Celine Gabai, O.D.

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Phoenix, Arizona Navajo Reservation

I use my clan and kinship terms with my patients to make them feel welcome and more at ease. ”

Celine Gabai
Optometry Graduate, Class of 2017

Tell us about your path towards medicine.

I always knew I would have a career in the healthcare field and made it my goal to work at the Phoenix Indian Medical Center, where I was born. This place symbolizes so much for my family and me. Growing up, this was the only place we knew to receive medical care – a dependable institution that was always there for the health of the Native American community.

I thought I wanted to be a nurse, a pediatrician, or an OBGYN, then found that I really enjoyed Optometry. Being accepted to the program of optometry in Arizona was such a blessing. The Arizona College of Optometry was relatively new at that time, and my parents were hesitant on my decision to continue my education at a “newer” school. Dr. Donald Jarnagin, the Dean at that time, made me feel welcome. From the moment I met Dr. Jarnagin, I knew Midwestern was the place for me. Midwestern gave me a home, a new family, and a “we care” vibe that gave me the psychological strength to succeed in the program.

What about your heritage do you bring to your job, working with patients?

I was born at the Phoenix Indian Medical Center and grew up in Phoenix and on and off on the Navajo Reservation. My Native American family is from the Black Mesa area. Because my heritage is a strong advocate of spiritual healing, my heritage teaches and believes spiritual health to be essential in healing your mind, body, and spirit. Therefore, I try to reconnect with nature often and perform ceremonies to keep my balance. I believe I have a more positive outlook towards coping with illness, pain, and life stresses. I tend to project this towards my patients. I use my clan and kinship terms with my patients to make them feel welcome and more at ease. This helps my patients to trust me as a healthcare provider.

What advice would you give to others considering a healthcare career?

Do it! My heritage tells their young ones that their future is all up to them.

I would tell them:

  • Know why they are going into medicine before you start.
  • It will be challenging. You may cry a lot from exhaustion and you will be frustrated.
  • You are accomplishing something so extraordinary.
  • Don’t ever lose sight of why you started on your journey. Write down why you wanted to be in the healthcare field and hang it in your office.
  • You are amazing!

Celine Gabai Headshot

Celine Gabai is a Class of 2017 Optometry graduate on the Glendale Campus.