Wendy Drum wanted to teach…so much so that starting out in Frankfort, Indiana, she traveled solo all the way to Fairbanks in her two-door Chevy Cavalier, a distance of over 3600 miles. Enrolled to receive the doctorate degree in Anthropology that she had always wanted, she found the isolation and perpetual darkness of northern Alaska wasn’t for her.
Back in the continental U.S., she began work at the Washington State University Extension Office in Newport. She took over the reins of the Food Sense program, educating school-age children in Cusick, Newport, and Selkirk on the importance of eating healthy foods. And how to do so in an area with limited food choices.
With seven years experience in managing budgets, grant reporting, and providing nutrition education for county extension behind her, Wendy now works for KTI. Currently, she splits her time between providing nutritional guidance for Tribal members at the Camas Clinic, the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) grant, and the Empire Health Foundation Grant.
SDPI was established in 1997 and two years ago the senate passed the renewal of the program. The SDPI grant offers much more than just a blood test to see if a patient has diabetes. “SDPI is an amazing opportunity to provide additional care and opportunities to diabetic patients in the Camas Medical Clinic,” Wendy said. “One-on-one nutrition consultations, monitoring Hemoglobin A1C levels, and offering nutrition and wellness education classes are only a few of the activities we’re creating for a more holistic approach to diabetic care.”
Since the disruption of native culture centuries ago, diabetes has been like a plague upon families in Indian country. In response Congress established the SDPI to address the growing epidemic of diabetes in Indian communities. At nearly three times the rate of the national average, American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest prevalence of diabetes. In some communities over fifty percent of adults have been diagnosed with the disease.
However, SDPI grants throughout the nation are helping curb these troubling statistics. One reason is that this is not the one-size-fits-all plan of the past. Diabetes plans that did not measure in cultural diversity have been unsuccessful in gathering momentum, especially on tribal land. Much of the success of SDPI is due to how this grant program allows communities to design and implement their own diabetes interventions that address local priorities.
When asked to comment on the staff and types of services provided at the Camas Center Clinic, Wendy said, “I have never worked with such a kind, compassionate group of people. The Camas Center Clinic is a unique care facility. We all work together to provide continuous, personalized, and culturally relevant medical care to all our patients, hoping we can offer services and educational opportunities to improve not only patient health but improve their quality of life.”
To schedule a dietary consultation with Wendy, please call the Camas Clinic at 447-7111.