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Dr. Linda Susan Aranaydo





Year of Birth / Death

b. 1948


Medical School

University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine


Geography

LOCATION
California


Career Path

General medicine: Family
Dr. Linda Susan Aranaydo



Inspiration

Since a young age I had seen the tragic effects of untreated chronic illness in family, friends and elders who were reluctant to seek or unable to obtain health care. I have lost dear family members in California and Oklahoma to the complications of diabetes. My goal was to become a primary care provider and to help provide easily accessible, culturally appropriate quality health care to American Indians and other underserved people.



Biography

Dr. Linda Aranaydo, a Muscogee Creek Indian, Kialegee Tribal Town, Bear Clan, has devoted her life to serving her family and her community in Sacramento, California, and is a role model for other women who wish to enter medicine. As a preschool teacher at Hintil Native American Children's Center in Oakland, California, she was raising two sons as a single parent and had no financial resources when she was admitted to medical school at the age of 37.

Mother, grandmother, preschool-elementary teacher, family physician, public health administrator—at one time or another, Linda Aranaydo has been all of these. In 1970 she won an award of distinction in general scholarship while working toward a B.A. in social sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, and served on the Governor's Task Force on Early Childhood Education in 1977 and the California State American Indian Education Council from 1978 to 1980. From 1972 to 1983, she also taught at the preschool and elementary levels at the Hintil Native American Children's Center in Oakland, California. She received the Robert Crede Award for Excellence in Primary Care Medicine while she studying for her M.D. at the University of California, San Francisco.

After eleven years as a classroom teacher, the career change to family physician had its obstacles, and involved a leap of faith on her part. "College counselors were initially discouraging because of my age and family obligations," she observes. "I was 37, a single parent of two sons, an elementary school teacher with no savings when I was admitted to medical school. I had to maintain belief in my own abilities, in the strength and resilience of family and the shared vision of wellness in Indian communities. I actively sought out and received support and encouragement from individuals and organizations that shared my beliefs and goals. Family, tribal, intertribal, and spiritual supports were all essential in making the dream real." But she was determined to succeed, having seen family members and others in the American Indian community die of chronic but preventable diseases.

After earning her M.D. in 1992, she trained at the University of California, San Francisco and the Santa Rosa, California, family practice residency program. In 1995 she received the David Vanderryn Award for Outstanding Community Service as a Family Physician during her service as Chief Resident at Sutter Tracy Community Hospital, Santa Rosa. From 1997 to 2000, she worked at Indian Health Clinics in Lake, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties in California.

Dr. Aranaydo is currently director of medical services for the California Rural Indian Health Board. She also volunteers at Sacramento Urban Indian Health Project one day a week, providing care to American Indian diabetic patients and living her dream of helping her people.



Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

College counselors were initially discouraging because of my age and family obligations. I was 37, a single parent of two sons, an elementary school teacher with no savings when I was admitted to medical school. I had to maintain belief in my own abilities, in the strength and resilience of family and the shared vision of wellness in Indian communities. I actively sought out and received support and encouragement from individuals and organizations that shared my beliefs and goals. Family, tribal, intertribal and spiritual supports were all essential in making the dream real.

How do I make a difference?

I provide direct care for Indian patients with a focus on diabetics. I have a loving understanding of the importance of healthy grandparents and parents to the continued existence of our human society, our connection to our ancestors and to future generations. That love and respect underlies my Western medical training and I hope contributes to my ability to communicate with patients and welcome traditional Indian healing practices in our clinics.

I also work with a team to provide technical assistance, training and medical oversight services to Indian clinics with an emphasis on quality improvement and systems/process redesign. The goal is to empower Indian clinics with the knowledge and skills they need for the staff and patients to work together for community wellness.

Who was my mentor?

The entire membership of the Association of Native American Medical Students and the Association of American Indian Physicians reached out to me since I first considered medicine a possibility. Especially Dr. Eva Smith and Dr. Yvette Roubideaux when I was in pre-med workshops; Dr. Dorrie Rhoades, who met me on the steps of the University of California, San Francisco as I went for interviews; Dr. Laura Williams and Dr. Charlene Spencer—as friends—we shared our experiences all the way through pre-med, med school, residency and practice.

In residency Dr. Marshall Kubota and Dr. Scott Eberle were compassionate role models and fine teachers.

From the Indian Clinics, Dr. Barbara Ramsey and Dr. Ellen Kruusmaggi are wonderful physicians who are dedicated to our Indian patients and to helping students who want to care for them.

How has my career evolved over time?

For five years I was a primary care provider in Indian ambulatory care clinics in Northern California. For the last two years I have provided technical assistance to Indian clinics in a broader geographic area. My focus has broadened from providing direct individual services to learning, teaching and disseminating organizational development skills and quality management tools to Indian clinics. Working with consultants trained by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, I have developed a deeper understanding of the issues of access and quality in health care systems globally.