Raised on the Navajo Nation by her mother, an Indian Health Service nurse, Rene Begay was acutely aware of the health needs of her people. But she was also steeped in Native concepts of balance.
“My grandmother spoke of living in harmony with the mind, body, and earth,” said Ms. Begay.
Ms. Begay now works as a research assistant at the Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health at the University of Colorado. Over the past 3 years, she studied genetic inheritance of human cardiomyopathy gene mutations at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus and graduated with her masters degree (M.S.) in clinical science this year. She also created a relationship between scientists at the university and the urban Native community around cardiovascular disease risk.
At this year’s Winter Institute at Johns Hopkins, she set her sights on completing her Public Health Training Certificate for American Indian Health Professionals in the coming two years before entering medical school or a combined MD/PhD program.
Native communities a part of decision-making
Rene aspires to become a cardiologist and is also drawn to the field of personalized medicine.
“I want to learn more about genetics and how it can affect our communities,” said Begay. She commented that major health centers are now working on personalized medicine and how it integrates with genetics.
“As Native communities, we can’t be scared—we have to be at the table where they make these big decisions about how to integrate genetics into treatment.”