Dominique Pablito BS’20 grew up in the small town of Aneth, Utah, on the Navajo Nation, and in New Mexico on the Zuni Reservation. She lived in a four-bedroom house with 13 family members.
With access to math and science courses limited in reservation schools, Pablito convinced her family to move. “We ran out of gas in St. George, Utah, where I registered for high school even though my family was unable to find housing,” says Pablito. “During my first quarter, I slept in a Nissan Xterra with my mother, brother, and grandmother while I earned straight A’s, took college courses at Dixie State University, completed a research internship at Dixie Regional Medical Center, and competed in varsity cross country.”
She applied for 15 scholarships and was awarded 12. “I started college at 15, and by age 16 my parents were no longer part of my life,” she says. “I never felt more alone.” For support, she turned to her grandparents and joined Indigenous student groups where she tutored math and science and taught Diné Bizaad (Navajo). She decided to major in chemistry when she interned with the U’s Huntsman Cancer Institute and later Harvard Medical School.
Pablito is now attending Brown University to pursue her doctorate in molecular and cell biology and biochemistry. Her dream is to open a lab on the Zuni Pueblo to expose students to research. That interest in science and medicine originated in her childhood experience with the Indian Health Service.
“Many of my elders distrusted going to doctors because most health care providers are white,” says Pablito. “I want to spark an interest in STEM in future generations of Indigenous scholars and give them advantages I never had.”
Adapted from a longer version published in Winds of Change by D.J. Pollard. Article and photo used by permission from Winds of Change © 2020 by the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.