When asked to name her top priority as the new director of the Indian Health Service, physician Yvette Roubideaux said she believes her first task is to listen.
Roubideaux, 46, should have no problem doing just that, given that money talks and members of the American Indian community have expressed their opinions on two large, recently announced sums of money for this HHS agency: the $500 million allocated to IHS from this years American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and President Barack Obamas proposal to boost the IHS budget by 13% to $4.03 billion for 2010. The early consensus seems to be that even with these added funds, more resources are needed to improve the healthcare system for the nations American Indian and Alaskan Native populations.
Within a one-week period last month, the Indian Health Service announced the Senates confirmation of Roubideaux, Obamas request for expanding the agencys budget and the allocation of the stimulus funding to the states. At the top point of this triangle of events is Roubideaux, the three-time Harvard University graduate who will be the first woman to oversee the HHS agency that serves about 1.9 million of the nations estimated 3.3 million American Indian and Alaskan Natives on a budget of about $3.58 billion. From her office at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucsonwhere, until her appointment, she served as assistant professor of family and community medicineRoubideaux told Modern Healthcare that she is preparing to consult with the American Indian tribes and her staff to find out what lessons have been learned in order to make both large- and small-scale improvements at the agency.