WASHINGTON – Cathy Abramson was elected chair of the National Indian Health Board on Jan. 17, at the organization’s winter board meeting on Capitol Hill.
Abramson, a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, has served on her tribe’s council since 1996, largely focusing on health, youth, education and elder issues. She has served on the NIHB board for two years. The organization advocates on behalf of tribes for improved Indian health policy from the nation’s capital.
“I am humbled to be elected chair of the nation's premiere American Indian health policy and advocacy organization,” Abramson said. “I am committed to continue the momentum at NIHB. The board and staff are without compare in the tribal health arena.”
She said tribes are welcome to contact NIHB anytime to share ideas on how to move Native people's health forward.
Tribal advocates said Abramson’s leadership will lead to improved health outcomes for Natives. In 2009, Stacy Bohlen, executive director of NIHB, said Abramson understands the difficulties tribal programs have in accessing funds to provide for the basic health care needs of their people.
During a September 2009 tribal town hall meeting with Yvette Roubideaux, director of Indian Health Service, Abramson expressed her thoughts on the agency, suggesting that tribal consultation policy should include a requirement for all IHS staff to receive mandatory training about the trust responsibility that the U.S. has to American Indian and Alaska Native populations. She has also testified before federal committees explaining the need for better outreach to Native communities.
Abramson’s new position comes shortly aftershe was named in December as one of 17 primary appointees to a new federal advisory committee to reform and enhance how the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services works with Indian country.
“I am very honored and deeply humbled to be working with so many hardworking and distinguished tribal leaders from across Indian Country,” Abramson told her tribal newspaper after that appointment. “I am happy to be chosen by Secretary Sebelius to serve on the HHS Tribal Advisory Committee. I look forward to representing our Bemidji area and all of Indian country.”
As a member of the committee, Abramson serves as the primary representative for the Bemidji area, which covers Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. The committee is made up of representatives from each of the 12 Indian Health Service administrative regions in the country and five national at-large representatives.
Joe McCoy, chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Board of Directors, told Win Awenen Nisitotung, “Cathy’s government-to-government experience and leadership on a federal level will serve all of Indian country well.”