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June 19, 1996

Physicians Find Their Place in Zuniland

JAMA. 1996;275(23):1781-1782. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530470007002

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LATELY, Beth Coates, MD, says her clinic appointments with patients seem to take twice as long as usual. The change has nothing to do with medical complications, but everything to do with a different kind of healing.

Before they discuss diabetes, hypertension, or kidney disease, Coates' patients at the Zuni Comprehensive Community Health Center, operated in rural western New Mexico by the federal Indian Health Service (IHS), ask about her 5-year-old son, Danny.

During a hiking trip in March, Danny was separated from his parents in rugged terrain about 20 miles from their home. Lost for 2 days in subfreezing temperatures and a snowstorm, Danny was the subject of a massive search that included the New Mexico State Police and the National Guard. But it was the tremendous community outpouring that comforted Coates and her husband, Bruce Finke, MD, during many anxious hours.

Hundreds from the Zuni and Navajo tribes,