Dr. Alvord was born to a Navajo father and a Caucasian mother--bilagaana--and felt from the beginning that she was walking the path between two worlds. Her childhood was spent on an Indian reservation and she was very close to her Indian grandmother.

She was fortunate to be able to attend Dartmouth College where there is strong support for American Indians. Actually there were 50 other Indian students there when she enrolled. From there she went to Stanford University for medical school and a surgical residency. This was a very unusual path for an Indian woman.

While in medical school and residency she felt very much separated from her Indian heritage and was glad to start her practice of surgery in the Indian Health Service and eventually to return to the Indian Hospital at Gallup, New Mexico, just fifty miles from the reservation where she grew up. This gave her the opportunity to learn more about Indian medicine and how to care for Indian patients.

While there she met her husband, a considerably younger Caucasian, and had her first child after a problem pregnancy. She sought the help of an Indian Medicine Man during this experience and felt much help from him. This is described very vividly.

Just eighteen years after she left Dartmouth she returned to be the Associate Dean for Minority and Student Affairs and to practice surgery and teach part time. There she hopes to share the Navajo philosophy of a balanced and harmonious life called "Walking in Beauty."


The life story of Dr. Alvord is interesting in itself and her courage shows through as she leaves the reservation and chooses to become a surgeon. Her continued interest and knowledge of Indian medicine is an added dimension.


Lori Arviso Alvord is currently the Associate Dean of Minority and Student Affairs at Dartmouth Medical School. Elizabeth Cohen Van Pelt is a journalist.



Place Published

New York



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