What was my biggest obstacle?
STANFORD. Growing up, I had a lot of encouragement from my family, and a lot of positive feedback from my scholastic achievements in elementary, junior high and high school. This all changed when I entered Stanford University. Stanford didn't care that I was a Native American, and that I was a first-generation college student. Stanford cared that I did my work, learned my courses, and knew enough to pass my classes. Stanford didn't care about my background, but cared that I did well. I benefited from the stringent rules that caused me to learn how to learn, and not just get by, because I did come from a different background. Stanford taught me humility, because all of a sudden, I was just an average student, and not a gifted one.
How do I make a difference?
I came from a background of alcohol abuse in my family, my father abused alcohol, and this led to my parents divorce. This made me, in the 1950s and 1960s, being from one of the first ever single-parent households. Seeing that my mother could accomplish what she did, made me realize I could do anything if I wanted it bad enough. After I attended Stanford, as an older student, a single parent, I subsequently went to medical school with a two-year-old in tow, and then took her with me, except for the fourth-year clerkships, through internal medicine residency. Medical school is possible as a single parent, and I tell them how I did it, with help from friends, day care, and letting them know that medical school is not forever.
Who was my mentor?
In different stages of my life, there were different mentors, however, the most constant mentors, or role models were my Grandmother, Ruby Ridley, LPN, and my mother, Barbara Malotte Pete, LPN, now both deceased. My grandmother, Ruby Ridley, was a licensed practical nurse, and I don't even know if she ever went to high school. She was a full-blooded Shoshone Indian, who started at Washoe County Hospital in Reno, Nevada working in the housekeeping department, and learned how to be a nurse through the work-learn program. She subsequently took the licensing exam and was certified as a licensed practical nurse. She never received any formal nursing education, but she wore her white nursing hat, white dress, and white stockings proudly, because she learned it all from the ground up. My mother, Barbara Malotte Pete, also began work in housekeeping at the hospital in Elko, Nevada, initially doing menial chores and then working up to nursing duties. With no formal nursing training, my mother also challenged, and passed, the Licensed Practical Nursing Exam. This she did, as a single parent of three small children, one of the first divorced women of the 1950s. If my mother could do that, with no high school diploma, then if I graduated from Stanford I should be able to become anything I wanted. A Native American mentor at Stanford University was a then-medical student, DeAnn DeRoine, now Dr. DeAnn DeRoine. She encouraged me to stick with my pre-med studies, even though it seemed I would never be good enough. At Stanford, I also was encouraged by the Stanford Minority Pre-Med Program, much as I would be by the next great support in my life, the INMED Program. Last of all, but probably the most important, was the Indians into Medicine (INMED) program in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, and supported by the Universities of North and now South Dakota, it is a program specifically targeted for Native American People, primarily from the five-state service area, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming to enter the medical field in all capacities. Graduates of the INMED program are doctors, nurses, medical technicians, etc. For me, the mentors from INMED, were all the native American medical students in each medical school class, and the Indian MD graduates who came back to visit the program. I am successful because when I saw other Indians as doctors, then I knew I could do it too.