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The Scalpel and The Silver Bear


the scalpel and the silver bear

this story is about dr. LORI ARVISO ALVORD and her journey of becoming the first navajo women surgeon and connecting with her roots

  • Daughter of a Navajo man and a white blond woman
  • Two diffrent cultural traditions
  • As a child she never felt like she belonged to either
  • Her grandmother was her source of inspiration


She attended Crownpoint Elementry and Crownpoint High School both reservation schools with 95% Navajo.

Lori's path in the medical field

Overcoming barriers to becoming a surgeon. At first she felt like she did not have what it took to become one. Thanks to her mentor those feelings were overcome and the real challenges in medical school began. It is Navajo culture or taboo not touch dead bodies making it challenge for her.

In her hospital residency she credits a Pueblo Indian doctor for his help in teaching her how to be a caring doctor.

She took the lower paying job and became increasingly interested in medicine, taking the math and science classes she had avoided at Dartmouth at the University of New Mexico with the encouragement of her supervisor, which led her to being accepted by the prestigious medical school at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

She majored in the social science and graduated from Dartmouth in 1979. Not being able to get a job in Crownpoint, she went to Albuquerque where she was offered two jobs, one as a social worker and another paying much less as a medical research assistant at the University of New Mexico.

Lori gave birth to Christopher Kodiak Alvord

Navajo have rituals associated with giving birth.

She decided to visit a hataałii to see if they could correct her feelings of imbalance.

Feeling like she was out of sync with herself and the world around her.

Navajo nurses and doctors warned Lori that she could not allow negativity to enter her mind during pregnancy because it would go into the baby.

Doctors diagnosed Lori with pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Lori becomes pregnant after marrying Jon

The birth of her son helped her connect to the Navajo spiritual roots.

The Navajo people have a concept called “Walking in Beauty.” To the Navajo, beauty means living a life that is in harmony and balance with everything around it. Individuals must care for their mind, body, and spirit as well as their relationships with family and community members and the natural world. Lori frequently refers to the Beauty Way and strongly believes it is the Navajo people’s gift to the rest of the world.

Walking In Beauty

  • defined by her clan and people by blood
  • defined by her education and worldly accomplishments by paper


In the Navajo cultute medicine is preformed by a hataalii, someone who sees a person not simply as a body but also as a whole being.BODY MIND ANS SPIRIT translates in english to "singer"

Navajo medicine

modern Medicine

Getting to know Dr. Lori Alviso Alvard M.D.
  • First Navajo woman to be board certified in surgery.
  • Born on 1958 Crownpoint New Mexico on Navajo reservation.
  • Studied medicine at Stanford University.

Dr. Lori Arviso Alvord bridges two worlds of medicine—traditional Navajo healing and conventional Western medicine

by Lori Arviso Alvord M.D.

A minority woman can travel across cultural, class and educatinal borders and become a part of a medical world whose doors have been closed to minority people formost of its existence


This YouTube video by Eddie Smith will give a good explination on why you sould read the book.