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Dr. Kathleen R. Annette

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1955

Medical School

University of Minnesota Medical School



Career Path

Public health: Government
General medicine: Family
Dr. Kathleen R. Annette


Dr. Kathleen Annette was the first woman in the Bemidji Indian Health Service to serve as an area director.
Dr. Kathleen Annette was the first woman in the Minnesota Ojibwe Nation to become a physician.


I wanted to make a difference in the health of Indian people. I wanted to show that Indians could succeed, and excel, in education.


Dr. Kathleen R. Annette, a member of the White Earth Band of Chippewa, is the first Minnesota Ojibwe woman to become a physician and the first woman in the Bemidji Indian Health Service in Minnesota to serve as an area director.

Born in Minnesota in 1955, Kathleen Annette graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in chemistry, followed by a doctor of medicine degree in 1983. She obtained her residency training at the Duluth Family Practice Center, receiving board certification in 1986. Dr. Annette began her career with the Indian Health Service (IHS), an agency within the United States Department of Health and Human Services, in 1986, as a medical officer at the Leech Lake Service Unit at Cass Lake, Minnesota. She has held various positions of increasing responsibility, including clinical director of the Leech Lake Service Unit, and chief medical officer for the Bemidji Area of the IHS.

Assigned as the director of the Bemidji Area in 1990, Dr. Annette manages a varied health care program. The Bemidji Area provides health services for more than sixty thousand American Indians from thirty-three federally recognized tribes in the states of Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Health care is provided through direct care, contract care, or tribally-operated facilities. Facilities include urban health clinics, community health nursing stations, and walk-in first aid centers, as well as fully staffed hospitals and clinics with lab, pharmaceutical, and X-ray capabilities. As part of a national Indian health system of federal, tribal, and urban Indian health programs, the Bemidji Area also helps support five urban health programs in Minneapolis, Detroit, Green Bay, Milwaukee, and Chicago.

Dr. Annette develops and presents annual health care providers conferences that focus on health issues impacting American Indians, serves on an advisory committee for a joint Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state "Emerging Infectious Disease" project, and is a frequent speaker on Indian health at medical schools and other institutions. As an area director, she also is a member of the Executive Leadership Council, a decision-making body of the agency that examines health acre policy issues as they pertain to the Indian Health Service.

Dr. Annette's received the U.S. Public Health Service Outstanding Service Award in 1993, and has also been honored with American Indian Service Awards, the Indian Health Services Group Award for the National IHS Quality Management Health Professionals Workgroup on Recruitment and Retention, the Mead Johnson Award from the American College of Family Practice, and the Association of American Indian Physicians Recognition Award for Endeavors in American Indian Education on AIDS. Dr. Annette was selected for appointment to the Senior Executive Service of the U.S. federal government in 1991.

Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

I was ill-prepared, initially, for college. No-one from the reservation high school had ever successfully pursued a medical education.

How do I make a difference?

I think that I have been blessed to be able to take leadership roles locally, statewide, and nationally in Indian health issues. I make a difference in Indian youths that I have mentored—always advocating education and commitment to Indian people.

Who was my mentor?

I had many mentors—parents and teachers.

How has my career evolved over time?

I was in clinical medicine, eventually assuming more policy and leadership roles.