One of the best ways to learn about other cultures is to live among the people. That’s just what Dr. Erica Eliott did and she recounts that experience in her memoir Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert: My Life Among the Navajo People. She paints very vivid images of what life was like as a teacher among young Navajo students and how she found herself while assimilating to the Navajo culture.

Disclaimer: Strength 4 Spouses was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Set in the 1970’s, Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert takes you on quite an adventure as Erica takes her first teaching job on a Navajo reservation. She learns quickly that in order to reach the children that she is teaching, she must learn more about their culture. Erica assimilates to the Navajo way of life by learning the language, abiding by the cultural norms, and participating in all types of ceremonies. She never knew how powerful this culture and the people would be to her, which later inspires her to become a doctor.



This book had many strengths. It is one of the most fascinating books I have read in quite a while. Here are just a few of my favorite things that make this Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert such a fabulous read:

  • Learning about the Navajo culture
  • Her experiences as a teacher
  • Assimilation to a culture
  • Rich descriptions of ceremonies and their meanings
  • How healing took place in the Navajo culture

My Final Thoughts

This book is such a wonderful read! It grabs your attention immediately as you look at life through Erica’s eyes. Because I speak a second language (Spanish), I have always enjoyed learning about other cultures. It’s fascinating to learn about Navajo traditions, cultural norms, and the way of life. I am a former teacher as well and really enjoyed hearing how Erica taught the children and what methods worked and what didn’t with them. This memoir is important because it teaches us that if we are open minded to other cultures, we can learn so much and maybe even be inspired in the process. I highly recommend this book if you are a teacher, medical professional, or someone who enjoys learning about other cultures.

© Strength 4 Spouses LLC, 2020.

About the Author

Erica Elliott, MD is a medical doctor with a busy private practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A true adventurer, she has lived and worked around the world. She served as a teacher for Indigenous children on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and in the mountains of Ecuador.

In 1976, she was one of the first American women to climb Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the western hemisphere. She taught rock climbing and mountaineering for Outward Bound and, after her first year of medical school, she led an all-women’s expedition to the top of Denali in Alaska.

In 1993, Erica helped found The Commons, a co-housing community in Santa Fe where she continues to live. She gave a TEDx talk about living in co-housing. Referred to affectionately as “the Health Detective,” she treats patients who come to her from all parts of the country with mysterious and difficult-to-diagnose illnesses. Erica is a frequent radio guest and has given workshops at various venues, including Esalen and Omega Institute.

Connect with Dr. Elliott at:

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