REPRESENTATION & VISIBILITY MATTERS: WORKING TO STRENGTHEN CARE OF NATIVE & INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES IN FAMILY MEDICINE

AN INTERVIEW WITH TAMEE LIVERMONT, MPH

This article originally appeared in the fall 2022 edition of Minnesota Family Physician magazine.


MAFP Student Director Tamee Livermont, MPH, is a second-year medical student at the University of Minnesota, Duluth campus. She is a leader and advocate and passionate about Native American health care.

At the 2022 American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students, the Minnesota student delegation introduced a resolution, authored by Livermont, calling for the AAFP to increase the visibility of Native and Indigenous communities by inviting representative members to contribute to the new AAFP Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness. The resolution was adopted.

In addition to her role as MAFP Student Director, Livermont serves on the American Medical Association Medical Student Section’s American Indian Affairs Committee and as a representative for the Center of American Indian and Minority Health. She also is a member of the MAFP Legislative and Health Equity Committees.

Livermont was recently named a recipient of the 2022 Morris K. Udall and John S. McCain III Native American Graduate Fellowship in Tribal Policy. Before medical school, she served as the Tribal Liaison at the Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board and earned a Master of Public Health degree in health policy. Livermont is a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation.

Tamee Livermont, MPH

We asked Livermont to share more with us about the resolution she authored and her experiences in leadership and advocacy.

TELL US ABOUT THE “INCREASING VISIBILITY OF NATIVE AND INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES WITHIN THE AAFP” RESOLUTION THAT YOU AUTHORED.

The idea for the resolution came after looking through AAFP publications, resolutions and policies that failed to, in most cases, mention Native and Indigenous communities. Within spaces at the AAFP, there was little to no representation for our tribal communities.

In this resolution, we called on the AAFP to:

  • Provide targeted educational opportunities focusing on Native and Indigenous communities, centering Indigenous voices in these conversations.
  • Be deliberate in the recruitment and selection of individuals to serve on the Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness—to identify AAFP members who are Native or Indigenous to contribute to the commission’s work.

Representation is important. Visibility is important. I am hopeful that this resolution leads to explicit efforts by the AAFP and will further strengthen the quality of care for Native patients by family medicine physicians and the AAFP’s relationship with Native physicians, student doctors and tribal communities.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH AS STUDENT DIRECTOR OF THE MAFP?

As mentioned before, representation is important. I see being the student director as an opportunity to be a voice for Native patients across Minnesota and strengthen the commitment of the MAFP to their mission of health equity, reaching tribal communities across the state.

HOW CAN MEDICAL STUDENTS BENEFIT FROM MEMBERSHIP IN THE MAFP?

The MAFP has many opportunities to be involved, advocate for the things you are passionate about and learn more about family medicine and the flexibility in this specialty, including financially supporting students in attending the AAFP National Conference. Staff are supportive and provide low-stress opportunities to get engaged.

TELL US ABOUT THE UDALL NATIVE AMERICAN GRADUATE FELLOWSHIP IN TRIBAL POLICY.

The Udall Native American Graduate Fellowship in Tribal Policy recognizes outstanding Native American and Alaska Native graduate students who are currently pursuing advanced degrees in health care fields. It’s a financial award that supports students in opportunities to further their work on health care policy.

Morris Udall was a champion for tribal self-determination and tribal health care policy. Receiving this award allows me to continue his work and legacy and uphold the obligations of the federal government to provide quality, competent health care to my own and other tribal communities across the nation.

I entered medical school knowing that the end goal wasn’t to be a clinical physician full-time, but to use my clinical experiences and interactions with those I serve to inform my advocacy and create change. This fellowship invests in my true passion for policy and systems change while I continue my medical training.

YOU HOLD A NUMBER OF LEADERSHIP ROLES AS A MEDICAL STUDENT. CAN YOU SPOTLIGHT ONE?

My favorite leadership position in medical school is being the Center of American Indian and Minority Health Representative. This leadership position provides me the opportunity to advocate for BIPOC students and DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) issues, plan events to build a community for students on the Duluth campus and so much more.

It meant a lot to me when students put their trust in me to be their representative. Through this position, the change in which we are able to mobilize doesn’t only impact current students, but those who follow in our footsteps. Higher education spaces were not meant for us, so being able to be a voice through this role, break down barriers and hold the institution accountable to true inclusivity is very important to me.

ANY TIPS FOR OTHER STUDENTS ON HOW TO DEVELOP AS A LEADER AND ADVOCATE?

Try it. Be humble along the way. Being a leader and advocate takes time. Get used to being uncomfortable. Equally, be a good listener and stand up for what is right. Being a leader isn’t a title; it’s a commitment to the work that you do and your actions upholding the leadership which you say you provide.

The same rings true for advocacy. For allies, leadership and being an advocate means finding the balance between taking on the workload of educating and uplifting and centering the voices of those impacted by the things that you’re advocating for. For individuals from marginalized backgrounds, it sometimes means having awareness to recognize spaces in which your perspective is not respected and creating healthy boundaries to know when to step away or keep pushing.

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Post author: Emie Buege, communications

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