Growing up on a New Mexico reservation in the Navajo Nation instilled a deep passion for culture and tradition in Crystal Sekaquaptewa. Taking great pride in her heritage, Crystal always knew that she wanted to make a difference and help her community which lead to her desire for a career in medicine.
“I had never seen a Native American doctor, especially a female when I was child, and I always thought how amazing it would be have a Navajo doctor that understood the people,” said Crystal.
Crystal began her doctoral path at Southern Utah University in the hopes of becoming a dentist. On the day of graduation Crystal had an acceptance letter from Creighton University School of Dentistry in hand. Crystal had become the first SUU Native American student to be accepted into a professional school.
According to the association of American Medical Colleges, Crystal continued to be a rarity in the medical world by being just one percent of the 77,000 students who are annually seeking their doctorate degrees in the United States.
After graduation from Creighton the female doctor was once again a unique sight when she was hired at the Monument Valley Community Health Center as a dentist, becoming the first Native American woman to be hired within the Utah Navajo Health System.
Moving seamlessly between the medical and traditional worlds, Crystal is well aware of how the cultural beliefs of her patients can affect what she does, something she believes can’t be done by doctors who are not Native American.
“Because of my background the patients automatically trust me,” said Crystal. “There isn’t a language barrier and I understand their diet and culture, things that other doctors don’t know firsthand.”
It’s not just dental patients receiving help from Crystal; she is also touring Navajo Nation schools to prove to students that their ethnicity doesn’t determine their ability to succeed at a school like SUU.
Crystal graduated with a degree in Biology. Learn more about the program.