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Kate Hartzell
Executive Director, SWCAHEC
November 18, 2021
Hi explorer

Director's Letter:
As a healthcare workforce capacity building organization, we are dedicated to creating healthcare workers who are uniquely qualified to serve our region. We also support existing healthcare providers who provide topnotch care to patients and clients in Southwestern Colorado.
The goals and objectives of our programming, though varied, support this mission. As a regional AHEC center, we receive funding from the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) as part of the larger COAHEC program. One of the main goals for HRSA funding to AHECs across the country is related to diversity and focuses on increasing opportunities for community members and students in rural and underserved regions to pursue a career in healthcare through education and training.
Supporting and expanding opportunities for a trained and more diverse healthcare workforce that understands the rich cultures and backgrounds of their patients is important to us.
I am so honored to work with exemplary colleagues dedicated to celebrating the resilience of diverse community members and especially thankful to our staff for developing educational opportunities that deepen our understanding of health and wellness in our region.
Please let us know how we can support you and thank you for all that you do!


Kate Hartzell

November is Native American Heritage Month
SWCAHEC is proud to serve Southwestern Colorado, an area that encompasses the land of tribal nations.

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Imo Succo, our Regional Health Connector, has created a land acknowledgement to remind us daily of the history and meaning of the land upon which we live and work.
We use her words to honor both the land and our tribal community members past and present.
Land Acknowledgement:
Today, we acknowledge that the ground beneath our feet is historically the home of Indigenous Peoples. It is the ancestral lands of the Puebloan, Ute tribes and Dine, who have occupied this land before colonization. The Weenuchiu band are now recognized as Ute Mountain Utes who are located in Towaoc just outside of Cortez, Colorado. The Mouache and Caputa bands make up the Southern Ute Indian Tribe of Ignacio, Colorado. Hesperus Peak, located just west of Durango, is the tallest peak in the La Plata mountain range, and is identified as one of the four sacred mountains by the Dine people, aka Navajo.

The history of these lands have been told from a western perspective, without fully acknowledging the indigenous people who occupied this land before it was La Plata County and Montezuma County. It is imperative to know that we are living and working on stolen lands.

We are here to create a peaceful environment for all and to be inclusive of history, culture, and humanity. Thank you for acknowledging the history of lands with me today.

*Please acknowledge Imo Succo if using all or part of this land acknowledgement.

SWCAHEC Welcomes New Staff Members

"Ya’ah t’eeh! (hello in Diné). It is exciting to be part of a team that is completing meaningful work that I'm very passionate about."

-Chelsie Begoody,
Community Programs Associate
Chelsie Begoody, Community Programs Associate, has recently joined the SWCAHEC team. Chelsie is from Burnside, AZ, a small community on the Navajo Nation and her clans are Sleepy Rock, Honeycomb Rock, Salt, and Edge Water. She is currently majoring in Public Health at Fort Lewis College with minors in Nutrition and Environmental Policy and plans on graduating in the fall. With her passion for nutrition, and her experience in metropolitan healthcare settings and rural communities, she is a great asset to our team.

Yá'át'ééh! (Hello) Tilton Dennison is a member of the Diné (Navajo) Nation. He hails from Chíí Deezáhí, located just 5 and 1/2 miles northeast of Aneth, Utah.

He recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Diné College. Tilton works with TRIO Talent Search as an Academic Advisor and works with SWCAHEC as a Healthcare Pipeline Associate.

When Tilton is not working, he enjoys doing artwork (feather work/bead work), hiking, and traveling with his wife Caitlyn and his two beautiful girls.

Students from Local Tribes are Committed to Serving
their Communities as Healthcare Providers
and Public Health Advocates

Internship experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic have taught students about resilience and perseverance in the face of new and emerging disease conditions. These experiences have inspired healthcare and public health students to continue to be of service to their communities by continuing their education and entering the health workforce. Native American students from area native nations will increase the diversity of health professions in our region, offering needed perspectives to healthcare and public health programs.
SWCAHEC intern McKayla Keams created a mask creation, distribution, and education project for her small, remote community on Navajo Nation. The purpose of the project was to educate about masking, provide PPE, and empower community members to create their own protection against COVID-19. McKayla used culturally appropriate materials and messaging for her community. She also served as a mentor to young family and community members to inform them about careers in public and community health.
At the conclusion of her project, she did a presentation highlighting her experience and sharing her growth;
“My overall experience of this project is very heartwarming to me. I was able to give back to my community at a time of need. I was able to provide masks for 25% of my community’s population. I received an abundant amount of positive feedback before/during/after my distribution. I will be continuing my mask making and distributing throughout the pandemic. Then, I plan to continue to work in public health and go to grad school.”
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SWCAHEC Staff Offers Native American Cultural Awareness Trainings for Healthcare Providers and Community Organizations

SWCAHEC Regional Health Connector, Imo Succo, has been conducting trainings on Native American Cultural Awareness for regional healthcare providers, healthcare facilities, and community organizations. Imo has introduced over 215 people to her lived experience as a native patient and behavioral health provider in Southwestern Colorado. The response to her presentations has been positive and participants have shared that they are committed to using what they have learned in their healthcare practice. Imo’s voice has joined others in our region to contribute to conversations about competent care for diverse community members.
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Mentors Inspire Students Into Healthcare Careers

SWCAHEC hosts a Healthcare Professions Mentorship Series for students and community members interested in pursuing health-related careers. Spero Manson, Professor of Public Health and Psychiatry and Director of the Centers for American Indian and Alaska native Health at the University of Colorado, shared his journey into health research and the impact that mentors played in his success. Students attending the event from Fort Lewis College and Diné College and community members from SW Colorado were inspired by Dr. Manson’s stories and by his generosity with the students he has mentored over the years. Presentations will continue this Winter.

Indigenous Peer Recovery: SWCAHEC Offers Education and Training and Extends Peer Recovery Circle into Cortez

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SWCAHEC has received funding from the Rocky Mountain Health Foundation to increase existing programming related to Peer Recovery for native community members. This December, SWCAHEC will sponsor a Warrior Down Peer Recovery Training offered by White Bison, a non-profit that offers sobriety, recovery, addictions prevention, and wellness/Wellbriety learning resources to the Native American/Alaska Native community nationwide.
Additionally, SWCAHEC offered a panel discussion about Indigenous Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment in Southwestern Colorado. Imo Succo, SWCAHEC Regional Health Connector, is forming a Peer Recovery Circle program that will extend additional area substance abuse recovery into Cortez. SWCAHEC is honored to partner with the many wonderful people and organizations working to reduce the impacts of substance abuse in our region.

SWCAHEC Addresses Social Determinants of Health in SW Colorado with Educational Programming

SWCAHEC is working with the Accountable Health Communities Model to address the effects of the social determinants of health on community members in Southwest Colorado. As part of this work, we are creating education and training around food insecurity for healthcare providers and community members. SWCAHEC staff member Chelsie Begoody is partnering with local indigenous food expert Brandon Francis to explore the history and meaning of native food systems to highlight the relationship between food and health. Chelsie is also working on an Indigenous Cookbook to be completed Spring 2022.
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SWCAHEC Health Careers Institute 2021

The SWCAHEC Health Careers Institute was held July 31st -August 3rd at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. The Institute was four days of presentations and hands-on experiences introducing high school students to careers in healthcare and public health. Local health professionals inspired students by sharing their professional experiences and their educational journeys. Fort Lewis College faculty introduced students to educational opportunities that lead to health careers and facilitated lab experiences so that students could experience first-hand health-related research and exploration. SWCAHEC staff led students in discussions about how native culture impacts patient health and care and explored the subject of food insecurity and tribal nations. We could not have asked for a more engaged and dynamic group of students and we are grateful for the volunteers and staff who so generously shared their time and professional journeys. Our “Health Careers Institute 2021 Report” highlights the activities and learning that took place at the Institute. Please take a minute to read more about the 2021 SWCAHEC Health Careers Institute- the future of healthcare in Southwestern Colorado looks bright!
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