CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA) presented Darlene Chee, CEO of the Indian Health Service (Navajo Area) and the Chinle Comprehensive Healthcare Facility, with the AMA Award for Outstanding Government Service.

Chee is a Navajo (Diné) health care professional committed to improving access and equity for her community. She has worked for the Indian Health Service for 34 years, beginning her career as a health technician in 1986, eventually advancing to her current role as chief executive, where she leads her team through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Mrs. Chee works tirelessly to improve access to care for her Navajo people and to integrate culturally sensitive elements of care,” said AMA Board Chair Russ Kridel, M.D. “Her colleagues credit her with leading with sincerity, setting high expectations and encouraging open, respectful dialogue. For her outstanding work and leadership, the AMA is pleased to present Ms. Chee with this award.”

In addition to her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chee is an advocate for culturally competent health services. She has been a driving force in promoting the Chinle Healthcare Facilities’ Native Medicine program, which utilizes traditional structures such as Hogans and sweat lodges on a regular basis, providing traditional songs and ceremonies in the Navajo language for patients and staff. Chee lends her unique mix of old and new knowledge to assure that such practices are compatible and enhance, rather than detract, from what the Chinle facility offers.

Chee completed a fellowship with the State University of New York at Binghamton in Rural Health Nursing and a public health immersion program with Johns Hopkins University.

Chee has a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Northern Arizona University and a master’s degree in health care administration from Grand Canyon University.

Chee's acceptance speech can be viewed at this link.

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