UNITY Wellness Warriors wins NIHB National Impact Award – UNITY, Inc.

UNITY Wellness Warriors wins NIHB National Impact Award

At its annual National Tribal Health Conference in Temecula, California, the National Indian Health Board (NIHB) recognized a distinguished group of Tribal health leaders, providers and advocates during its annual Heroes in Health Awards Gala on September 18. At the gala, themed “Circles of Service,” NIHB recognized 17 individuals from across Indian Country in the categories of Area and Regional Impact, National Impact, Youth Leadership and the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Jake Whitecrow Award.

“The National Indian Health Board honored many of our sisters and brothers who have demonstrated outstanding service in the quest to improve our people’s health. We hope their example inspires others in their own journey through the circle of service,” said NIHB CEO Stacy A. Bohlen. “NIHB is pleased to honor good work being done all around Indian Country – a true circle of service. Through tireless work, often in the most remote and challenging areas of Indian Country, and with limited resources – those who were recognized are among the best of us. Their work protects and improves health and has significant influence in reducing health disparities in all regions of Indian Country. We cannot thank you all enough for the work you are doing to improve the lives of our people.”

All honorees were nominated by their peers from across the nation. NIHB had the privilege of honoring six individuals or organizations with the National Impact Award for their tireless efforts in improving the health of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

  • Paul Hansen, Hospital Administrator, Maniilaq Association
  • Victor Joseph, Chief, Tanana Chiefs Conference
  • Kathleen “Kitty” Marx, Director of the Division of Tribal Affairs, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • Caitrin Shuy, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Dr. Jorge Mera, Director of Infectious Diseases, Cherokee Nation Health Services
  • United National Indian Tribal Youth, Inc., Wellness Warriors Program

“All who were honored have proven themselves as national leaders through extraordinary contributions in Tribal health advocacy, public health and direct health care delivery. For example, Caitrin Shuy, as NIHB’s Congressional Relations Director, she was a fierce and successful advocate for our People – through her leadership and tenacity Congress created set-aside funding for Tribes to fight the opioid crisis. Caitrin is now a HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary,” said Bohlen. “Kitty Marx had already been a national leader during her time with IHS when she came to NIHB as Legislative Director and fought for the Indian Health Care Improvement Act Reauthorization like she owned it. Now at CMS, Kitty has brought great understanding about Tribes and opportunity to Tribal Nations in this absolutely critical arena. This is the kind of service these awardees provide, and they deserve to be celebrated among friends and colleagues.”

This year NIHB acknowledged nine individuals and organizations with the Area and Regional Impact Award. Their respective work has affected change or impacted health care and public health services for their entire

  • IHS Service Area or region.
  • Alaska Area – Dr. Dane Lenaker, Senior Clinical Director, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium
  • Albuquerque Area – Alan Barlow, CEO, Kewa Pueblo Health Corporation
  • Bemidji Area – Samuel Moose, Human Services Director of the Fond du Lac Human Service Division; Vice President of the Great Lakes Area Tribal Health Board; and NIHB Treasurer and Bemidji Area Representative
  • Billings Area – Tressie White, Program Director, Montana Healthcare Foundation
  • Great Plains Area – Jerilyn Church, CEO, Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board
  • Navajo Area – Dr. Karletta Chief, Associate Professor, University of Arizona
  • Oklahoma City Area – Laura Neal, Director of Ardmore Clinic, Chickasaw Nation Health Services
  • Phoenix Area – Fort Yuma Health Center
  • Portland Area – Cheryle Kennedy, Tribal Council Chairwoman, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde

“Tribal advocates like board member Sam Moose from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and Jerilyn Church with the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board are paving pathways for our future Native health leaders. We look to these leaders’ stories to inspire and teach us as Indian Country continues to fight to bring quality health care to our people during a challenging time and with limited resources and funding,” said Bohlen.

The National Indian Health Board also recognizes exemplary work with the Local Impact Award, which acknowledges an individual or organization whose work has affected change or impacted health care on the local and/or Tribal level. This year’s well deserving Local Impact Award Winners will be celebrated at an upcoming Area Indian Health Board Meeting in their Area.

  • Alaska Area – Megan Mackiernan, Director of Quality Improvement, Norton Sound Health Corporation
  • Albuquerque Area – Savannah Gene, Program Coordinator, Albuquerque Area Indian Health Board
  • Albuquerque Area – Dr. Shannon Saltclah, Pharmacist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Billings Area – April Martin, Executive Director, Wild Rose Center
  • California Area – Ami Admire, Native Connections Coordinator, Indian Health Council
  • California Area – Norma McAdams, Executive Director, Native Women’s Health and Wellness Alliance
  • Great Plains Area – Audrey Bercier, Physician Assistant, Quentin N. Burdick Hospital
  • Great Plains Area – Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Youth Diabetes Prevention Program
  • Nashville Area – Anna Van Stippen, Diabetes and Wellness Program Coordinator, Miccosukee Tribe of Florida
  • Navajo Area – Crownpoint CHR/Outreach Program
  • Navajo Area – Sherry Begaye, Senior Community Health Worker, Community Health Representative Outreach Program
  • Oklahoma City Area – Nathan Billy, M. Ed, LPC, Deputy Director, Choctaw Nation Behavioral Health
  • Oklahoma City Area – Lieutenant Randi Duncan, Occupational Health Nurse, US Public Health Service
  • Phoenix Area – Michael DuBois, DPT, Fort Yuma Health Center
  • Phoenix Area – San Carlos Apache Healthcare Opioid Stewardship Program
  • Portland Area – Alison Goerl, RD, LD, Diabetes/Women’s Wellness Program Director, Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest
  • Portland Area – Kathy Wynecoop, Community Health Representative, Spokane Tribe of Indians
  • Tucson Area – Donald Williams, Injury Prevention and Environmental Health, Tohono O’odham Nation Health Care

The NIHB Heroes in Health Awards Gala is an annual event. This year’s gala was sponsored by the Chickasaw Nation, Redding Rancheria, the Barona Band of Mission Indians and the Tolowa Dee-Ni’ Nation. The Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council generously donated the bison for the meal. Learn more about the Outstanding Service Awards and how to nominate a leader, provider or advocate for their exemplary work in Tribal health by sending an email to: NTHC@nihb.org.