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New UNMC American Indian Health Director focusing on healing

"Always focus on healing"
Posted at 7:53 PM, Sep 02, 2021

OMAHA, Neb. — When it comes to health disparities within the Native American community, Dr. Siobhan Wescott says she's going to start with the mending process.

"I understand that mistrust, I know where it is coming from and you just go slow," she said. "You don't say you are going to fix everything at once. You start with the most immediate need and always focus on healing, that is what is important."

Wescott, MD, is the Endowed Professor and Director of American Indian Health in the UNMC College of Public Health.

"When we hired Dr. Wescott we were very careful that, even as part of that recruitment and hiring process, we included the tribes in those discussions with the search committee to make sure that we were addressing the needs of the Native Americans — something we are doing together as we move forward," said Ali Khan the dean of the college.

Health disparities are not only a medical issue but a social justice issue as well. When it comes to the Native American community, it is an area that must be approached with care.

"We are very careful of not dictating to them what we think they should work on, that is how we are going to get success here," added Khan.

For this to be considered a success, even in its early stages, there are several things that Wescott would like to be seen done, accomplished and completed.

"I would very much like to see the chance for the university stakeholders and the Native stakeholders to say what they want out of this and move forward," Westcott said. "If the university has ideas and the community has other ideas, it is going to be hard to reach success at any level. This first year will be sorting out what's happening, what is working, not working and where there are gaps."

While they concentrate on physical health issues, the ultimate goal is to also be a better health partner overall; with the native and indigenous communities always having a double focus and making mental healing a priority.

Dr. Wescott is from Alaska. She earned a degree in government from Dartmouth College. She has a master's degree in public health from the University of California. She earned her medical degree from Harvard and was the co-director of the Indians Into Medicine Program at the University of North Dakota.

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