Rosebud Sioux tribal member Yvette Roubideaux, 46, was nominated
March 23 by President Barack Obama to direct the IHS. If confirmed
by the Senate, she will become the first American Indian woman to
ever lead the agency.
said in a statement that he has confidence Roubideaux, an assistant
professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, will
be an effective advocate.
White House release noted that she has conducted extensive research
on American Indian health issues, with a special focus on diabetes
in American Indian and Alaska Native communities and American Indian
has regularly offered input on diabetes-related issues, writing
in a 2007 column about her belief in the importance of supporting
the Special Diabetes Program for Indians.
people know about all the new diabetes prevention activities in
their communities fun runs, cooking classes, health fairs
or new exercise equipment at the wellness or community centers,
notice they are getting newer medications, meters to check their
blood glucose and a lot more attention in the clinic. But few associate
these new activities and services with the actual name of the congressional
funding that led to their creation: the Special Diabetes Program
July, when the program was reauthorized through Sept. 2011, she
said in an interview with ICT that [t]he reauthorization of
SDPI is critical for us to continue to be able to offer all of the
progress thats been made since the funding started 10 years
noted, however, that the program was still being funded at the same
level, $150 million, as when it was reauthorized in 2002.
clearly not enough money, she said. And the problem
of diabetes isnt solved very easily.
stated in a February interview that the rate of heart disease in
American Indians has grown rapidly as Indians are living longer,
and the rates of diabetes and obesity have skyrocketed.
one to shy away from making her views known, Roubideaux has also
been a critic of the agency she has been nominated to lead.
first encounters with the health care system were as a patient in
the Indian Health Service, she testified before Congress nearly
a decade ago. The IHS is severely underfunded and understaffed,
and I often waited four to six hours to see a doctor.
later worked for IHS to help improve the system from the inside,
serving as a medical officer and clinical director on the San Carlos
Indian Reservation and in the Gila River Indian Community.
abundant familiarity of the health needs of American Indians have
helped her become a staunch advocate for the reauthorization of
the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. If confirmed to the IHS
leadership position, many tribal leaders expect her to urge Congress
to pass the long-stalled bill, for which Obama has expressed strong
currently serves as the co-director of the Coordinating Center for
the Special Diabetes Program for Indians Competitive Demonstration
Projects, a program implementing diabetes prevention and cardiovascular
disease prevention activities in 66 American Indian and Alaska Native
also serves as director of programs associated with the University
of Arizona that focus on recruiting American Indian and Alaska Native
students into health and research professions.
received her medical degree from Harvard Medical School and her
masters degree from the Harvard School of Public Health.
who served on Obamas transition team, is no stranger to the
national political scene and its connections to Indian health. She
was appointed to the Department of Health and Human Services Secretarys
Advisory Committee on Minority Health from 2000-2002. From 1999-2000,
she served as president of the Association of American Indian Physicians.
confirmed, she will start serving as head of IHS at a time when
the Obama administration and Congress are beginning to account for
long shortfalls in the agencys budget.
part of the February federal stimulus law, the agency is on schedule
to receive $500 million to support the construction and modernization
of IHS health facilities and strengthen the use of health information
technology at those facilities.
law calls for IHS to spend $227 million for health facilities construction,
$100 million in maintenance and improvements, $85 million for health
information technology, $68 million for sanitation facilities construction,
$20 million for health equipment and will help improve health care
in Indian country.
has also outlined a first budget that will include more than $4
billion for IHS a substantial increase over previous years.
would replace Robert McSwain, a member of the North Fork Rancheria
of Mono Indians who was a George W. Bush appointee. He was sworn
in just last May.