Student Profile: Jaymus Lee
The University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Jaymus Lee is a fourth-year student at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix who has conducted research on cultural anthropology in Costa Rica, traditional Navajo medicines as diabetic treatments, telemedicine in pediatric perioperative surgery and medical error disclosure.
The experiences closest to his heart, though, are those that involve improving the health of Native American communities.
A member of the Navajo Nation, Lee was born in New Mexico and raised in Arizona. He graduated from Fort Lewis College with a bachelors of science in Cellular and Molecular Biology.
As a future primary-care provider, Lee said that understanding how to provide the best culturally competent medicine to all community members is his priority. He plans to return to the Navajo Nation to work as an Indian Health Service physician. He also sees the need to develop new Indian health policies and hopes to be involved in that process, as well.
“I feel that talking with Native and rural communities about the importance of insurance coverage and training health care providers to identify and assist their patients in these efforts will change the way we can practice healing,” Lee said. “Looking at some numbers, there are 4.8 million non-elderly Native Americans with a poverty level of 24 percent; meaning that if we ensured that 1.2 million people were covered through federal Medicaid programs, we could reimburse for nearly $6.3 billion and prevent around $3.2 billion from being used from the Indian Health Service budget.”
He explained his advocacy strategy through a Native American legend.
“The Navajo Coyote trickster Ma’ii once fooled his cousin Horned Toad into being swallowed in order to steal his land and food. Being confined in Ma’iis stomach, Horned Toad did not concede to giving up and dying, but rather utilizing all the resources that Ma’ii gave him in his futile attempts to kill him. Horned Toad eventually got himself out of his cousin Ma’ii’s stomach and reclaimed his land, his freedom and his respect — Yá’ át’ ééh shi che.”
Lee said that if Native people want to fight for their sovereignty, they should be prepared for the consequences.
“That means taking charge of our own health and utilizing the resources we are given to become stronger nations who can eventually stand on our own once again,” he said.
There are no formal classes in health policy offered at the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, he said. However, there are many student-led interest groups supported by the college and its faculty, such as Students Advocating in Legislature. As a first-year student, Lee participated in the elective activity, “Doctor of the Day.” The activity included a group of students who were invited to the State Capitol where they were given a tour and listened to proceedings of the Health Senate Committee.
“The college also has a great Rural Health Department that often invites leaders to speak about policy and health issues in their community,” he said. “The department supported my travel to the 2015 Arizona Rural Health Conference in Flagstaff, where I learned more about health policy specific to Arizona, and I was also able to network with great political, academic and tribal leaders.”
Lee also has connected with Daniel Derksen, MD, director of the Walter H. Pearce Endowed Chair and director of the University of Arizona Center for Rural Health, and his Special Projects team, which has allowed Lee to be part of the development of the SHARE program. The program allows health profession students to gain knowledge about health insurance coverage and access with hands-on training in marketplace enrollment for the insured and uninsured.
He hopes to use what he has learned to hold enrollment events facilitated by medical students in rural and Native American communities to increase health care access and quality.
While interning at the National Indian Health Board office in Washington D.C., Lee learned that the Indian Health Service receives a budget every year, but it only funds about 60 percent of what is actually needed.
He wants to educate Native Americans that there are many health services available to them.
“Many Native Americans are unfamiliar with insurance coverage, whether private, public or federal program options,” he said. “They find that daunting or even unnecessary when they are already familiar with the Indian Health Service. However, many are unaware that they qualify for federal programs such as Medicaid (AHCCCS in Arizona), or subsidized/cost-sharing options for private coverage. These options cost them little to no money for increased preventative care, access to care, quality of care and it returns federal dollars back into Native communities.”