Dr. GAry Ferguson
Healthy Communities Consultant
Guiding individuals and organizations in positive directions
I’ve been enjoying traveling this Spring/Summer, assisting Tribal Health organizations in promoting well-being in their communities. Looking at growing the good, utilizing a bright-spots based approach is crucial to not get lost in the hopeless abyss, the challenges many of our communities face. Often, under our noses, are things that are working. Similar to building a fire, there are often hot embers, positive happenings, that can be used to re-ignite the fire of hope in community. Resilience that we can learn from and be inspired by. What is working in your community? What assets have we possibly overlooked or undervalued? What can we build upon, grow to enhance wellness for our communities’ future?
Greetings and Happy Spring!
I've been enjoying the past few months of transition in my career, as I develop my consulting business. Coming up with a title for my consulting work was a challenge, as my practice is holistic and varied depending on the community, organization or individual I'm working with. Healthy Communities Consultant resonated as the best title for my overall work as a catalyst across Alaska (and beyond). Many have asked what my consulting looks like, so below is a summary of the kind of work that I do:
Some of my current passions include:
Social, Economic, Cultural and Environmental Determinants of Health (Population Health)
Nutrition, Food as Medicine
Indigenous approaches to health & well-being
Botanical Medicine and especially the traditional medicines of indigenous peoples
Incorporating botanical, integrative medicines into Tribal Health System pharmacies
Tribal Self-determination, self-funding and offering of Integrative Medicine, Traditional Healing
Addressing the "Silver Tsunami", making sure our Elders have wellness-based healthcare and advocacy
Trauma-informed Care and non-pharmacologic therapies for resolving trauma
Addressing Homelessness, Housing First
My current bio:
Dr. Gary Ferguson is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor living in Anchorage, Alaska. For the past 16 years, Dr. Ferguson has worked across Alaska to address the social, economic, cultural and environmental factors that contribute to the health, well-being of Alaskans. He is a facilitator, motivational speaker, and technical consultant to communities, agencies, and individuals around how to more deeply address contributing factors to health, well-being. He is Aleut/Unangan, originally from the Shumagin Islands community of Sand Point, Alaska. Dr. Ferguson’s past positions include providing clinical services to his home region at Eastern Aleutian Tribes and serving at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium as Wellness & Prevention Director and Senior Director of Community Health Services. His most recent work includes serving at the Rural Alaska Community Action Program as Chief Executive Officer prior to becoming a Healthy Communities Consultant.
After a fast year being a catalyst, change agent CEO at RurAL CAP, I’m excited about where my next career adventure will take me. I’ve been gifted with such amazing opportunities, colleagues that I appreciate working with. I reflect as I review years of beautiful photos, stories showing how lucky I have been to do such impactful work. I've learned so much from the people I've served, our many Indigenous cultures across Alaska and beyond. I've especially been impressed with the values that hold us together as communities and sustain our well-being. Values that I've used to navigate difficult decisions as a leader. Values that guide me in making the right choices and help me discern how best to use my life's energy to fully manifest my purpose. I am grateful and give thanks today for my many blessings. I embrace the return of the light on this winter's solstice, and beam out to my many friends, family wishes for a safe, warm and inspiring holiday season.
Primum non nocere is a Latin phrase that means "first, do no harm." It is attributed to Hippocrates, who is considered the Father of Medicine in Western culture. In today's world of healthcare, this phrase is an important guide as we navigate the best choice to treat dis-ease. Naturopathic Medicine's philosophy entails us utilizing methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects, along with using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat. We avoid, when possible, the harmful suppression of symptoms; and acknowledge, respect, and work with individuals’ self-healing process.
Our language(s) hold deep truths, as we navigate a changing landscape of decision making; rich wisdom to resource and keep ourselves aligned. The voices of our ancestors are reminding us through our language of what's really important. I'm originally from the Aleutian Region of Alaska, and our Unangax Language is rich with wisdom. Our Unangan cultural and language expert, Moses L. Dirks, translated our Unangax Values - the right way to live as an Unangax/Aleut People. These values are as practical and useful today, as ever.
First People Unite :: Healthcare
If you could create your own healthcare system, what would it look like? What kind(s) of care would you like to see available? The First People of Alaska are especially fortunate, as we own our own healthcare system. We are still in various stages of true "ownership," as it relates to culturally connected and appropriate healthcare. It's time to grow the grassroots movement of visioning a holistic, wellness-based healthcare system that includes Traditional Healing, Naturopathic Medicine, Chiropractic Medicine, Acupuncture/Chinese Medicine as frontline modalities (as they are aligned with traditional approaches to wellness).
It's time to truly reclaim and own our healthcare. Agree with me? Make sure to tell your local tribal healthcare leaders and bring it up at regional healthcare gatherings.
[Winter Sunset in Venetie, Alaska. Photo by Dr. Gary Ferguson]
I was honored to be a guest at the Shitsuu Myra Roberts Venetie Health Clinic Grand Opening this week. The clinic is named after Myra Roberts, a Midwife/Traditional Healer in Venetie, who delivered many babies in the community. Her legacy in the babies she helped bring into the world along with her own grandchildren and great-grand children were in the audience, as we gathered together in the lobby of the clinic. Wise words were spoken by elders, leaders in the community about the importance of wellness, health and taking care of your family. Traditional healing was mentioned with the rich history of healing traditions of the Gwich'in Athabascan People - from ceremonies to healing plants, ways. Being pro-active in your health by using local medicines and ceremonies helps avoid "emergencies," one elder mentioned. The wise traditions of the First People of Alaska are a rich source of healing. They are in synergy with my work as a Naturopathic Physician, as I too am a life-long learner of the local medicines and ways of our People. I believe culturally-based medicine is a priority in the Alaska Tribal Health System - as we address the health challenges that exist in our community.