touring several Phoenix and Flagstaff sites in May 2012, Brown took her Summerim students to the Tuba City Regional Health Care Center on the Navajo Nation. Brown said the center has made innovative moves in recent years to integrate the traditional ways of tribal elders with the science of modern medicine.

In addition to hiring Navajo nurses and doctors whenever possible, the center employs a traditional healer who speaks the tribal language and understands Navajo mythology. Soon the medical campus will include a hogan, where the healer can pray with patients and perform other ceremonies. “The accommodations drive home the importance of culture in any health care delivery setting,” Brown said. “Hospitals and clinics that overlook local customs risk creating an unwelcoming environment that hinders the healing process.”

Her 13 students from China, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and the United States all saw management applications in their home markets. The weeklong Summerim, which focused on health care delivery solutions, followed a similar program led by Thunderbird Professor Mary Sully de Luque, Ph.D. During the earlier Summerim, students toured health care sites in Tucson and other parts of Southern Arizona.

Overall, 127 students participated in six Summerim programs in Argentina, Chile, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, United Kingdom and the United States.

Related Articles by Professor Karen Brown, Ph.D., on the Thunderbird Knowledge Network:
>> Blending medicine and culture in the Navajo Nation
>> Three healthcare innovations to improve your life
>> Three Toyota lessons for U.S. hospital executives

Video: Navajo Healthcare (2:53)


Photos: Visit Thunderbird’s Flickr page to view and download high-resolution images from the visit to the Navajo Nation.

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