1st American Indian dentist recounts historic life

George Blue Spruce, D.D.S., M.P.H., the first American Indian dentist and a former U.S. assistant surgeon general, hopes his recently published autobiography will motivate young people to pursue their dreams, especially American Indian youths considering a medical career.

In his memoirs, Searching for my Destiny, Dr. Blue Spruce, an assistant dean for American Indian affairs at A.T. Still University, recounts his struggles and achievements over more than 70 years, according to a story in the Arizona Republic.

Dr. Blue Spruce became a dentist despite coming from a family of very limited means and being repeatedly told that "American Indians just don't go to college," he told the Republic.

He founded the Society of American Indian Dentists, was assistant U.S. surgeon general from 1981 to 1986, and wrote the original draft of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.

Dr. Blue Spruce hopes his book, which details what it was like for a boy from a family where neither his father nor mother spoke, read, or wrote English, will become "a motivational tool for young people with dreams," according to the story.

During his travels around the U.S., he is often told by American Indian students that he's the first Indian doctor they've ever met.

Carol Grant, A.T. Still's director of the National Center for American Indian Health Professions, said that largely because of Dr. Blue Spruce, the school has about half of all American Indian dental students in the country.

Recalling his days at Creighton University, where he was the only American Indian in his class, Dr. Blue Spruce said he was asked by local officials to ride a pinto pony in their May parade, according to the story.

With the publication of his book, Dr. Blue Spruce has created the George Blue Spruce Scholarship, which will assist American Indian students who want to enter the medical profession.

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