Alumni Association

University of Colorado Boulder

Horseback house calls

Ken Jackson (DistSt’73) commutes eight miles down the Grand Canyon by horse to deliver prenatal care to Native American women.

If the cliché that doctors no longer make house calls is true, somebody neglected to tell Ken Jackson (DistSt’73).

One Friday a month, the family doctor who specializes in high-risk obstetrics loads his horse into a trailer at his home outside Kingman, Ariz., and drives 130 miles to the rim of the Grand Canyon. The horse carries him another eight miles to Supai, a community of about 400 at the base of the canyon more than 2,000 vertical feet below. Located in the Havasupai Indian Reservation, it is one of the most remote communities in the lower 48 states. The U.S. mail arrives by mule. It is only accessible to visitors by foot, horseback or helicopter.

During his 12-hour day, Jackson provides mostly prenatal care to six to 10 patients, not a business model typical in health care these days. So unique is his work that he has been featured in USA Today and the PBS documentary series,“Legends and Dreamers.”

Jackson, 63, has spent the past 37 years practicing medicine, mostly on or around Arizona Indian reservations. His trips to Supai might not be the best use of time, but his days are not about efficiency or business models.

“The real part of this job is about heart,” he says. “In the end, it’s that interaction between physician and patient. It’s not like it’s a mission or anything — it just happens to be my life. There’s a certain validation to it. It’s an adventure, very rewarding.”

Read the rest at the Coloradan online.

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