Caring for the person and the community

A thousand mile journey from the rez to Johns Hopkins

“Caring for the person and the community go hand-in-hand for someone who is Native,” said Geanna Capitan, a scholar attending her first Summer Institute with Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health in July 2017.

Ms. Capitan works as a research assistant for the Tribal Solutions for Native Youth Affected by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, part of the Southwest Tribal Native American Research Center for Health (NARCH) Program at the Albuquerque Area Indian Health Board, Inc. 

A thousand mile journey from the rez to Johns Hopkins
After growing up on the Pueblo of Laguna reservation in New Mexico, Ms. Capitan earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of New Mexico.

Ms. Capitan then participated in a CDC Summer Public Health Scholars Program at Columbia University. She also completed several certificates in research methods and health policy at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Academy .

She then worked as a post-baccalaureate fellow at the NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Human Motor Control Section with patients who suffer from Psychogenic Movement Disorder. These patients experience abnormal, involuntary movements that cause discomfort and have a quality of life comparable to patients with Parkinson’s disease. Ms. Capitan is fascinated by the interactions between environmental, social, psychological, and physical health.

“Back home, patients don’t want to go to the hospital because clinicians don’t always know their history or know the community,” she said.

Living traditionally in the modern world
“I dream about creating a more culturally competent way to practice medicine,” said Ms. Capitan. “I want to indigenize medicine by learning modern medicine and combining that with traditional knowledge,” she continued. 

“I grew up with an incredible depth of tradition…and have come to see that I grew up rich in experiences. I continually try to understand the blessings and challenges of living traditionally in the modern world.”

To prepare herself to take on this role, Ms. Capitan wants to pursue both a degree in medicine (community health) and a masters in public health. She feels blessed, humbled, and grateful to her family and friends for supporting her in the path that she has chosen, because they have given her the courage to create a better world for the people living in it, and for the generations to come.