Embracing Hopi culture on the journey to becoming a doctor
When second-year medical student and scholarship winner Noah Wride compares becoming a physician to running a marathon, it’s not an idle metaphor. Wride has tackled two marathons since moving to Minnesota, and he knows a little something about discipline and perseverance.
Having first explored medicine as a high school student in American Fork, Utah, while participating in an outreach program for Native American scholars at the University of Utah School of Medicine, Wride knows he’s in it for the long haul.
A member of the Hopi nation, Wride grew up fascinated by biology and the natural world. “I’d collect bugs. I really enjoyed being outside, and I had all kinds of pets,” he recalls.
That interest turned to research when he participated in the Expanded Indian Nations Program at the Utah medical school and worked with scientist E. Dale Abel, M.D., Ph.D., on the use of hormones to treat muscle-wasting disorders.
His parents and grandparents nurtured such intellectual passions in Wride, who is a direct descendant of Hopi Chief Loloma—and proud of his heritage. In the late 19th century, Loloma traveled to Washington, D.C., to assert the tribe’s right to enjoy its land and practice the Hopi religion. Returning home, Loloma spoke to his people about Western education as a necessary means for survival:
“My children, let us not be afraid of the days to come. The [white] way of life is here to stay and we must accept that. I feel in my heart that we can find a way to survive as a people. I say to you all learn the white man’s tongue and learn how he thinks. Learn his ways so that we can all survive with it.” (Source: Hopi Education Endowment Fund)
“I grew up hearing that story all the time. I’ve been taught about Hopi culture and history for as long as I can remember,” Wride says. “[Chief Loloma] is one of my grandma’s heroes. She has this picture of him on a donkey, riding off into the desert. That picture sticks in my mind.”
So does the lack of access to medical care Wride has observed on visits to the Hopi reservation in Arizona. “I’m very aware that there’s little access to health care — and to health care education — for Native Americans,” Wride says. “Hopefully, I can help with that.”
Eager to give back
The desire to give back is a recurring theme for Wride, who says, “I feel like, to a large extent, I’m here today because of outreach programs. At some point in my career, I want to be able to give the same opportunities, the same guidance, to somebody else.”
Wride’s Minnesota role models include his adviser, internist and associate professor of medicine Peter Weissmann, M.D., and assistant professor of medicine Brian Sick, M.D., medical director of the Phillips Neighborhood Clinic, which provides accessible, culturally appropriate health care to underserved patients in Minneapolis. “It’s great to get to know these doctors who are very good at what they do, but also good people,” Wride says.
“I’m grateful to have such a strong support system — I feel like I’m at the right place,” he adds. That support includes the Cassius Ellis Scholarship, which honors the late Cassius M.C. Ellis III, M.D. A longtime clinical professor in the Department of Surgery, Ellis also was the first assistant dean for minority students at the Medical School. Wride says he’s honored to hold a scholarship that recognizes Ellis and his commitment to increasing diversity in medicine.
Wride remains enthusiastic about endocrinology but also has a growing interest in emergency medicine. “I like working with people; I want a career where I can see a wide diversity of people with a wide range of problems.”
Whatever specialty he chooses, Wride plans to seek balance in his life. Spending time outdoors is just one way he recharges.
He’s also an accomplished jazz pianist. “I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t come home after a long day and sit down at the piano. The stress just melts away,” he says. “You can’t let medicine be everything [or] you’re going to burn out.”
And there’s running. Wride keeps his marathon experience in mind as he works toward becoming a doctor. “The amount of schooling it takes to even get here is huge and then finishing med school, and then your residency, and then a fellowship, it’s almost like it never ends.” But he’s enjoying the journey— just as he relishes the challenge of running the Twin Cities Marathon.
“I don’t think there’s any feeling that equals crossing the finish line. It’s almost a spiritual feeling to finally get to your destination.”
By Susan Maas, a freelance writer living in Minneapolis