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>  News Releases >   1999 >   September

Lori Arviso Alvord, first Navajo woman surgeon, to open Dartmouth's academic year

Posted 09/16/99

Lori Arviso Alvord, M.D., a 1979 Dartmouth graduate who became the first Navajo woman surgeon, will deliver the keynote address during Convocation exercises at Dartmouth on Tuesday, September 21. Her talk is titled, "Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times."

Alvord, who is Associate Dean for Student and Minority Affairs at Dartmouth Medical School and Assistant Professor of Surgery, will join Dartmouth President James Wright in welcoming the Dartmouth Class of 2003. Student Assembly President Dean Krishna, from the Dartmouth Class of 2001, will also speak. Convocation activities will begin at 11 a.m. in the Leede Arena of the John W. Berry Sports Center.

"Dr. Alvord's years as a Dartmouth student, her medical training and her experience as a surgeon at the Gallup Medical Center in New Mexico have given her insights that are of particular value to young men and women in their first days at Dartmouth," said College President James Wright.

Alvord is widely regarded for combining modern medicine with the traditions of her Native American heritage. In her practice in the Navajo community, she has blended high-tech surgical skills with an understanding of a culture rooted in the spiritual. It was her Navajo heritage that taught her balance is the key to health, she says. "Their belief system sees sickness as falling out of balance, of losing one's way on the path of beauty. The body must live in harmony with the mind and the spirit."

A cum laude graduate of Dartmouth and Stanford Medical School (1985), Alvord trained in surgery at Stanford University Hospital, serving as chief resident in 1990-91. When her training was complete, the federal Indian Health Service assigned her to the job of her dreams -- general surgeon at the Gallup Medical Center in Gallup, N.M., near her home community.

In The Scalpel and the Silver Bear, a book about her life that was published this spring, she relates her attempt to bring state-of-the-art skills to a culture in which the removal of organs was strongly resisted. Integrating a Navajo approach to healing -- "Walking in Beauty" -- enabled her to establish trusting relationships with patients as well as harmony in the operating room, which she found to be as necessary to healing as the correct surgical procedure.

Alvord's professional activities have encompassed her experience in the world of medicine as a Native American and a woman. She has served on several national government panels providing funding for research or setting standards and guidelines for health care, including the Women's Health Initiative, organized by the National Institutes of Health. She is a member of the board of directors of the Tandy Corporation's Technology Scholars Program. In 1992 she received the Governor's Award for Outstanding New Mexico Women.

At Dartmouth Medical School she oversees student and minority affairs, admissions, financial aid, the registrar's office and the advising program, and she has a general surgery practice. She also teaches several courses and is a member of Dartmouth's Native American Visiting Committee.

"Dr. Alvord helps make Dartmouth medical students more sensitive to the diverse needs of patients," said Dr. John Baldwin, Dean of Dartmouth Medical School. "She brings an important perspective to the school and to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center of the significance of cultural awareness in caring for patients."

This year's ceremonies will open the 230th year in the life of the College. Classes for the fall term begin on Sept. 22.

Hearing enhancement devices may be reserved in advance for Convocation. In addition, a limited number of devices will be distributed from a clearly marked table located in the back of Leede Arena beginning at 10:45 a.m. Special seating arrangements are also available for guests with physical disabilities. For information, contact the Public Programs Office, (603) 646-3749.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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