Robert Desmond is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner working on the Lummi Indian Reservation near Bellingham, Washington. He sees about 12 children a day, ages 0-5, providing primarily health maintenance services and some illness care. Although he spends 12 hours a week commuting to the reservation from his home near Seattle, he "loves it" and has become in some ways a member of the tribal community.
"After about eight months of working in the clinic, I was invited to a pow-wow. Tribal members told me that I was considered a member of the community because I took care of their children and had ‘honorable’ goals."
Desmond explained that he has always been interested in community health and the ways that communities maintain good health. He noted that the School’s PNP program is very focused on understanding all the non-medical issues involved in maintaining health.
"People often know how to survive problems but not how to prevent them," Desmond observes. "Knowing how to prevent problems gives them control over what happens to them. Much of our work involves prevention, such as stressing the importance of car seats or teaching strategies for asthma care."
He considers such health-maintenance education a critical part of his job.
"In such a small community, you can really see the impact of what you do," Desmond explains. "Although being Native American, poor and rural can put more stress on families, people here also have strength because they live near aunts, uncles or grandparents. It’s a great example of the importance of community that I first learned from Kathy Barnard."