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University of California, San Francisco

Excellence Integrity Relationship

Elective Rotation: Public Health in the Makah Nation

Contact: Ember Keighley, Mel Melmed

Location: Neah Bay, WA (Olympic Peninsula)

This elective is focused on public health on the Makah Nation, located at the Northwest tip of the Olympic Peninsula. Last year they obtained a grant from the CDC to focus on community transformation. Together as a tribe they are striving to improve the health of the community. In addition to the one clinic, there is now a wellness center focusing on integrative medicine and local traditional ideas of wellness. I spent a month there working under their Community Transformation Project aimed at addressing the public health needs of the community. Together with members of the community garden group, I helped to build a community garden, design a lecture series on gardening to be taught by Master Gardeners from the extension office of Washington State University, and produced a report on the feasibility to starting a farmers market in the community. During my final week, I presented to the Community Transformation Coalition, a group of community leaders, results the feasibility of farmers market report. While there I also completed a report on the summary of the state of Maternal Child Health among Native Americans in Washington State to be used by the Community Health Department to help focus maternal child health programs on the reservation.

Working on the Makah reservation has been an incredible experience. It is an opportunity to see public health projects being carried out which are led by the community. Over the past year the community has made changes to improve health including building a wellness center, establishing exercise classes, building the community gardens and mobilizing community members to improve health. I was so honored to be able to work there and see the changes that are happening. It is rare in medicine that we get to see change from a public health and community based perspective, and this was not only an opportunity to see that happening, but an opportunity to see how it can be directed by the community and centered around their goals and initiatives.

They would be happy to have residents work on in the public health realm, there are also potential opportunities to work in the clinic or participation in integrative medicine through the wellness center. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or interest.

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