New Doctor Is Happy to Serve in Indian Country

By Brett Larson, January 12, 2017

Lacey Running Hawk, a new doctor at Ne-Ia-Shing Clinic in District I, confirms that medical school is as grueling as you’d expect. “When you look back, it’s probably good that you are kind of naive about what you are getting into because it is a long road,” said

Dr. Running Hawk. “But when I look back on the process, I wouldn’t change it. The reward of being in the position I’m in now — people trusting me, and being able to care for others — it’s totally worth it.”

Dr. Running Hawk’s father is from the Standing Rock and Sisseton-Wahpeton communities in the Dakotas. He spent his career in the Marines, so Lacey moved around a lot during childhood, eventually graduating from high school in
Pensacola, Florida.

When she was in college at the University of Minnesota–Morris, Dr. Running Hawk knew she wanted to work in health care, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to be a physician until she had an internship with the Sisseton-Wahpeton Indian Health Service. She realized that she wanted to have the kind of relationship she saw between doctors and their patients, and she had a mentor who gave her the confidence to apply for medical school. “Seeing the need for doctors in Indian country — that was my motivation for getting through,” she said.

She attended medical school at the University of Minnesota–Duluth and the Twin Cities campus and completed residency at United Family Medicine in St. Paul.

Among the highlights of her residency was an international rotation in Belize. She was able to work with native Mayan people, who suffer from some of the same chronic diseases as North American Indians — in addition to tropical diseases like malaria, zika and dengue fever.

She finished her final year of residency in June and started at Mille Lacs on Sept. 12. It was not all new to her, since she had worked at Ne-Ia-Shing as a summer resident in 2015. “I enjoyed working with the staff here and enjoyed the patient population,” she said. “It was an easy decision to come here full time.”

After four years of college, four years of medical school, and three years of residency, she’s ready to get to work, and so far her experience at Mille Lacs has been rewarding. “The support from the other clinicians has been great,” she said. “I feel like I’m part of a team. I can consult others when I need to, and as a new physician it’s important to have that support.”

She especially enjoys working with children and women, including prenatal visits. She also looks forward to expanding the clinic’s role in the community and social media.

Dr. Running Hawk is married and lives in the country in the Crosby-Ironton area with her husband, dog and cat. She loves being outdoors, hiking, biking and traveling. And she’s also a big Vikings fan.

“I’m just really excited to work in this community,” she said. “I feel like everyone I’ve met so far has been so welcoming. I’m excited to meet more people and connect with others.”

Doctor Reports on Standing Rock Visit

Dr. Lacey Running Hawk spent time at the Standing Rock protests last fall and had this to share about her experience:

“It was a huge honor just to be there – to stand in solidarity with others in the place where my ancestors lived and my relatives continue to live. I worked in the medical tents at all three camps, and we saw everything from common colds and asthma attacks to injuries from pepper spray, mace, rubber bullets and batons. It was intense at times. I was really impressed with how the tents were set up with both western trained doctors and herbalists to treat patients with an integrative approach that respected their culture and perspectives about medicine. It was also impressive to see all of the donations from outside people — everything from yurts and tents, to firewood and a huge variety of medical supplies and medicines. Since I have been there, the news has reported that the US Army Corps has denied the permit for construction under the river near Standing Rock. This is such a huge victory for Standing Rock, for Native people, and for citizens of the United States. I am so proud that I was able to be there even for just a week, and I feel privileged to work for an organization (the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe) that was willing to send me and donate my time to support such a worthy cause.”