Grad aims to improve the health of Indigenous people

December 3, 2021

Editor’s Note: This story is one in a series of profiles of notable fall 2021 graduates.

Perhaps because her parents were the first responders on the reservation where she grew up in Tuba City, Arizona, or perhaps because Indigenous people are disproportionately affected by the disease, Ashley Brock believed the disease caused just part of everyday life.

Ashley Brock (left) and a co-intern share information about Native Health’s Helping Hands program in Phoenix. Photo courtesy of Ashley Brock
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“It wasn’t until I was growing up that I realized how difficult it is for Indigenous people to stay healthy in this modern American world,” said Brock, a member of the Navajo and Hopi Nations.

This realization led her to earn a degree in Healthcare Delivery Science, with a minor in Native American Studies, at Arizona State University.

“I initially started school with a desire to improve the delivery of health care on the reserve, through process engineering and the design of new clinics,” said Brock. “It’s always one of my goals; however, my goals have widened since then.

What Brock learned during her time as a student in the Science of Health Care Delivery program at the College of Health Solutions broadened the range of possibilities she saw for improving the health of Indigenous people. Now, in addition to helping improve process engineering, she wants to address the social determinants of health in Indigenous communities.

On its shortlist: create a medical technical institute with a culturally appropriate curriculum in the Navajo reservation; build and restore recreation centers to improve physical health; and create partnerships and promote the sharing of ideas among like-minded people to deal with other insecurities experienced by indigenous communities, such as housing, employment and food insecurity.

“I know that many of my goals may not be achieved on my own; However, if I can empower others to build on my vision, I know that the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples will continue to thrive for generations to come, and that’s all I hope for. always, ”said Brock.

A recipient of funding from the Office of Navajo Nation Scholarship and Financial Assistance and an American Indian Services scholarship, Brock was selected to represent the College of Health Solutions in the first cohort of student interns in the new Helping Hands program at Native Health in Phoenix. .

The program connects clients with a wide range of social determinants to health services in the valley. As part of the first cohort of student interns, Brock helped establish the procedures and processes that made him successful.

“I admit I had a rough time in this internship,” said Brock. “There were days when I wished I could do more for our customers. Sometimes I wish there were more hours in the day to help them. The good that emerges these days is that it allows us to think outside the box and find solutions. … I can’t wait to see where this program goes in the future because I think it can have such a big impact in the community.

Woman wearing a traditional Native American dress, standing on a rock at the base of a mound.

Ashley brock

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to specialize in the science of healthcare delivery?

Reply: I enrolled in the Science of Healthcare Delivery program in the hope of managing and improving the efficiency of Indian healthcare facilities. Every semester, every class, and every homework I’ve had since then, I knew I was on the right track. This degree program showed me the many facets of healthcare and opened many doors for me, expanding my aspirations further than I ever imagined. In a way, my “aha” moment has been an ongoing experience since my very first semester at ASU.

Q: What did you learn at ASU – in class or elsewhere – that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: Every course I have taken has contributed, in one way or another, to my perspective today. I think the most prominent courses were “American Indian Sovereignty / Courts”, “Tribal Community Planning”, “Process Engineering”, “Public Health” and “Transforming Health Care”. I believe the lessons from these five courses have really helped shape my vision for health and health care in Indigenous communities. In summary, these five courses collectively challenged my views on improving healthcare and community development, from the perspective of cultural significance and decolonization.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: As a native of Arizona, ASU was of course my first choice in higher education. Attending an excellent university in my home country without a doubt was an easy choice.

Q: Which teacher taught you the most important lesson during your time at ASU?

A: I worked with Dr Elizabeth Kizer for a year, starting with her “Process Engineering” course – a course that sparked my passion for process engineering. Since then she has given me the opportunity to further develop and refine my skills and pursue my goals through two undergraduate research projects and the Helping Hands internship. His advice has been invaluable to me during my last year here at ASU.

Q: What is the best advice you would give to those who are still in school?

A: Get some sun, network, participate in school activities, talk to your teachers and counselors, and mental health issues – don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Q: What was your favorite place on campus, whether it was to study, meet friends, or just think about life?

A: The American Indian Student Support Services downtown office and the Noble Library were my primary places to study, depending on which campus I was on for the day. The outdoor common areas were therapeutic on those hot, sunny days.

Q: What are your plans after you graduate?

A: My list of goals is so long. I want to open and operate a medical training institute on the Navajo reservation. I want to become a process engineer and / or compliance officer in an establishment of the Indian health service. I want to open and manage fitness / recreation centers in rural reserve towns. I want to lead or work for a meaningful non-profit organization that I believe in. I would even like to go back to school, to work to become a primary care doctor. There is so much more I would like to do. I don’t know what paths I’ll end up on, but as long as I help the community and motivate others to take action in one way or another, I’ll be happy.

Q: If someone gave you $ 40 million to solve a problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I am a healthcare delivery student with an environmentalist heart. I would like to invest in safe and renewable energy or in an innovative effort to clean up the environment. Take care of the Earth, so that it can take care of us.

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