She was an all-state basketball player in the earliest years of the sport in North Dakota.
She’s a doctor.
And she’s helping shape her people’s future.
Tribal council member Dr. Monica Mayer of New Town is in the spotlight tonight as we continue our salute to women making a difference in North Dakota.
Jim Olson has the story.
Dr. Monica Mayer is proud of her Native American heritage, provided to her by her mother.
(Dr. Monica Mayer, Tribal Council Member) “MHA Nation has been a great nation for hundreds and hundreds of years on the great plains.”
But she also honors the European heritage of her father.
(Dr. Monica Mayer, Tribal Council Member) “My father was German so, work, work, work!”
In fact, it was a stunt her father pulled when Monica and her two sisters were in school that may have been the turning point in her life. She says the three girls were not exactly bearing down in school when dad took them out to some family land one morning, left them there with water and lunch and orders to pick rocks. When he returned at day’s end, he delivered his message – take school seriously or be ready for a hard life.
(Dr. Monica Mayer, Tribal Council Member) “You mean if we get good grades in school we don’t have to come out and work this hard? He says yes. He didn’t have to bang our heads against a brick wall. We all went to school and became educated.”
Did they ever. Monica is a UND doctorate graduate, sister Holly has a masters in public health nursing from UND, and Renee, now deceased, who earned a masters in social work at UND.
Dr. Monica Mayer put her education in action immediately.
(Dr. Monica Mayer, Tribal Council Member) “I finished my residency on a Friday and I started on a Monday right here in New Town, my hometown.”
And her work ethic pushed her far beyond her work in the local clinic. She became chief medical officer at the hospital in Belcourt, saving it from closure.
(Dr. Monica Mayer, Tribal Council Member) “That’s a real success story over there, I’m very proud of that.”
She was promoted to Chief Medical Officer for 19 hospitals and clinic in four states for the Indian Health Service and was offered a position in the Washington office of IHS when family pulled her back to New Town.
(Dr. Monica Mayer, Tribal Council Member) “My mother, she asked me if I would come home and spend what little time she had.”
Soon after, she decided on a new avenue for her energies – politics – running to represent the New Town area on the MHA Tribal Council.
(Dr. Monica Mayer, Tribal Council Member) “Much to my surprise I landslided in.”
Since then, she’s led the fight against addiction among tribal members – especially the men of the tribes.
(Dr. Monica Mayer, Tribal Council Member) “I’m very hard on them. You have to work to take care of your family, your flesh and blood. Because there’s nothing more important than your family.”
And now, two years into her four-year term, she sees parallels between her work as a doctor and serving on the tribal council.
(Dr. Monica Mayer, Tribal Council Member) “I miss medicine terribly. Every day. But I always feel strongly and am satisfied that I’m serving in a different capacity so, it works out.”
It works out, thanks to hard work. A lesson learned in a rocky field near New Town so many years ago.
Jim Olson, KX News.
Dr. Mayer’s mother died in recent months.
Monica says she proudly shares her mom’s philosophy: love the Lord, love your family, and love to serve others.