Growing up as a member of the Oneida and Stockbridge-Munsee Nations in Wisconsin, Amanda Bruegl, MD, saw how difficult it was for her Native community to access good medical care. So from an early age, she resolved to be part of the solution.
Originally, she thought she’d become a primary care doctor — then a few years into medical school, she realized that obstetrics and gynecology was her calling.
“Originally, I wanted to work on a reservation as a community doc. Once I switched to gynecological oncology, I had a lot of internal strife, because how was someone with a surgical sub-specialty going to go back and work with a small tribe?” she said. “Then I realized that this was another way I could serve my community.”
In looking for a job that would allow her to advocate for Native American women, Bruegl found that OHSU’s values aligned perfectly with her own. “They strive to provide care for everyone, including rural and underserved populations. That really resonated with me,” she said.
The need for Bruegl’s skills is immense — here in the Pacific Northwest, Native American women are 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with a cervical cancer. They’re also twice as likely to die from it. Through outreach and education, Bruegl is hoping to change those numbers.
When she’s not up on the hill at OHSU, you’ll find her running outreach clinics in Salem and at the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Health and Wellness Center. Currently, she is one of only two Native American gynecological oncologists in the United States.
Besides caring for patients, Bruegl is studying human papillomavirus subtypes among Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest.
"We're all given gifts in this world; the best way to honor and respect those gifts is to use them. I’ve been given this skill set, and I intend to use it for good.”
“There is very little research around which strains of HPV primarily affect Native Americans, and no studies have ever been done in the Pacific Northwest,” she explained. Bruegl hopes that her research will allow care providers to offer more effective treatments to the local Native population — and save lives as a result.
In her free time, Bruegl enjoys running, hiking and doing traditional beadwork. She’s also closely involved with the Northwest Native American Center of Excellence, which focuses on recruiting and training American Indian and Alaska Native students to MD and physician assistant programs at OHSU.
“If you don’t have someone that looks like you as a role model, it can be tough to see all the possibilities,” she said. “The hope is that we can show Native youth that there are people out there like them who are doing great things.”