Since 2009, Global Partners has sent nearly 75 volunteer medical teams to Pine Ridge in collaboration with IHS and the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Initially, many of these teams provided primary care and chronic disease management services at Porcupine Clinic, a small clinic in the community of Porcupine, S.D., and the Improving Patient Care (IPC) clinic at Pine Ridge IHS. Currently, Global Partners works more directly with an IHS clinic in the community of Wanblee, S.D., on the far eastern side of the reservation.
At the request of Wanblee Health Center, several volunteer specialty teams provided services in 2013 since specialty services are often not readily available through IHS. Global Partners has continued this partnership; specialties that have been requested include surgery, GI, dental, dermatology, podiatry, rheumatology, orthopaedics and others. These teams work with IHS staff to review cases, help prioritize patients, and provide direct patient care services. Since 2014 Global Partners has developed continuing medical education and telemedicine connections with the Wanblee clinic as a means of ongoing support and partnership.
Global Partners continuously sends medical teams to provide physical exams in schools and Head Starts, as well as police physicals to the Department of Justice in Pine Ridge. Medical teams also provide first aid training in reservation schools and support a health fair, in partnership with the School District of La Crosse Health Science Academy. During several trips, volunteers work closely with the OST Health Administration office to provide training to Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) on topics applicable to the work they do through the tribe’s home health program. CPR training is another initiative supported by Global Partners volunteers.
An Avon Foundation for Women Breast Health Outreach Program grant has enabled Global Partners to take Gundersen’s mobile mammography unit to Pine Ridge for two years in a row. Services expanded to the Rosebud Reservation in 2012, and in 2013 a total of 265 women from Pine Ridge and Rosebud received free mammograms, clinical breast exams and breast health education! While mammography services are available at the Pine Ridge IHS and Rosebud IHS facilities, many women who live in the small, rural communities around the reservations lack the transportation needed to make it there for an appointment. The mobile unit brings the service to them, and thanks to Avon grant funding, each woman receives free lunch, cancer education and a gift bag! As of 2017, Global Partners received a $39,000 grant from Susan G. Komen to expand the mobile mammography unit reach, increase incentives, as well as hire 2 college-age women in the nursing field to provide more breast health education.
Finally, behavioral health professionals from Gundersen and Pine Ridge co-organize a “Healing Camp for Kids” each July for youth who had experienced trauma and grief. Global Partners plans to use financial donations to once again support the purchase of needed supplies and materials for the camp, as well as connect behavioral health professionals who would like to volunteer as camp counselors for the week.
The first educational partnership that developed was with the UW-La Crosse Community Health Education program. A faculty member led a group of public health students to Pine Ridge in 2010 to work with the OST Health Administration office to better understand the needs and strengths of the communities. The team was able to interview 30 individuals representing a variety of backgrounds, professions, and communities on the reservation. There continues to be growing interest among UW-La Crosse departments to engage with Pine Ridge organizations and schools in mutually-beneficial ways.
In 2012, the School District of La Crosse Health Science Academy (HSA) established an innovative partnership with several Pine Ridge Reservation schools, including Crazy Horse School in Wanblee, S.D. Students from the HSA now travel twice a year – spring and fall – with the Global Partners medical team. HSA teams plan to continue partnering with reservation schools to allow students to interact with one another, and to bring curriculum and resources to schools which would otherwise not be available. The school-to-school partnership provides a unique opportunity for volunteer medical teams to also work in the schools, by providing school physicals, first aid training and assisting health fairs.
Several Crazy Horse School students also participated in the “Native Students Health Careers Camp”, a week-long camp organized by the WARM program and Scenic Rivers AHEC. The students participated in job shadowing of health professionals and hands-on workshops (suturing, casting, etc.) throughout the week, with a culminating experience of a drunk-driving simulation on the last day. Research has shown that these camps make a significant impact on students across the United States, and Global Partners plans to again support the WARM program and Scenic Rivers AHEC in developing a camp for 2014.
Global Partners established a scholarship in 2012 to support the education of a nursing student enrolled in the Oglala Lakota College (OLC) Nursing Program. Current donations support a $500 scholarship each semester to a nursing student. Global Partners plans to increase fundraising with hopes of expanding support to two $500 scholarships. Many of the nursing students from Pine Ridge are able to work for IHS following graduation, providing a needed service for their own communities.
Past volunteer medical teams have been joined by quilters, beaders and sewers who share their crafting expertise during Global Partners trips, and in turn learn much from native artisans! Donated fabric, sewing machines, beads and other materials have helped make these trips successful, as often quilting supplies are not readily found on the reservation (the nearest fabric store is in Rapid City, 1 1/2 hours away!).
In 2012, Global Partners created a partnership with the “Lakota Beginning Farmer/Rancher program” based in Kyle, S.D. The Farmer/Rancher program provides training to students and operates more than 20 community gardens, which supplies the reservation with a bounty of fresh produce (available from a traveling farmer’s market and a stationary market in Kyle). Global Partners sent several volunteer teams to work with the Farmer/Rancher program, helping to weed gardens, transplant seedlings, harvest produce, and other projects.
Global Partners continues to build relationships with each of the organizations and communities with whom we partner. We actively listen to understand the needs of those we work with, and to learn about their strengths and resources, and identify ways to partner effectively.