It is fascinating how religions flourish in Gallup. Followers of many sects have descended upon the Southwest over the years. Some have come to convert the Indians or "save them" from their own "primitive" beliefs. Others have come with a sense of good will, wishing to help those "less fortunate" than themselves. Some sects come fleeing persecution elsewhere. Why come to Gallup? Perhaps it is the sense of omnipotence that courses from red rock at orange sunset or the pink jet streaks and morning clouds that paint the sky as Navajos awaken and travel Eastward during their morning prayer run. The power of the Earth is rich in Gallup.
As for teaching .... superb. Few medical experiences are as enlightening as spending an hour and a half in a car with Dr. Bruce Tempest. While driving to Tohatchi medical clinic, Dr. Tempest taught us about medical issues ranging from post-coma recovery to antibiotic choices for treatment of ceruhts; of course, he would always cite specific studies (some of which he had published) to support his choices. Dr. Tempest is an astounding compendium of medical insight and information; and, unlike many physicians, he is an excellent communicator as well. Dr. Tempest continues to teach during clinic. Dr. Tempest believes that in order to learn, medical students must be given the responsibility to make treatment choices. While in clinic, the medical student functions as practitioner. I would work-up the patient (History and Physical Exam), come up with a differential diagnosis, and decide upon medical interventions. Before the patient would leave, Dr. Tempest would see the patient, comment on my treatment choices, make suggestions, and always end with a teaching point related to the patient's case. I wish I could have recorded those short discussions ... Wonderful!
The entire Gallup experience was an enchanting one for me. It was a chance to learn about medicine, yes, but also an opportunity to experience the strength of a people shaped by the earth, struggling to maintain its Navajo identity.
Each morning in Philadelphia I awake early to run through the dark city streets. As many Navajos do, I run Eastward in order to greet the Creator and rejoice in the rising Sun. As I run I give thanks for life, for my connection with the Earth, and for the growth of all living things, "hajonja." I run to the South, to the West, and to the North,...knowing that someday I will return to Gallup.