Heather Mae Grant, a sixth-year pharmacy major from West Kingston, said she always wanted to travel to Alaska because she enjoys the outdoors. When she visited URI as a high school senior, she was immediately sold when one student mentioned the opportunity to travel to the Last Frontier.
Grant decided to travel to the small fishing village of Dillingham, a town accessible only by plane or boat. According to Grant, there were approximately 2,500 residents, no traffic lights, very little crime, and miles of tundra and mountain ranges.
Vibrant, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Grant says she stuck out among the Yupic Eskimos she treated, but was quickly accepted. She thinks that they liked having someone around who looked different. She addressed a variety of conditions from pregnancies to bacterial infections.
Outside of work, Grant spent plenty of time hiking, fishing and camping with co-workers. She and the other pharmacists caught most of what they ate, which consisted of fish, moose and caribou.
Grant recalled her mother’s trip to visit her. She said her mother called her when she got home and was ready to throw out the television. “At some point in a person’s life, it is important to live a short time with no luxuries in order to have a newfound appreciation for everything,” Grant said.
Although an outsider in a tight-knit town, Grant said she had no problem meeting people and keeping busy. She worked in a small hospital with two pharmacists, one of whom is a URI graduate. There were eight medical doctors who rotated shifts. Grant said she was grateful to the pharmacists, doctors and nurses who were open and welcoming. They were constantly inviting her over for dinner. “The pharmacists took me everywhere and really took me under their wing.
“Everyone was very nice,” Grant said, “The nurses were more of the going out type and they helped me sample the limited nightlife in Dillingham. The physical therapist took me to a shooting range and taught me how to fire rifles. I never got bored.”
Grant returned to work in November at a rotation with National Pequot Indian Health in Ledyard, Conn. Grant says that she would enjoy working in Alaska again, perhaps this time in a more residential area. “I could work there for years before I start a family and settle down,” Grant said.
Grant’s experience in Alaska has left her with a greater appreciation for what she has. “I loved it and would have stayed longer,” Grant said, “Although I miss it, it’s nice to be home around people, stores and good food.”
LOCAL CUSTOM: Heather Mae Grant, a sixth-year URI Pharmacy student, looks to be thankful for tonight’s dinner. “This is actually what you have to do when you catch a fish, or that’s what I was told,” Grant said. URI News Bureau Photo courtesy of Heather Mae Grant.
AT THE SUMMIT: Heather Mae Grant, a sixth-year URI Pharmacy student, sits at the summit of Jack-Knife mountain in Dillingham, Alaska. URI News Bureau Photo courtesy of Heather Mae Grant