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Down the Medicine Path
In high school, I had been fascinated by the human body — the various systems inside it seemed to me like the earth in miniature. Like the tides and currents of the oceans, it had rivers and capillary tributaries of blood. Instad of an atmosphere, it had the processes of breathing and oxygenation. Bone and sinew underlay it all, like the rocks inside the earth. And it offered mysteries as well: how did all these systems work together to make a whole human being?
— Lori Arviso Alvord, M. D.
New students can get an early start on their college experience by reading and responding to Lori Arviso Alvord’s memoir "The Scalpel and the Silver Bear" in the 2020 edition of the STLCOP Summer Reading Program (SSRP20). An "inspiring memoir" (Publishers Weekly), "The Scalpel and the Silver Bear" tells the story of Alvord’s growing up between two very different worlds as the child of a Navajo father and a white mother who eventually learned how, as a physician, she could incorporate Navajo healing traditions into her surgical practice to better serve her patients. Booklist calls "The Scalpel and the Silver Bear" a "[s]heer pleasure to read from the very first page ... absorbing," while the Dallas Morning News says it "[m]ovingly details [Alvord’s] quest to unify two cultures and two healing traditions."
Alvord's efforts to break new ground professionally while honoring and preserving deep cultural traditions offers a superb model of discipline and dedication not just for future pharmacists and health care professionals, but also for all young adults seeking to build a firm personal foundation for any career they will eventually choose. As one current student who recently read "The Scalpel and the Silver Bear" put it, "Alvord also reminds readers and professionals alike that we cannot always rely on just one part of ourselves to solve problems. She shows us the doctor is about the body, education the mind, and culture the soul, but combining these three ideas allows for a life full of harmony and balance — a life full of healing."
To join the discussion of Alvord and her book, please visit the new SSRP20 community page!
About the Author
Born in Crownpoint, a small town of the Navajo Nation, Alvord is a member of the Tsinnajinne' (Black
Streaked Wood) clan (Ponderosa Pine), and of the Ashihii' Dine' (Salt People) clan. She is also the first board-certified Navajo woman surgeon and the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the J. E. Wallace Sterling Lifetime Achievement Award in Medicine from Stanford University, Alvord currently serves the Yakama Nation through the Astria Health network after holding a variety of academic and medical positions at Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, and the NIH (among others).