George Ceremuga, D.O. (í93)
medicine practice in the United States Indian Health Service
June 8, 2009
graduating from West Point in 1980, CDR George Ceremuga, D.O.
(í93), FAAFP, served in the Army for nine years before attending
OU-COM. Since then he has served in the Air Force and, most
recently, in the Indian Health Service, where he provides care to
Native American populations and enjoys life on the open range.
Why did you choose to specialize in primary care?
Ceremuga: Iíve always
wanted to be a family doctor, since I was a kid. It was just a dream
and passion, and I never lost sight of. I still love it.
I love the
challenge of cradle-to-grave medicine, from delivering babies to
caring fornursing home patients. You never know who will walk in
the door, and you have to be prepared to offer services and medical
care for different conditions and age groups.
practice is where you get to see a lot of variety of cases and
patients. Itís challenging and rewarding, and I believe to be ďthe
gatekeeperĒ is an honorable way to practice medicine.
How do you
feel the primary care field fits with the mission of osteopathic
Well, I think
in primary care we treat with the holistic approach. We osteopathic
physicians offer a little bit more diagnostically to our patients
because of our additional training. Weíre like a one-stop shop. We
really can treat 90 percent of the problems that come through our
door, and the other 10 percent we refer on to specialty care.
past nine years you have worked near or on Native American
reservations. Have you always been interested in working in
for service started in the military, and moving out here -- to the
Dakotas -- there are a lot of Native Americans. The exposure to
their culture fueled that passion. They donít need another doctor in
the bigger cities like Rapid City [South Dakota]. They need them in
the smaller, rural areas where I can make the biggest difference.
Do you feel
that in cases such as an Indian reservation, where there is such a
concentration of one ethnic group, that cultural sensitivity impacts
how you practice?
It does. Each
reservation is different. Iíve practiced on two and worked near one.
It is important to be mindful and respectful of each culture and its
traditions, and if youíre not sure of traditional medical practice,
ask. Be sure youíre at least willing to learn or understand the
importance of traditional Indian medicine in the patientsí health
and well-being. You need to look at some of the traditional medicine
with ceremonies and herbs and healers. Some of the people embrace
that as part of their culture, and to some it isnít important. I
think it is important to be mindful of how we treat mind, body, and
opportunities have presented themselves to you in Montana that you
might not find elsewhere?
I think where
I practice Iím expected to be able to utilize all the skills Iíve
been trained in. If I was in a more urban setting, I might be
restricted by the number of specialists. Here I have to be able to
set bones and cast, which is something some primary care physicians
donít get to do because the orthopedics are right next door.
You have a
monster commute of two and a half hours each way. What do you do in
the car with all that driving? What is your radio tuned to?
sometimes just pray and meditate and listen to Christian music. Or I
listen to CDs that my kids make or public radio. I have no routine;
itís whatever Iím in the mood for. Sometimes I just like watching
the wildlife as I drive. Iím out on the road by 5 a.m., and thatís
when everything is waking up. I just pray and meditate and enjoy the
your future plans? Do you think you could ever go back to the city?
No, I couldnít
go back to the city. Iím not a city boy, but I donít know if Iíll be
out here the rest of my life.
One of my
goals is to learn Spanish and live in a developing country or in an
underserved area that is predominantly Spanish-speaking. I usually
accomplish what I set out to. I am looking at going to Guatemala and
Peru, but I also know there are a lot of underserved areas in our