On Monday we highlighted Dr. Susan Picotte, a pioneering
woman who was the first Native American to become a physician. Dr. Picotte grew
up on the Omaha Reservation in Nebraska. After graduating from the Woman’s
Medical College of Pennsylvania she returned home to open her own practice on
the reservation. She worked tirelessly to provide health care that her
reservation desperately needed. Her path began with her father, also the tribal
chief, who always encouraged her, and other tribal members, to pursue education.
As a child she saw and experienced the injustice and inequality that existed around
her. Later in life she cited an experience of watching a woman die, because a
white doctor refused to treat her, as inspiration for her pursuing a medical
degree. Her life’s goal was to open a hospital in the reservation town of
Walthill. This was finally realized towards the end of her life.
Rose and Olowo-n'djo at a maternal health clinic founded by Alaffia
Olowo-n’djo also grew up in an environment where health care was not readily available
to everyone, and even the clinics that did exist were consistently under-staffed
and under-supported. Like Dr. Picotte, Olowo-n’djo has made it his life’s
mission to correct these inequalities and create an environment where all
people can grow up healthy and pursue their dream of a better life. Both were
spurred by death and suffering they witnessed around them to push, provide, and
keep fighting to offer health care to those who need it most. The Alaffia
Maternal Health Program provides care to over 1,000 women every year and is
constantly growing in its capabilities and its reach. As Alaffia grows, so too
does its ability to meet Olowo-n’djo’s dream of providing women a safe place to
bring new life into the world.