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Trainers calling for better sports medicine on reservations at Billings conference

Bad Bear
Posted at 3:39 PM, May 17, 2024

The annual Magic City Sports Conference will be held on Saturday at the Mansfield Health Education Center located at St. Vincent Healthcare, and this year's theme is centered around providing better care for Native Americans.

The event will showcase numerous speakers, including Kola Bad Bear. Bad Bear grew up in Pryor, before attending Billings Senior where she excelled at multiple sports and wound up playing basketball at both Montana State University and MSU Billings in college.

Bad Bear said the gaps in healthcare are something she's been aware of since she was a child.

"As a kid, you feel more comfortable with someone that looks like you," Bad Bear said. "On the reservation, there's not a lot. I didn't see a lot of nurses that look like me."

Bad Bear said that Native American or Indigenous medical providers can be difficult to find and access to care isn't always guaranteed. She said that when she noticed that as a child, it motivated her to find a career path.

"That was just something like at a young age, I was like, 'Oh, I'd love to be a nurse and maybe come back and give back to where I came from," Bad Bear said.

Bad Bear said she's always wanted to become a nurse or occupational therapist, but first she had an impressive athletic career to finish, although it didn't come without bumps and bruises.

Bad Bear dealt with numerous injuries during her career, including an ACL tear when she was in high school. She relied heavily on athletic trainer Stacy Molt to help her through the hard times.

"I went through injuries, and she heard it all," Bad Bear said with a smile. "She was basically like my therapist and PT and friend all in one."

Molt has coordinated the annual Magic City Sports Conference for the past 13 years, and as Bad Bear's career came to a close, she came up with an idea to formulate this year's around her.

"I've worked with Kola, or known Kola, for greater than 10 years now," Molt said. "Just to see all of the things she's done at Bozeman and now recently at MSUB, I thought it'd be great to highlight her given her injury history, her family history and her playing career."

Molt and Bad Bear

The conference, which is titled "Connecting Regional Culture with Spots Medicine," will look at ways to provide better care more conveniently for Native Americans.

"Specifically with the Native American community, there's a big influence of family," Molt said. "There's also a big factor of being very rural. So how do we, as medical providers, fill that gap of we know they have support from family but can we get our access to them?"

Those are the questions they'll be looking to answer. The conference will begin 8 a.m. Saturday and will run until 5 p.m. It is open to the public.

Bad Bear said she's looking forward to sharing her insight as a speaker.

"I definitely feel grateful and honored that Stacy even asked me to speak at this thing," Bad Bear said. "I was a little nervous at first because I still see myself as just a child, you know?"

And that's still how Molt remembers her too, which is why this weekend will bring their story full circle.

"I still remember her walking in the door, I think she was a 7th or 8th grader and she was hiding behind one of her sisters," Molt said with a laugh. "She was so shy and now I see her as somebody who is an advocate for her culture, so that's pretty cool to see."