Phyllis Sanderson, a cultural liaison and translator for the Native American Cardiology Program at University Medical Center, has won the 2004 Volunteer Service Award of the Phoenix Area Indian Health Service. Sanderson was honored at a ceremony at the Heard Museum on Nov. 19.
The Native American Cardiology Program (NACP) is a joint effort of UMC, IHS and the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center. It provides culturally sensitive care to Native American patients and their families in collaboration with more than 150 primary care providers at distant IHS facilities.
Approximately 1,000 Native American patients a year receive care through this program at clinics throughout Arizona and at UMC. They often travel hundreds of miles to Tucson for diagnostics tests and therapy.
Sanderson, who was born in Tuba City and is herself Navajo, has worked with Native American patients at UMC for the past 10 years. She translates for patients faced with difficult cardiology and medical problems and helps them negotiate the sometimes intimidating complexity of a tertiary medical center. She also educates hospital staff about providing culturally sensitive care to Native Americans.
In nominating Sanderson for the award, Associate Director Eric Brody, MD, wrote, "This is not a 9-to-5 job for Phyllis. She routinely takes patients and their families to her home for a home-cooked native meal. She volunteers to take patients to and from hotels when concerned they might get lost in the 'big city.' She has done laundry at home, dried and folded it and returned it to family members staying at the hospital. She has cooked on her own time and brought in meals to patients eating poorly due to their unfamiliarity with the menu."
Sanderson has taught UMC's kitchen staff how to make native meals such as blue corn mush and lamb stew and worked to get these on the hospital menu. She has developed native language teaching tapes used by patients and families prior to discharge to improve understanding of their condition and care. She has taught nursing staff the vital need for family support throughout a hospitalization and pioneered family housing in patient rooms to improve care.
The Phoenix Area Indian Heath Service, which bestowed the award on Sanderson, oversees the delivery of health care to approximately 140,000 Native American users in the tri-state area of Arizona, Nevada and Utah.