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Cherokee welcome new health director

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - The Cherokee Nation recently welcomed a new director of Health Services, Mim Dixon.

Chief Chad Smith said he believes she is just what the doctor ordered to revamp the Cherokee health system.

"I think the outcome of the redesign will be to reduce frustrations in our daily work so that we can be more productive," Dixon said, asked about her task.

Dixon brings more than 30 years of experience in Indian health which includes 22 years working with Alaska's tribal health system as an advisor to Congress on Native American health issues. She also worked as a policy analyst with the National Indian Health Board.

Familiar with operations of the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations, Dixon plans to prepare the Cherokee Nation ambulatory clinics for a pending review. "It isn't something you can do at the last minute."

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The Cherokee health system needs a new health delivery program. National statistics reveal that only 60 percent of Indian health needs are being met - in Oklahoma it is estimated at 30 percent.

Health problems among the Cherokee Nation are much the same as they are throughout Indian country, with diabetes and heart disease and high blood pressure as the leading causes of problems within the population, Dixon said.

She faces a huge task, with more than 200,000 enrolled tribal members, the Cherokee health system is overtaxed and underfunded. She said she understands the problems her employees will face are similar to those in Indian health facilities throughout the nation.

Shortly after coming on board, Dixon told employees at the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell, "I want to hear about your problems and learn what we can do to support you in the real work of the tribe." Dixon said she believes the work of all tribal health employees is to give patients the best care that is available.

She wants her encouragement to bolster the moral of health care givers throughout the Cherokee Nation. "I think that is what we are all here for, to make a difference in the world."