Patient Care in the Field

An individual’s quality of life is extremely important to the overall health of a community. Apart from the personal distress experienced when one member is sick or hurt, there is a huge cost in use of resources and energy to the group as a whole. As such, medicine and healing are impressively important to all cultures from around the world. Southcentral Alaskan Native groups were/are no exception. The lesson that I am designing would help students from 9th-12th grade learn about and use some traditional medicine from the various Alutiiq and Dena’ina tribes of Southcentral Alaska. This lesson could be easily manipulated to serve in biology, chemistry, life science, medical-based, or history classes. The depth and rigor of coursework could also be altered to suit different class needs. This lesson could serve as a 1-2 day crash course, or it could be increased to span several weeks as needed.

The essential question that the students would be investigating is, “How were people of a specific region cared for prior to the arrival of western medicine?”

Several books have been written on different cultures’ traditional medicine and are readily available through libraries, colleges, and online. One in particular that stands out to me is Medicinal Flora of Alaska Natives by Ann Garibaldi. A .pdf is available through

One, of many, activity that I am interested in having the students attempt is to let them problem solve and collaborate on the care of a patient using traditional medicine. After learning about several different methods of patient care, the students would have to determine what the best method of care would be for different cases. A follow-up activity with this exercise could be to have the students then come up with a care plan for the same using modern medicine to see if there are any similarities or differences to the two approaches.

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