George Blue Spruce, DDS, MPH ’67, graduate of UC Berkeley College of Public Well being’s Public Well being Administration program, member of the New Mexico Laguna/Ohkay-Owingeh Pueblos, and the primary Native American dentist, has received a 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Josiah Macy Jr. Basis.
This award acknowledges social mission excellence in well being training and was offered just about this 12 months throughout the Past Flexner convention, co-hosted by A.T. Nonetheless College and Arizona State College’s Edson Faculty of Nursing and Well being Innovation. Dr. Blue Spruce says the award will allow him to apply community-based medication on a wider scale.
Dr. Blue Spruce was born in 1931, on the Santa Fe Indian Hospital College. Blue Spruce’s mother and father have been compelled into the federal boarding faculties as kids in New Mexico within the early 1900s. Pressured to assimilate into the dominant tradition, he says his mother and father made it their mission to see that their son would succeed by way of formal training whereas additionally collaborating in actions that each superior his self esteem and saved him in contact together with his roots.
After assembly a mentor who took curiosity in his achievements and occurred to be a dentist, Blue Spruce determined he was “impressed by this man and what he did” and needed to be like him. He went on to attend Creighton College in Arizona; when he graduated in 1956, he turned the primary Native American dentist within the nation.
“I had many challenges being the lone Native pupil on a university campus, and was very shy and lonely, however I needed to alter myself to accepting the challenges that got here with that, by getting the grades to use to dental faculty,” he mentioned. “I took it upon myself to beat the challenges that have been there; self-discipline helped me to succeed.”
He was additionally drawn to dentistry due to the eye to element he watched his father impress as a cabinet-making instructor on the native Indian faculty in Santa Fe. When Blue Spruce received into dental faculty, his observations of his dad’s precision and accuracy whereas educating and carving have been the teachings he took with him.
“Dentistry was not solely a occupation that allowed me to be exact, it allowed me, like my father, to reach every part I do, particularly these issues which are necessary to me,” mentioned Blue Spruce. “It was all of that, plus the truth that it eradicated ache, offered for a very good smile, enabled individuals to chew effectively—all of these issues have been thrilling too – the entire package deal match how I needed to serve my neighborhood and be the dentist for my tribe.”
Blue Spruce’s aspirations would ultimately lead him to Berkeley Public Well being, after which he labored for the World Well being Group aiding communities in South America, as effectively writing laws for the Indian Well being Care Enchancment act of 1976, which permitted reimbursement by Medicare and Medicaid for providers offered to American Indians and Alaska Natives in Indian Well being Service (IHS) and tribal well being care amenities. He additionally spent 21 years within the Indian Well being Service.
His training at Berkeley Public Well being taught him concerning the similarities in well being inequities skilled by underserved populations in america and elsewhere, he says, and he’s very proud to hold on the legacy of working to remove them, particularly within the Native American neighborhood.
“It carries numerous weight when individuals—particularly American Indian individuals—see an American Indian face and know an American Indian did all this,” he mentioned.
George Blue Spruce is the creator of a memoir, Trying to find my Future.