NASHVILLE, Tenn. When asked about her goals in the medical field, Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance (MVA) intern Tamee E. Livermont couldn’t help but chuckle. “Gosh, I have a lot of them,” she said.
Indeed, when she lists those goals, they become a broad and lengthy checklist of topical action items. If they could be grouped under a single umbrella, it would be increased access to health care, particularly for under-served populations.
That umbrella would cover a lot of ground, though.
Tamee is a member of the Ogala Sioux Tribe. She grew up near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, located in the state’s southwest border with Nebraska.
“I saw the health care system we have and that people are forced to use,” she recalled.
Put mildly, she believed the system was lacking. Access, affordability and more obstacles were a constant struggle for her and her people.
That struggle became a catalyst. It fueled her passion for health equity and pushed her to do all she could to make an impact.
“My passion for my people has really grown into something that I know I have to do,” she said. “And I have to go home and serve, and change the system so people have access to the healthcare that they have a right to.”
Tamee graduated from Bennett County High School in Martin, SD. She then went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Medical Biology and a Bachelor of Arts in Native American Studies from the University of South Dakota.
Afterward, she relocated to Vanderbilt University in Nashville to study Public Health, with a concentration on Health Policy.
“I began undergrad just wanting to be a doctor,” she said. “Then, I was unfulfilled with just treating people, and not being on the prevention side of medicine.”
She said she became interested in Health Policy because federal policies regulate what happens to Native Americans. She felt it was possible to make a bigger impact on a larger scale by working in that area.
Joining the MVA
Although Nashville doesn’t offer many opportunities to work with Native Americans, Tamee found plenty of work to be done for minorities and under-served communities.
“My passion to work with these populations is further made possible through the work the MVA does,” she said. “I saw an opportunity to learn from the African American population in Nashville and see the different perspectives that minority populations take to decrease health disparities in their communities.”
She hopes to make an impact with the MVA at increasing health equity throughout the city and its surrounding communities. “If I can lend a hand or change outcomes for just one person, I’m happy,” she said.
Tamee’s primary interest is prevention and treatment of substance-exposed pregnancies. This, of course, covers a lot of issues.
“First of all, I want to increase access to substance abuse treatment programming for pregnant mothers or mothers of reproductive age,” she explained. “I want to ensure that contraceptives are easily accessible and available to women of reproductive age in order to prevent these substance-exposed pregnancies.”
She also hopes to educate communities about the effects of using substances while pregnant. Meanwhile, on the treatment side, she wants to pursue a Medical Degree specializing in either OB-GYN or neonatology in order to care for mothers or treat babies born addicted.
“Overall, I want to increase health equity and the quality of health care for Native American communities by changing federal Indian policies that affect Native American healthcare,” she said.
About the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance
Founded in 1999, the Alliance bridges the institutions of Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Its mission is to enrich learning and advance clinical research in three primary areas -- community engagement, interprofessional education and research -- by developing and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the communities they serve. Through community engagement, the Alliance serves a large community of stakeholders including surrounding universities and colleges, community organizations, faith-based outlets and community health centers. Its interprofessional education enhances students' interdisciplinary understanding and improves patient outcomes through integrated care. The research conducted provides access to experienced grant writers and materials supporting the grant application process and facilitates grant-writing workshops.