Dr. David Baines
Tlingit and Tsimshian
David was born at Native Hospital in Sitka, Alaska and spent his early years on and off his reservation, the Annette Island Reserve-Metlakatla in Alaska.
He graduated high school in Arizona and planned to join the Marines but they were not hiring since they were demobilizing from Viet Nam. David got a job in the tribal saw mill in Metlakatla, the Annette Hemlock Mill. There was an explosion and he was blasted 63 feet and hit a dock. His legs were crushed so he was flown to Seattle for surgery. David went to stay with his mother in Arizona. She was taking classes at a local community college. David started taking classes there too and took a career test. It said he should be a truck driver but 7 of the next 9 were all in medicine so he transferred to Arizona State University and was pre-med. David had never heard of an American Indian physician but decided to go for it. His experiences with his legs made him feel like he could do it.
David was accepted at the Mayo Medical School. He was their first American Indian student. During the first year he was doing fine academically but was culturally isolated. David had cut his hair before starting medical school which was a difficult decision but he did not want anything to make it more difficult to get through school. He felt he would have to lose his Indian-ness to become a physician, which was unacceptable. He considered quitting but told no one. David was recruited to tutor high school students on the nearby Sisseton Reservation on his summer break. These students were having trouble in school, but without any teaching experience he was able to help them excel. They just needed teachers who knew how to communicate with them. David was invited into a sweat lodge ceremony. In the third round of the ceremony the medicine man prayed for him to finish school. He said it was “important for our People” and he gave David a vision. He grew his long hair back and was working with an Indian woman and child. In a traditional way he didn’t show David how he could keep his culture and become a physician but he showed him it was possible. It was his journey to find a way to do it. With renewed spirit David went back to school. His school recognized he was isolated culturally so they allowed him to do a lot of work with the Association of American Indian Physicians. This gave him the support he needed and exposed him to many great traditional healers and elders.
David worked on the Coeur d ‘Alene Reservation in Idaho. He was adopted and trained under traditional healers, became a pipe carrier and was given the right to pour in the Sweat Lodge Ceremony. He did many ceremonies and became a Northern Traditional pow wow dancer and was adopted into the Kiowa Gourd Dance Society, a society for their warriors. He grew as a physician, healer and teacher but his legs were deteriorating so he had to start to gradually slow down. David became recognized nationally and participated on boards and committees and even did work for the Secretary of Health and Human Services of 6 administrations. He wrote chapters in 3 medical texts all while working over 80 hours a week. He slowly worked his way up the academic ladder and started speaking often on how to integrate his culture and its spirituality into his practice of medicine. David was president of the Association of American Indian Physicians and served on the board for 7 straight years. He was invited to work National Health Service in England as a contractor and wrote a paper and did some lecturing for them. While there he was invited by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to a reception at the Royal Engineers Hall near Buckingham Palace.
He was the medical director at the Kamiah Clinic for the Nez Perce Tribe. David worked closely with Horace Axtell, who later presided over his marriage. He was presented The Tsimshian Man of the Year by the Tsimshian Tribe in Vancouver, British Columbia. He worked at the Seattle Indian Health Board which was a part of the University of Washington Family Medicine Residency Network. David and his wife Heidi were married.
Worked at the Alaska Family Medicine Residency as faculty while his wife was a resident there. He became the first Alaska Native to attain Full Professor at a major American medical school. His first son was born in 2002.
Worked at the community health center in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, Alaska. David’s second son was born shortly after they moved to Unalaska. He was 2 months early and only weighed 2 pounds. He was in the NICU for almost 6 weeks but is a fighter and doing great. David worked closely with the local tribal health clinic and tribe. He and his family were officially adopted by tribal resolution into the Qawalangin Tribe of Aleut People. This was a great honor. He taught his boys how to pull crab pots, go long lining for Halibut and hunt for caribou, but his leg issues finally forced him to move back to Anchorage. He was selected to be one of the Chairs for the Presidential Inaugural Ball sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr International Salute Committee.
David had to have his left leg amputated below the knee. He diligently tried to continue working full time for several years and was presented the Association of American Physicians their Indian Physician of the Year Award. He finally had to acknowledge that he physically couldn’t work anymore. He delivered his last baby and saw his last patient. The accident got David into medicine and it eventually got him out but in the 43 years he delivered over a 1000 babies and saw over 250,000 patients and had many great experiences. He has many stories from the great career he had and continues to mentor many young health professionals today.
David is helping to raise his children and teach them how to hunt, fish, and practice their cultural values. His wife bought David a boat which helps immensely. Despite over 30 surgeries on his legs he is very proud of all he was able to accomplish despite the many issues with his legs.