A Doctor's Life North and South of the Border
By Emily Hartzog, MD
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The Indian Health Service was an unlikely place for Emily Hartzog to land after specialty medical training in New York City, but caring for the quiet, unfathomable Navajo in Shiprock, New Mexico became the focus of her life. She and her husband moved to the Four Corners region, named because it takes in parts of four states—Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, and, with no farming background, bought a beautiful property on a rough canyon road.
Dr. Hartzog’s Southern upbringing hadn’t prepared her well for herding cattle, delivering sheep, or planting a vineyard in a place of harsh extremes. She set up an old-fashioned practice in the middle of town, as the only obstetrician available in a fifty mile radius, and learned about life from her patients every day.
She says, “Although it was a busy life, I was inspired by the Navajo’s guiding philosophy to maintain balance. This skill served me well for seventeen years, but then my marriage fell apart and so did I. In my despair, I concentrated on the thing that had sustained me most over the years—providing medical care to native people in need. A small cement clinic in Mexico turned out to be the thing that saved my life.”
Emily Hartzog finished her training as an Obstetrician/Gynecologist at the Cornell Medical Center in New York City, then spent seventeen years in and around the Navajo Reservation before moving to New York City in 2008. Since then, she has been working at the Continuum Center for Health and Healing which integrates Eastern and Western medicine. She still travels to the clinic in Mexico at least three times a year.
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