Guest Blog: Bear Down, Rural Arizona!

Maria Paiva

By: Maria Paiva, BSP, BCPS

I have heard and seen the slogan “Bear Down” multiple times over the course of my time in Tucson.  Most commonly associated with Wildcat athletics, I did a little digging to find the origin of this simple, but strong phrase. 

John Salmon was dual sport athlete and president of the student body.  He had an illustrious athletic career that was tragically cut short after a motor vehicle accident the day after the 1926 season’s opening game, resulting in a severe spinal cord injury and eventual death.  His dying words to his coach were, “Tell them…tell the team to bear down.”  A year later, “Bear Down” became the official slogan of all Wildcat teams. 

Though the phrase originates from tragedy, it purports a spirit of leadership, teamwork, pride, and triumph that transcends athletic arenas.  Over the past four weeks at the Center for Rural Health, I have witnessed these words in action.   

I have had the privilege of meeting and working with multiple leaders both on campus and in the communities of San Carlos, Safford, and Nogales.  Not one person had the same role, but all shared the same passion for their organizations and optimizing the health of the communities they served.  As John Salmon was a dual-sport athlete, many of these leaders play more than one position to ensure that their programs thrive. 

Across all the communities, when discussing all their success and areas of improvement, it was always “we accomplished this” or “we can do it” or “we will make it happen.”  In these rural settings, it was apparent that teamwork and collaboration was key to their success. 

When compared to urban communities, rural America is of lower socioeconomic status, underinsured, and underserved.  Despite having the odds stacked against them, these communities have tremendous pride, and truly “Bear Down” to stretch their resources and accomplish remarkable feats.  In areas identified as needing improvement, there were no excuses, but an examination of the issue and subsequent problem solving.

It is hard to believe that four weeks have come and gone.  I have learned so much about American policies and their impact on rural health, leadership, collaboration, and the research process.  Thank you to Dr. Neil MacKinnon who served as my preceptor and all the staff at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health for providing a rich learning experience. 

Be assured, that when faced with challenges, I to will “Bear Down!” 

 About the Author

Maria Paiva, BSP, BCPS

Maria Paiva, BSP, BCPS, is a visiting scholar at the Arizona Center for Rural Health. She will be graduating from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada with a  post-baccalaureate PharmD in May 2013.  Her clinical area of interest is oncology and in the future hopes to be involved in health policy and education.  



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