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Community Read: Scalpel and the Silver Bear

November 16, 2021 @ 12:00 pm 1:00 pm MST

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Community Read

Community Read is a regular reading & discussion group hosted by the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library; Office of the Associate Vice President for Health Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion; and partners across the University of Utah. For the November sessions, the series will explore Dr. Lori Arviso Alvord’s “The Scalpel and the Silver Bear: The First Navajo Woman Surgeon Combines Western Medicine and Traditional Healing.”

CME credit is available for this series, as is attendance credit for Nursing and Dental faculty.

The Scalpel and the Silver Bear
The First Navajo Woman Surgeon Combines Western Medicine and Traditional Healing


Lori Arviso Alvord, Elizabeth Cohen Van Pelt

ISBN: 0553100122
Publication Date: 1999-06-01

Dr. Alvord left a dusty reservation in New Mexico for Stanford University Medical School, becoming the first Navajo woman surgeon. Rising above the odds presented by her own culture and the male-dominated world of surgeons, she returned to the reservation to find a new challenge. In dramatic encounters, Dr. Alvord witnessed the power of belief to influence health, for good or for ill. She came to merge the latest breakthroughs of medical science with the ancient tribal paths to recovery and wellness, following the Navajo philosophy of a balanced and harmonious life, called Walking in Beauty. And now, in bringing these principles to the world of medicine, The Scalpel and the Silver Bear joins those few rare works, such as Healing and the Mind, whose ideas have changed medical practices-and our understanding of the world.” Source: Back cover, The Scalpel and The Silver Bear.

The Scalpel and The Silver Bear is available in print for checkout at Eccles Library or Marriott Library. Check the library online catalog for availability: https://tinyurl.com/n33azww2. An eBook version of this book is not available.

Dr. Lori Arviso Alvord, MD


Dr. Lori Arviso Alvord, MD is an author and surgeon, and the first member of the Navajo tribe to be board-certified in surgery. Her bestselling memoir, The Scalpel and the Silver Bear (Bantam, 1999), tells the story of her journey from the reservation to the operating room and of her work to combine Navajo philosophies of healing with western medicine. She currently holds an appointment as Associate Faculty at the Center for American Indian Health, at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD.  She is Chief of Staff at Astria Toppenish Hospital in Toppenish, WA. In 2012, Dr. Alvord served as a founding senior officer and associate dean for a new medical school at Central Michigan University College of Medicine. In 2013, the National Congress of American Indians and the National Indian Health Board nominated her for the position of Surgeon General of the United States, jointly. In 2016, Dr. Alvord was named an Arthur Vining Davis Scholar. In December 2018, the Stanford University School of Medicine Alumni Association awarded Dr. Alvord the J.E. Wallace Sterling Lifetime Achievement Award.

 Dr. Alvord earned her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College in 1979, received her doctorate of medicine (MD) at Stanford University School of Medicine in 1985, and completed her residency in general surgery at Stanford University Hospital. She served as associate dean, student affairs and admissions, at Dartmouth Medical School (1997-2009), Central Michigan College of Medicine (2010-2012), and the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson (2012-2014). She served as a member of the National Advisory Council of the NIH Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine from 2008-2010, and she has been a member of many NIH study sections. Her research has focused on surgical outcomes and health disparities in Native American populations. Additional areas of scholarship include Native American health and ceremonies, and the creation of healing environments. Alvord has been awarded honorary degrees from Albany Medical College, Drexel University College of Medicine, and Pine Manor College, and has been the commencement speaker at six medical schools in the United States. She is featured in the National Library of Medicine exhibit, “Changing the Face of Medicine,” honoring pioneering women physicians over the past 150 years, and the PBS feature documentary “Medicine Woman,” (2016).

Organizers & Partners

American Indian Resource Center

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Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library

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J. Willard Marriott Library

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University of Utah Health Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion

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