PTHA honors fourth graduating class of resident interns

It seemed like just yesterday that the Puyallup Tribal Health Authority welcomed three new resident interns to the PTHA family for a three-year stay, but there the trio of women was last week, standing before their friends and family to be ceremoniously graduated. It was in June 2015 that Dr. Shauna Raboteau, Dr. Amber Postma and Dr. Mary Platt first came to the Puyallup reservation to learn and grow in mind and heart, and it was a bittersweet moment at the formal graduating ceremony on June 22, 2018 to say farewell to this fourth graduating class since the PTHA residency program began nearly eight years ago.

Their send-off started earlier in the week, on June 20, with an all-staff breakfast gathering in the PTHA Spirit House. This gave an opportunity for all their co-workers to celebrate and honor these women who came to PTHA not by chance, but by a calling.

“I am so grateful to them for coming and being a part of us – to the Great Spirit for bringing them to us. They’re a special group,” PTHA Clinical Director Dr. Alan Shelton said. “It was not an accident that they were here. In a spiritual sense, they were called to be here, to bring their gifts, to receive our gifts. These three are very special and we know they’ll do great things out there. We send them off with our love, blessings and best wishes.”

Dr. Mary Platt will be working locally at MultiCare Covington Medical Center in Covington. “I really appreciate the time that I’ve gotten to spend here,” she said. Looking back on the welcoming ceremony PTHA held for them in 2015, she said she was the only incoming resident without immediate family there to witness the ceremony. “But you guys are my family. I felt that from the beginning and feel that way now even more so.”

Dr. Amber Postma, the first Native American graduate of PTHA’s residency program, will also be remaining nearby to work with the Muckleshoot Tribe. “What the Puyallup Tribe has done is really amazing – having a tribal residency is phenomenal. I just want to say thank you for allowing us to be here,” she said.

Dr. Shauna Raboteau will be going back to Hawaii where her family lives, bringing her gifts of healing to a rural area of Oahu to serve native Hawaiians. “I really want to thank those of you who have come to see me seeking medical care,” she said. “On my journey as a healer, that was pivotal. Those of you who have brought in your family to see me – that’s the greatest honor for you to trust your health and wellbeing in my hands. I can’t thank you enough.”

The formal graduating ceremony was held two days later on the North Tacoma waterfront where the Puyallup people have lived for thousands of years. The Brown’s Point Improvement Club was filled with the residents’ friends and family eager to show their love and appreciation for what the three women have accomplished and to see them reintroduced into the community with their new roles.

Before the ceremony got underway, the three doctors were dressed in traditional women’s regalia of a woven sash and cedar headband. Escorts, two for each graduate, were selected to guide and protect each one on her way to complete the traditional ceremony. Four witnesses were chosen as well to make sure the ceremony was being done traditionally then to go out and communicate to the community the work that took place that evening: Norma EagleSpeaker, Patricia Wallace, Raymond McCloud and Puyallup Tribal Council Vice Chairman David Bean.

Residency Director Dr. William Chythlook said the evening was about gratitude and recognition. “We must recognize the land we’re on, the traditional land of the Puyallup Tribe; the people we serve, the Puyallup Tribe; the vision of the Tribal Council and PTHA administration; and the journey these three young doctors started three years ago to become the healers they are today.”

PTHA Director Chris Henry expressed much gratitude for the three residents who have touched so many lives at the Health Authority and in the tribal community. “I thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming to PTHA. These are three strong women standing before you,” she said. “They have been through a lot of challenges during their time with us and we’ve been blessed with their strength – it’s so beautiful to see.” Chris Henry said they are always welcome to “come back home” to PTHA should their paths lead them there.

Each graduate was presented with a beautifully framed certificate and were invited to say a few words to their loved ones present. Then each stepped off the four mats they had been standing on as protection from the spiritual work happening on the floor and gifted one mat at a time to an important person of their choosing.

As is tradition, giveaways were distributed at the end to everyone who attended the ceremony and a delicious salmon dinner was enjoyed by all.

“In order to heal, you must learn to dance,” Dr. Shelton had said earlier, recalling the words of an ancestral healer. “What does that mean? Dancing for our Native community is a way to connect with the divine and to truly be a healer, you connect with the divine – it passes through you and you connect with your patients in a loving, compassionate way. That’s what these three exemplify for us and that’s what we hope for them as they go. We love you and we wish you the best. Thank you, thank you.”