Knight Cancer physician Amanda Bruegl, M.D., is leading an effort to understand health issues among Native American tribes and communities in the Pacific Northwest, with a special focus on gynecologic cancer.
Throughout medical training, Amanda Bruegl’s commitment to work with Native Americans never faltered. As a member of the Oneida and Stockbridge-Munsee tribes, she is one of two Native American gynecologic oncologists in the United States.
“When I was looking for a job,” she says, “it was really important to me to do something to advocate for Native American women’s health.” She saw a need for that in the Pacific Northwest.
“I was looking for places where there was a significant Native American population and the opportunity to do outreach,” she says.
Now, with support and help from her colleagues at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and the OHSU Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Bruegl has started building relationships with Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest, especially through the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board. The board is an organization with delegates from each of the 43 federally recognized tribes of Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Its mission is to address multiple facets of the health and wellness of Native American people.
“Native Americans are chronically overlooked in the health care system. So our unique issues don’t get the attention they deserve.”
Bruegl has given talks about cancer prevention and treatment to Native American groups and health providers, and is working with leaders and members of the communities to share her knowledge of the disease. With her passion and personal mission to reach out to the community, she is also paving the way to help researchers learn more about Native American women’s gynecologic health. She is working to get approval for a retrospective study on Native American women’s health, which will take a new look at data that has already been collected, focusing specifically on details on gynecologic cancers in Native American women.
“I think Native Americans are chronically overlooked in the health care system,” Bruegl says. “So our unique issues don’t get the attention they deserve.”
Bruegl says if her proposed study can move forward, she will share the results with Native American communities. She hopes health care professionals can then work in concert with the communities to help Native American women prevent gynecologic cancers — like cervical and endometrial cancer — that are often preventable. In the meantime, Bruegl is continuing her outreach to Native American communities by having conversations, building relationships and sharing knowledge.
“For us to get to know each other, and for community providers in clinic to be able to simply text me about a case — asking ‘can I run this by you?’ — provides the frontline care that is incredibly helpful for both the patient and the providers treating Native American women,” she says.
A version of this article originally appeared in the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute’s 2016 Annual Report