The director of NDSU’s Master of Public Health program has been nominated by two Native American organizations to become the next U.S. surgeon general.
Donald Warne, associate professor and Mary J. Berg Distinguished Professor in Women’s Health, was one of four nominees the National Indian Health Board and the National Congress of American Indians presented to President Barack Obama on July 3.
A native of Kyle, S.D., Warne is a member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe, which is based on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He helped establish the NDSU Master of Public Health program and his areas of expertise include public health policy, health disparities, American Indian health and family medicine.
“It’s a tremendous honor to even be mentioned as a potential nominee,” Warne said. “I’m thankful to have national organizations have the confidence in me and my abilities.”
Surgeon General Regina Benjamin announced in mid-June plans to step down this month from serving as the nation’s leading spokesperson on matters of public health. The surgeon general serves as “America’s doctor” by providing Americans the best scientific information available on how to improve their health and reduce the risk of illness and injury.
Appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate for a four-year term, the surgeon general also is the operational head of the 6,500-member U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
“My priorities always will be to ensure everyone has access to the public health and medical services necessary to keep our population healthy,” Warne said. “Unfortunately, many segments of the American population simply do not have access to services, and as a result suffer from significant disparities and preventable illness.”
Warne earned his medical degree from Stanford University School of Medicine and a master’s in public health from Harvard School of Public Health. He serves as a senior policy consultant for American Indian Health Management and Policy, where he previously served as president and CEO. He also is a senior policy adviser for the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board.
He became interested in health care as a child. Warne’s mother was a public health nurse in the Indian Health Service and several uncles were Medicine Men in Pine Ridge, S.D. “As a result, cross-cultural medicine and working with underserved communities has been my focus for several decades,” Warne said. “I became interested in public health because my experience as a primary care physician revealed that the chronic health issues people deal with begin long before they get to the doctor or clinic.”
Warne also serves on numerous boards, including the national board of directors for the American Cancer Society and the National Advisory Council on Breast Cancer in Young Women with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
NDSU’s Master of Public Health program features the nation’s first American Indian/Alaska Native specialization. “The activities within the program and the support from the university have strengthened me, personally and professionally, and helps contribute to this nomination,” Warne said.
Other names nominated by the two organizations include Lori Arviso-Alvord, the first Navajo woman to become a surgeon; Charles Grim, the immediate past director of the Indian Health Services; and Rear Adm. Craig Vanderwagon, former U.S. assistant surgeon general.
The National Indian Health Board is a not-for-profit charitable organization serving and advocating for all federally recognized Tribes to advance the health care service, public health and health status of American Indian and Alaska Native people. The National Congress of American Indians is the oldest and largest American Indian organization in the United States. It has fought to preserve treaty rights and sovereign status of tribal governments, while also ensuring Native people may fully participate in the political system.
“All four individuals possess the exceptional intelligence, expertise, personal gifts and national standing that qualifies each of them to provide leadership to all of our nation’s citizens,” said the nomination letter.
For more information on NDSU’s Master of Public Health program, visit www.ndsu.edu/publichealth. More information on the National Indian Health Board is available at www.nihb.org. More information on the National Congress of American Indians is available at www.ncai.org.
NDSU is recognized as one of the nation’s top 108 universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.