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Making a Difference

My colleague and founder of Eclectic Naturopathic Medicine, Dr. Kathleen Riley, is off to South Dakota again to donate her time and expertise on a Lakota-Sioux reservation. During her first medical mission to the region, Dr. Riley treated many tribal members, elders and children alike. Her work involved conducting medical exams, testing for lead and mineral deficiencies, and educating individuals and health care providers about the importance of nutrition in an effort to assist them in dealing with their main health concerns. Last December Dr. Riley joined a holiday giveaway mission where she brought zinc and vitamin D supplements to the Sioux to help support their immune systems as well as consulted with over 40 people. Much of that trip was spent on teaching stress coping strategies. These medical missions are organized by a non-profit organization called Hawkwing, which is located in Glastonbury, CT. www.Hawkwing.org. According to Rochelle Ripley, founder of Hawkwing, alcoholism, diabetes, suicide, and cancers are prevalent in that region of our country. Unfortunately, the land that the Sioux inhabit and their water supply has been contaminated with mercury, arsenic, and radioactive uranium from abandoned open-pit uranium mines. Their rivers are so polluted with mercury, that they have been advised to not eat any fish from them. Adding to their poor health and living conditions is the fact that most of the people residing on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation subsist on less than $3000/year. Given these numbers, it is easy to see that poverty is a major obstacle in obtaining clean water, food, and adequate health care. In her desire to make a difference for this population, Dr. Riley piloted a grassroots project where she taught the Lakota-Sioux how to grow alfalfa sprouts in mason jars. This program was well-received by tribal members since it required very little water and gave great results. Alfalfa sprouts contain Vitamins A, C, K, riboflavin, folate, thiamin, B6, niacin, and pantothenic acid. They are also a good source of dietary fiber and contain small amounts of some key minerals and protein. At the request of tribal members for more alfalfa seed, Dr. Riley secured a small grant, and will be bringing 150 lbs of alfalfa seed, and 300 wide-mouthed mason jars with screen mesh to South Dakota during Hawkwing's medical mission in mid-June. "This particular mission is an exciting one," said Dr. Riley, "as this is the first time we will be joined by dentists who are much needed at the reservation." Currently, there is only one part-time dentist for a population of over 12,000. This medical mission will be Hawkwing's largest. Joining Dr. Riley are 2 other naturopathic physicians, a PhD, RNs, a respiratory therapist, an acupuncturist and a La Leche League leader, to help educate the tribal women about the importance of breast-feeding. Statistically, the Sioux in this region suffer a 25% infant mortality rate, the highest in all of North and South America. With an unemployment rate over 90% there are also high depression and suicide rates at the reservation. When asked why she chose to support the efforts of Hawkwing, Dr. Riley replied, "I was frustrated that there are areas in the US where people live in such deplorable conditions. This area is so grossly underserved, and most Americans are unaware of what is happening on this reservation." She went on to say, "While I am fortunate enough to have food on a regular basis and a roof over my head, many on the reservation simply are not. Participating in these missions affords me an opportunity to give back." Speaking about the non-profit organization specifically, Dr. Riley said, "I chose to support Hawkwing because it is a charity where I am able to witness all of their efforts going directly to the people who are in need." Our office is very proud of Dr.Riley and her efforts in supporting this greatly underserved area in our nation. And we wish her another successful mission. If you are interested in donating your time, expertise or money to this cause, please visit Hawkwing's website,www.hawkwing.org. Dr. Lesa Werner is a naturopathic physician at Eclectic Naturopathic Medicine in Newington, CT. www.drlesawerner.com

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