Lakota Woman Among 36 To Kennedy Krieger Institute

Jun 10, 2015

Black Hills State University senior Shaina Johnson.
Credit Courtesy Black Hills State University
A young Lakota woman has just begun a summer internship with the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore. The Black Hills State University senior was one of just 36 students chosen from a field of 900 to attend three Center for Disease Control-funded programs. 

Shaina Johnson grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Always a good student, she qualified for a Gates Scholarship in high school.

And though she wandered a bit while finding her career path, Shaina says she always saw her future in medicine 

“I always knew I wanted to become a doctor," Shaina recalls. "As a little girl…I dreamt of doing that more than becoming…wanting to plan out my wedding. I never, ever thought I would be married or anything. Instead, I’ll be thinking…”Oh…when I’m a doctor, this is what I want to do. When I go into medicine, this is how I want to be.' Or the type of doctor I wanted to be. So, it was just something that started at a young age.” 

Shaina Johnson has been a Bureau of Indian Affairs wildland firefighter on the Pine Ridge Reservation for 3 years. Pictured (left-to-right): Shaina Johnson and Shelby MaGhee.
Credit Courtesy Shaina Johnson

Shaina was raised in an environment where good grades were expected. That meant homework was done before anything else. Shaina also received strong instruction in her Lakota language and culture.

After her summer internship at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, Shaina will be at the Sanford Medical Center in Sioux Falls studying 7000 rare diseases. No, she won’t need to examine every one before returning to Pine Ridge in August for wildland firefighter duties.

Then it’s back to BHSU in the fall for her final year.

Shaina Johnson hopes to return to Pine Ridge one day as an epidemiologist. Meantime, she’s following her own advice by keeping her eye on her mentors – those doctors whose accomplishments she admires.

Shaina notes that anyone can have a mentor – you just have to choose one.  

The complete interview for this story can be found at: 

http://listen.sdpb.org/post/lakota-scholar-offers-advice-native-youth