DORIS FIELDS WAS AROUND 10 YEARS OLD when it happened. Two of her close friends in Memphis, Tennessee, got into a grievous argument. Something welled up inside of Fields that grew into a lifelong guidepost. “I thought, We’re all friends. We shouldn’t be fighting,” she recalls. “We need to be able to work out our differences, because if we do, the outer world has a chance to improve, too.”
Fields relocated to New Mexico, by way of Indianapolis, and married at age 18. In a few short years, the marriage ended. By her late twenties, Fields thought maybe she needed a change and began saving money to move elsewhere. As a last hurrah, she took a road trip across the state, only to realize she couldn’t leave.
Now a Placitas resident, Fields has been a nurse, healthcare administrator, professor, writer, artist, painter, and advocate. She has also served as chair of the Placitas Community Library, founding member of the Placitas Holocaust Remembrance and Genocide Awareness Group, and chair of the New Mexico Humanities Council. As library chair, she guided the organization through the construction process that added 80 percent more space to the vital Placitas community hub in 2021.
But perhaps more than anything throughout her career, Fields has shared ideas about cultural competence, communication, and cultivating kindness—especially for oneself. “It’s critical to be able to hear, respect, and not judge a difference by what’s your own limited perspective,” she says. “If you recognize and have respect for where someone else is coming from, we can do much better.”
Bridging gaps has been a part of her life for more than half a century. A nurse who transitioned into healthcare administration for the New Mexico Department of Health, she worked to provide care to mothers and families from diverse backgrounds. She eventually pursued a doctorate with a focus on intercultural communication and competence from the University of New Mexico, where she has taught courses ranging from Stress Management to Health Issues of Death and Dying.
All the while, Fields has pursued painting and her favorite art of all: poetry. Her poems have been commissioned by organizations such as the New Mexico History Museum and read at vigils in response to social issues, like Holocaust remembrance, and on behalf of victims of school shootings.
Barbara Clinton, a retired higher education administrator and Fields’s colleague for 19 years, thinks of her as a helper on all levels. “Doris does not preach, she practices,” she says. “Kindness and tolerance are her mantras. I have called on her for aid to migrant communities, funeral expenses, and personal advice for individuals.”
For Fields, the Kwanzaa guiding principle of creativity, Kuumba, is a central pillar. “Each year at Kwanzaa we make a commitment to leave the world in a better condition than when we found it,” she says. “You have a responsibility to heal the world.”