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Biden to tap Navajo health head to lead Native American health agency

President Joe Biden intends to nominate Roselyn Tso to lead the Indian Health Service, the White House said in a news release Wednesday.

Tso, a member of the Navajo Nation, is the Navajo area director for the Indian Health Service, overseeing federal health care for nearly 250,000 Native American people in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Tso has worked for the agency since 1984, the White House said. Before taking the Navajo area director job, she held positions in Portland, Oregon, and at IHS headquarters in the Washington, D.C., area. She has held her current role since 2019.

The IHS is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. With an annual budget of about $7.4 billion, the agency provides health care to 2.6 million American Indians and Alaska Natives living on and near tribal reservations.

Native American communities have been among the hardest hit by COVID-19.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez applauded Tso’s selection Wednesday, saying she has handled the pandemic well.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, her leadership, expertise, and compassion have helped to reduce the spread of this modern-day monster and to save lives,” he said.

Biden has chosen several Native American people for leadership roles in the administration.

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Under Biden, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo of New Mexico, became the first Native American to serve in a presidential cabinet.

Charles F. Sams III, an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation near Pendleton, Oregon, became the first tribal member to lead the National Park Service in the agency’s 105-year history.

And Bryan Newland, a former president of the Bay Mills Indian Community, a Michigan Ojibwe tribe, became the assistant Interior secretary for Indian Affairs.

Tso’s nomination will be subject to confirmation by the Senate.

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.


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