University of Minnesota Medical School alumna Noelle Blue Arm shares her journey of becoming a pathologist and the mentors who inspired her along the way.

Noelle Blue Arm started her journey at the University of Minnesota Medical School when she joined the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology (LMP) residency program to complete her anatomic and clinical pathology residency training. 

Blue Arm has distinct memories of how she became a pathologist in the first place. She grew up in San Jose, California and is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in central South Dakota. She joined the Indians into Medicine (INMED) Program at the University of North Dakota (UND), where she decided to pursue pathology. Blue Arm was deeply influenced in her decision by physician-scientist Mary Ann Sens, a forensic pathologist and currently UND chair of pathology.

“Dr. Sens was always there for me,” Blue Arm said. Her pathology coursework at UND convinced her that “this is what I was born to do.”

After her final years of medical school, Blue Arm’s next guiding light was the late LMP cardiovascular pathologist Alan Rose, then director of the LMP residency program. “Dr. Rose was amazing,” Blue Arm said. “I wanted to be thoughtful about the application process. And I think Dr. Rose picked up on that, the degree of sincerity that I had, that I was looking to find the right program for me. I give him credit for helping me gain acceptance.” 

Today, Blue Arm is the medical lab director for the Phoenix Area Indian Health Service (PAIHS), working out of the Phoenix Indian Medical Center. She is responsible for three medical labs in Greater Arizona: The Whiteriver Indian Hospital and the Cibecue Health Center on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, and the Hopi Health Care Center in Polacca, Arizona, on the Hopi Reservation. Blue Arm enjoys the many aspects of working in Indian Health Service (IHS), even though IHS pathology services are chronically understaffed and overstretched.

Although Blue Arm’s mentors were significant factors in her life and career, no one motivated her to succeed more than her late biological mother, Norma Blue Arm.

“I credit my whole life to Norma,” she said. “It just took one person believing in my potential. I became a physician for her. I bring that with me daily to my work, and when I’m looking at things under the microscope or talking with other physicians, it’s her encouragement, her memory that keeps me going.” 

Read the full article here in LMP Alumni Newsletter - December 2022.