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National Indian Health Board Honors
Heroes in Health at Annual Awards Gala
WASHINGTON, DC—September 26, 2019—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.”
It was a special night for NIHB as the organization gave its highest honor of the Jake Whitecrow Award to long-time NIHB board member and life-long tribal health leader – Andrew C. Joseph, Jr. – member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and a U.S. Army veteran. The Jake Whitecrow Award recognizes an individual with outstanding lifetime achievements in elevating health care advocacy, raising awareness or affecting positive change for Native health care. Mr. Joseph’s lifetime of achievements in Indian health are unprecedented and worthy of the Jake Whitecrow Award.
As chair and co-chair of the Tribal Budget Formulation Workgroup, Mr. Joseph testified before Congress for increased appropriations for the Indian Health Service (IHS) and demanded the federal government meet its obligations. Mr. Joseph, a former council member for his Tribe, has served on several Tribal advisory committees, including the Direct Service Tribe’s Advisory Committee and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Tribal Technical Advisory Committee. He has represented Pacific Northwest Tribes on several regional and national Indian organization’s executive committees including, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and the National Congress of American Indians.
“Andy has been at the forefront of fighting to transform and improve the Indian health system through outstanding local, state and national leadership and advocacy for over 15 years. He has been a strong voice on Tribal sovereignty and the treaty and trust responsibility. He’s known for saying ‘yes’ to any opportunity to advocate for his Tribe and Indian country,” said NIHB Chair and Great Plains Area Representative Victoria Kitcheyan. “As a young Tribal leader, I feel as if my service has only just begun, and I am in awe of all those who have come before me and I hope to fulfill the circle of service, just like Andy. He has been a great mentor and an admirable leader. He has sacrificed time from his family and community for his work, and NIHB and Indian Country are thankful.”
Each year, NIHB awards a young American Indian or Alaska Native for their leadership and outstanding efforts to increase the quality of health care, public health services or awareness of health issues within their peer group or community on a local or national level. This year’s Youth Leadership Award went to Kaitlyn Pinkerton from the Cherokee Nation. Miss Pinkerton is an honors student, recent Junior Miss Cherokee and courageously challenges the status quo about mental health issues and treatment. 
“We are so proud of Kaitlyn and we look forward to following her journey of bettering the health of her people,” said Kitcheyan. “Our youth are the future of our circle of service. As Tribal leaders, national and regional advocates, community members, parents and elders, we owe our Native youth encouragement, guidance, opportunity and thanks for their interests and efforts to improve the health of their friends, families and communities.”
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.
“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 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 Heroes in Health Awards and how to nominate a leader, provider or advocate for their exemplary work in tribal health by sending an email to: .

Learn more about NIHB’s work at: .  
Social media information:
  • Facebook: /NIHB1972
  • Twitter: @NIHB1
  • Hashtags: #NIHB #NTHC2019 #healthytribalcommunities #IndianCountry #Nativehealth
About the National Indian Health Board
Founded in 1972, NIHB is a 501(c) 3 not for profit, charitable organization providing health care advocacy services, facilitating Tribal budget consultation and providing timely information, and other services to all Tribal governments. NIHB also conducts research, provides policy analysis, program assessment and development, national and regional meeting planning, training, technical assistance, program and project management. NIHB presents the Tribal perspective while monitoring, reporting on and responding to federal legislation and regulations. It also serves as conduit to open opportunities for the advancement of American Indian and Alaska Native health care with other national and international organizations, foundations corporations and others in its quest to build support for, and advance, Indian health care issues.
Created by the Tribes in 1972, the National Indian Health Board exists to advocate on behalf of all 573 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes to ensure the fulfillment of the trust responsibility to deliver health and public health services as assured through treaties, and reaffirmed in legislation, executive orders and Supreme Court cases.