In Fort Defiance, at the John Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, Estar Denny, RN (’01), and Jayme Biakeddy (’12) are part of the organization delivering optimal health and well-being for the local communities. The organization works in partnership with American Indian and Alaska Native communities to improve the health status, self-sufficiency, and health leadership of Native people. As the pandemic hit the Navajo Nation, the local unit switched gears to help assist with mobile and drive-thru swab COVID testing, education of COVID to the community, delivery of emergency food, and hand-washing stations to homes and assisting with contact tracing. With most staff working long days and traveling roughly 10 hours a week between sites around Window Rock, Fort Defiance, Navajo, Gallup, Sanders, and Houck.
Estar Denny graduated from SMIS in 2001 and earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Grand Canyon University. Denny has experience in emergency room and post-operative nursing. Her career move began when she learned of the program during her son’s doctor’s visit. She was impressed with the experience of the nurses who assisted her. After a few appointments, she realized that this was the type of organization she wanted to be part of. Working in a well-paid corporate position, she realized the priorities of the profit-driven company did not suit her beliefs–in doing work that served others. Growing up with parents who set that example of a working mission, by working for separate non-profits, Estar yearned for a more meaningful career. Today, Estar is the Site Supervisor for the Fort Defiance Unit. Her husband, Kellen Denny, is the fifth-grade teacher at SMIS and their children attend SMIS.
Working in the same unit, Jayme Biakeddy (’12) journeyed to Flagstaff, Arizona to begin her post-secondary education at Northern Arizona University. Graduating with a bachelor in Exercise Science and a minor in Chemistry, Jayme worked for the National Institute of Health in the research. “I did lab work and field setting which included visiting rural communities of White Clay, Sawmill, and other local communities. The data I helped to collect for the Navajo Nation is crucial because each state runs its own data. So, when it comes to the Navajo Nation, which encompasses three states, the data can be difficult because there is no central program. The data collected is used not only used by medical providers but also by local government.” Jayme’s siblings attended SMIS.