Melvina McCabe, M.D., brings a spiritual and cultural perspective to her care of the elderly. As director of geriatrics in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, she is an advocate for the underserved. "At times," she says, "I think that perhaps there is a predestined path for us to take that is identified for us by the Creator."
Even as a child, Melvina McCabe knew she would some day be a physician. A Navajo elder, Christine Whipple, who later became her grandmother-in-law, served as her role model. At the turn of the century Whipple left the Navajo reservation in New Mexico to train as a nurse and work in a hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan from 1910 to 1919. She returned home to the reservation and worked as a nurse among the Navajo, serving as a midwife and physician's assistant, performing minor surgery and setting broken bones. "Her guiding light," observes Dr. McCabe, "provided direction for many lives not only within the family, but also within the community."
After completing her undergraduate work at the University of New Mexico in 1980, McCabe began her own training for a life in medicine. She graduated from the medical school at the university in 1984. As well as her clinical practice, Dr. McCabe has spent most of the past decade on the faculty of the University of New Mexico, serving on a number of key committees on primary care and other professional boards. She is a member of the Association of American Indian Physicians, where she was president from 2000 to 2001, and she a grant reviewer for the Alzheimer's Association. Dr. McCabe is also a member of the University of New Mexico Mosaic Committee to advise on the recruitment and retention of under-represented students, the Minority Affairs Consortium of the American Medical Association, and the National Institutes of Health National Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities. She is a member of the American Medical Association, the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
In 1999, Dr. McCabe was named Physician of the Year by the Association of American Indian Physicians, and in 2002 she received the Stoklos Visiting Professorship Award for her promotion of integrated medicine (orthodox and Navajo) from the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center.