BSNC will publish a career pathways series to help showcase jobs held by successful shareholders and descendants. This series aims to raise awareness of these career options and the essential skills needed to succeed in these positions.
Dr. Christina Darby is a BSNC shareholder and sleep neurologist. “At the age of five I threw my arm around my uncle, Dr. Charlie Aarons, and asked my mother to take a picture of the two doctors,” said Dr. Darby. “I still remember admiring his ability to help people and how others looked up to him. Many years later I was finally able to add MD after my own name.”
Dr. Darby grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and has family ties in Unalakleet, Alaska. She recently returned home to start the sleep clinic as the Medical Director of the Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC) Sleep Center where she also serves as a full time Sleep Medicine Physician.
Dr. Darby is an American Academy of Sleep Medicine Fellow, ATHENA inductee, National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development “Native American Top 40 under 40” awardee and delegate for the 2015 and 2019 World Congress on Sleep Medicine in Seoul, South Korea, and Vancouver, Canada, respectively. She is a member of the Association of American Indian Physicians.
BSNC: Why did you choose a career in medicine?
Dr. Darby: Initially I chose a career in medicine out of a desire to help people on an individual level. Later this evolved into wanting to help contribute to our greater community’s healing in a way I could. Specifically, I go to work every day to help people live more satisfying and healthier lives, but on returning home to Alaska I’ve also been blessed to help develop
and grow specialist services previously less available to our population as a whole. I’ve also been blessed to have participated in many diversity outreach and support programs throughout my education, and have remained passionate about not only advocating for but helping represent racial, cultural, and gender diversity.
BSNC: What kinds of study skills and habits did you utilize to achieve your career goals?
Dr. Darby: Time management! Never underestimate the power of an early start, and even if you are short on time, confidence, or skills, use your focus and drive to make the best out of whatever you have left. Alaska Native values include a strong work ethic and responsible custodianship for our lands and resources in our gathering and harvesting while making our livelihood. Consider this a cultural resource and approach your studies with the same values.
BSNC: What were some barriers or challenges that you overcame to get to where you are today?
Dr. Darby: There will be days where you feel you are not up to the task or where you feel you don’t belong, or days when you feel discouraged over the many sacrifices you will make – financially, personally, temporally. Find your support, whether it be from your friends, family, local cultural support groups or offices, and financial aid officers and counselors, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your hard work and dedication WILL eventually pay off.
BSNC: What resources did you utilize to earn your degree?
Dr. Darby: I was blessed to attend many very helpful preparatory programs throughout school, from middle school through medical school, including summer American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) STEM summer camps, U-DOC UAA minorities in medicine summer camp, Indian Health Pathways Program at University of Washington School of Medicine, and received many merit-based scholarships for minority students. Utilize all your resources, and visit your local minority support office or school counselor’s office to see what they have to offer.
BSNC: What advice would you give to Alaska Native young people interested in pursuing a career in medicine?
Dr. Darby: Find a good mentor! You will need them. Be open to looking at things in a new way. Let yourself evolve into the person you know you can be. Be strong. Be resilient. Don’t listen to those who say you can not do it (and there will be some, I have certainly had a few of those myself). Trust that with hard work, belief, and resilience, anything can happen. Know that YOU can do it, because that is what you need to succeed.