Navajo Health Foundation – Sage Memorial Hospital, Inc. is a community-owned and operated, private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation. It is the first Native-managed private comprehensive health care system in the country, and has been managed since 1978 by an independent, entirely Navajo Board of Directors.

Sage Memorial Hospital is the only Native American hospital to hold both a license from the Arizona Department of Health Services and Accreditation from The Joint Commission.

The hospital campus is located on private land owned by the Presbyterian Church, within the Navajo Nation Reservation.  The organization includes a Critical Acccess Hospital and outpatient clinic, and an outpatient clinic 28 miles away in Greasewood Springs, AZ.

  • The Past

    SagePic1In the spring of 1901, an expeditionary party representing the Presbyterian National Board of Home Missions set out from Flagstaff to locate a desirable site for a mission to the Navajo Indians. Unlike other tribes in the Southwest, the Navajo did not live in large settlements but in small, nomadic, family-oriented camps, dispersed over a vast area. For this reason, the location for a mission had to be chosen carefully.

    When the party arrived at the Hubbell Trading Post, they took note of the flowing water, arable land and availability of building materials. Moreover, they were impressed by John Lorenzo Hubbell’s warm welcome and by his friendly and respectful relationship with local Navajos.  The trading post was a hub for trade and a popular meeting place. Later that year, Charles Bierkemper and his wife, Alice, arrived as the first missionaries.

    Mr. Bierkemper, with the help of an interpreter, Tom Morgan, and the Navajo workmen built the “Old Manse” by 1903. This adobe house served as the Bierkemper home, a meeting hall and a classroom for the day school started by Alice Bierkemper. Soon a school building and dormitories were built, and teachers and a principal hired. By 1906, Charles Bierkemper completed construction of the first Ganado Mission Church.

    Dr. James Kennedy, who established the first hospital here in 1911, would fill his pockets with medicine and walk for miles over the desert to care for the sick. He was the first bilagaana (white) doctor most his patients had seen. In 1920, Reverend Fred Mitchell became Ganado Mission’s first superintendent. He had years of previous experience and could speak Navajo fluently. Under his leadership, the mission programs greatly expanded.

    Dr. Clarence Salsbury founded the first nursing school for Native Americans at the mission in Ganado. The school trained women from more than twenty tribes and several foreign countries. The institution was accredited by the State of Arizona and its graduates were highly regarded in their field. In the early 1930’s, Dr. Salsbury was also responsible for the design and construction of the Sage Memorial Hospital (now Poncel Hall). Through the work of Dr. Salsbury and his wife, Cora, Ganado Mission was transformed from a desert outpost into a nationally recognized institution, attracting visitors such as Dr. W. Mayo of Mayo Clinic Foundation fame. The Presbytery of Grand Canyon continues to own the property and buildings, leasing them to the Navajo Health Foundation / Sage Memorial Hospital.

    Today, the Navajo Health Foundation – Sage Memorial Hospital with the all-Navajo Board of Directors, operates the 25-bed hospital as well as medical, dental and field clinics.

    Adapted from “Hozhoni Rider” Newsletter by Cheryl Schou and Hozhoni Staff.

  • The Present

    Today, Navajo Health Foundation – Sage Memorial Hospital services a community of approximately 23,000 as the sole provider of healthcare services within its service area. The hospital provides quality health care and improves health care services for the residents of its service area that includes the Ganado, Kinlichee, Klagetoh, Wide Ruins, Lower Greasewood Springs, Cornfields, Nazlini, and Steamboat chapters of the Navajo Nation.

    We are committed to the prevention of illness and promotion of health; delivery of quality primary inpatient and outpatient care; and promotion of education and training of qualified Native American healthcare professionals.

    To fulfill these goals, we will provide preventive healing and rehabilitative services through a system that links native culture with western medicine; preserve the dignity of each individual regardless of creed, race, sex, religion, social status or physical handicap; strive to achieve and maintain excellence in all aspects of healthcare; promote the education and training of native American healthcare professionals; and operate the facility in a cost- effective and financially responsible manner.

  • The Future

    Due to growing patient volumes that have pushed the physical limits of Sage’s existing hospital and outpatient clinics, and upgrades and improvements to existing buildings that are not cost effective, new facilities are needed to meet the growing health needs of the Sage Memorial Hospital service area.

    Ganado Outpatient Medical Center

    It is the vision of Sage Memorial Hospital’s Board of Directors to build a new Ganado Outpatient Medical Center in the near future. It would provide expanded outpatient care, specialty clinics, dental, optometry, physical therapy, outpatient surgery, renal dialysis, diagnostics, pharmacy, behavioral health and counseling services all under one roof.

    New Outpatient Clinics

    The process of bringing the Board’s vision of the new Ganado Outpatient Medical Center to life is in progress, however, Sage’s short-term solution for expanded care and easing the constraints on our facilities’ space is the opening of new clinics in the surrounding communities. These clinics will provide outpatient primary care and dental services to patients.

    Stay tuned for updates on the progress of renovating existing buildings and expected completion dates!