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In His Own Words: Kevin Teehee, MD ’97

  Dr. Kevin Teehee
 

Dr. Kevin Teehee now works in the emergency department of Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys, California.
Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Kevin Teehee

Kevin Teehee, MD ’97, is one of 250 Native Americans actively practicing medicine in the United States. After completing an internship in general surgery at UC Davis and a residency in family medicine at USC, he was selected as the first full-time medical director at American Indian Health & Services Clinic in Santa Barbara, California. Dr. Teehee also has served as California representative for the Executive Council on the National Council of Clinical Directors for the Indian Health Service. He was awarded the Outstanding Model Program Award from the Association of American Indian Physicians and honored by the organization as its Outstanding Member Affiliate. Recently, he returned to the American Indian Health & Services Clinic to serve on its board of directors.

My roots are from the Cherokee Nation of rural Oklahoma. Although my parents both attended government Indian boarding schools from the age of 8 and never returned home, they passed on the Cherokee heritage and values to my brother and me. I grew up in rural Northern California, attended UC Berkeley and was motivated to be a physician by the traditional Cherokee values of generosity and emotional, physical, spiritual and social well-being. I can assure you that no one who knew me in my youth would have guessed that I would have ended up an accomplished doctor in a big city.

When applying to medical school, I was immediately attracted to the Charles Drew/UCLA Medical Education Program because of its mission to transform the lives of underserved communities through health education, biomedical research and compassionate patient care. I did not want to attend any other school. I identified with this patient population because it was similar to my family and hometown community. My entire medical career has been spent providing quality healthcare to the underserved. I truly enjoy practicing clinical medicine in this setting.

The part of medicine I am still most passionate about is the first challenging seconds of meeting an apprehensive patient who may be distrustful of doctors, receiving information through a translator or frightened by the uncertainty of their medical condition. I intentionally use words that will make the patient and family members comfortable and will give them confidence in the care they will receive. Often, I use humor. If I can get the patient to crack a smile, then the rest is easy.

For more information about the American Indian Health & Services Clinic, go to: aihscorp.org.

 





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