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Health
NPR interviews IHS Director Yvette Roubideaux


Michel Martin of the National Public Radio show Tell Me More interviews Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota. Roubideaux is the first Native woman to serve as director of the Indian Health Service.

"MARTIN: Now doctor, not many people I think outside of the - some parts of the country are familiar with the Indian Health Service. So can you tell us, how did the system start? How did the program start?

Dr. ROUBIDEAUX: Well, the Indian Health Service is an agency in the Department of Health and Human Services. And it was developed based on the trust responsibility that the federal government has to provide health care for American-Indians and Alaskan natives. So, it was established in 1959 and it consists of a network of over 600 hospitals and clinics located on Indian reservations or near them throughout the country.

MARTIN: So, as I understand it, you have to either live on the reservation or live near it to receive care. So, ironically, you can't get care through the IHS anymore.

Dr. ROUBIDEAUX: Yes, I am technically an urban American Indian living in the Washington, D.C., area and we don't have an Indian Health Service or hospital near here. So, I don't have access to a source of health care that's been important to me for much of my life.

MARTIN: As I understand it, part of what motivated you to become a doctor was that you had some unhappiness with the care that you got from the IHS when you were growing up. Can you talk more about that?

Dr. ROUBIDEAUX: Yes. The challenge that the Indian Health Service has is that, historically, it's had difficulty meeting the needs and the growing demands of the patients it serves with the limited budget that it has. And so, when I was a child, I would go to the Indian Health Service Hospital in my city. And I just remember waiting a long time to see doctors and then I never really saw the same doctor each time, because the Indian Health Service has always had difficulty recruiting doctors to work in rural and remote areas. And I also realized at some point that I had never seen an American-Indian physician."

Get the Story:
Native Americans, Alaska Natives Overcome Hurdles to Health Care (National Public Radio 9/23)