WASHINGTON – The Senate voted unanimously May 6 to confirm Dr. Yvette Roubideaux as the director of IHS.
Roubideaux, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine, will be charged with overseeing all efforts by IHS to improve health care for American Indians throughout the country.
The nomination came as no surprise. Roubideaux has devoted her entire career to Indian health and she received glowing support in committee reviews after her nomination at the end of March by President Barack Obama.
A member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, Roubideaux was educated at Harvard University. She has worked for IHS in the past as a medical officer and clinical director on the San Carlos Indian Reservation and in the Gila River Indian Community. She is also the co-director of an effort that provides diabetes and cardiovascular disease prevention programming to 66 American Indian/Alaska Native communities. In addition to research and teaching, Roubideaux has also advocated for increased representation of American Indians in health professions and helped recruit students from American Indian communities into health care careers, according to a Kaiser Health Disparities Report.
In 2001, Roubideaux co-edited a book on Indian health policy entitled “Promises to Keep: Public Health Policy for American Indians and Alaska Natives in the 21st Century.”
In a prepared statement following Roubideaux’s confirmation, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., noted that the Rosebud Sioux tribal member received bipartisan support.
“Her upbringing in South Dakota as a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and vast knowledge as a champion of Indian health causes makes her an invaluable leader for tribal communities. We have many critical issues that face Indian country and we will be well-served to have Dr. Roubideaux as the IHS director. I look forward to working with her in her new capacity to ensure that the federal government does all that it can to fulfill its treaty and trust responsibilities to American Indians.”
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., the chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, announced Roubideaux’ confirmation at the beginning of a hearing on the nomination of Larry EchoHawk for Interior assistant secretary for Indian affairs.
“We reported (Roubideaux’) nomination out of this committee last week so last evening that nomination was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and that’s a very important thing to have happened. I’m so pleased she’s willing to serve,” Dorgan said.
Roubideaux is the first Native American woman to head IHS since it was founded in 1955.
She was born in 1963, and is a member of her father’s tribe, the Rosebud Sioux. Her mother is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux. Roubideaux grew up in Rapid City, S.D. where she witnessed the substandard health care services available to American Indians.
“I often waited four to six hours to see a doctor,” she once wrote. “As a teenager, I realized that I had never seen an American Indian physician.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who was also confirmed May 6, had high praise for the new IHS director.
“Dr. Roubideaux has spent her life working to improve health care for Native Americans. She has seen [IHS] through the eyes of a patient and a doctor, and I know she is the leader we need to strengthen IHS and ensure we keep our promise to provide quality health care to Native Americans,” Sebelius told the Rapid City Journal.
IHS is responsible for providing federal health care services, including health facilities and programs to American Indians. An estimated 1.9 million American Indians receive health care services through IHS or tribally-operated health programs.