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Dr. YvetteRoubideaux

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1963

Medical School

Harvard Medical School



Career Path

Internal medicine
Dr. YvetteRoubideaux


I decided to become a doctor because I wanted to help improve the quality of healthcare for American Indians. My first encounters with the healthcare system were as a patient in the Indian Health Service. The IHS is severely underfunded and understaffed, and I often waited four to six hours to see a doctor. As a teenager, I realized that I had never seen an American Indian physician and felt that by becoming a physician I could do something to help improve healthcare for American Indian communities.


Yvette Roubideaux, M.D., a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, served as director of the Indian Health Service and a senior adviser to the Health and Human Services Secretary for American Indians and Alaska Natives during the Obama Administration. She has been an assistant professor in both the College of Public Health and College of Medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She has dedicated her career to improving American Indian health care through teaching and research, focusing on diabetes as a pervasive chronic disease. In 2001 she co-edited a book on Indian health policy with Mim Dixon, Ph.D., entitled Promises to Keep: Public Health Policy for American Indians and Alaska Natives in the 21st Century.

Originally from South Dakota, Dr. Roubideaux worked for three years in Arizona the Indian Health Service as a clinical director and medical officer at the San Carlos Indian Hospital on the San Carlos Apache Indian reservation and for one year as a medical officer at the Hu Hu Kam Memorial Hospital on the Gila River Indian reservation.

She completed her M.D. at Harvard Medical School in 1989 and received her M.P.H. at Harvard School of Public Health in 1997. After completing the Commonwealth Fund/Harvard University Fellowship in Minority Health Policy, she decided to shift her career in the direction of teaching, research, and service related to Indian health issues and Indian health program development. Dr. Roubideaux also completed a faculty development fellowship at the Native American Center of Excellence, the University of Washington School of Medicine in 1998.

Roubideaux is a consultant and medical epidemiologist for the Division of Diabetes Translation at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and for the Indian Health Service National Diabetes Program. She is also a consultant to the Henry J. Kaiser Native American Health Policy Fellowship Program and is a faculty mentor and former participant in the University of Colorado native Elder Resource Center Native Investigator Program.

Dr. Roubideaux has worked on a number of national committees related to diabetes, including the National Diabetes Education Program Steering Committee, and American Indian Campaign, and the Awakening the Spirit Team for the American Diabetes Association. She has also worked with tribal leaders on a number of initiatives, including the Tribal Leader Diabetes Committee Technical Workgroup and the Blue Ribbon Panel for Navajo Health Care. In 1999-2000 she was president of the Association of American Indian Physicians.

Dr. Roubideaux has provided testimony on the Indian Health Care Improvement Act reauthorization for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and in 2000 advised the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on health funding priorities for its first meeting of American Indian Governments and Organizations Budget Planning and Priorities. She was a consultant to the National Indian Health Board and was an author of the national survey of tribes, "Tribal Perspectives on Indian Self-Determination and Self-Governance in Health Care Management".

Dr. Roubideaux also served as a member of the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary's Advisory Committee on Minority Health.

Question and Answer

What was your biggest obstacle?

My biggest challenge was attending Harvard University and Harvard Medical School for my education. I grew up in South Dakota and did not have the advanced courses and preparation of many of the other students in my classes. In addition, it was difficult to attend school so far from my family. However, I was committed to my education to become a physician, so I worked very hard to be successful in my studies.

How do you make a difference?

My work focuses on helping improve the quality of healthcare for American Indians and Alaska Natives. As an assistant professor at the College of Public Health and College of Medicine at the University of Arizona, my work involves teaching about Indian health issues, conducting research on the quality of diabetes care for American Indians and developing culturally appropriate diabetes education materials and programs.

Who was your mentor?

I have had several mentors throughout my career. My most significant mentor is Joan Reede M.D., M.P.H., M.S., dean for diversity and community partnership, Harvard Medical School, who is also the director of the Commonwealth Fund/Harvard University Fellowship in Minority Health Policy, which I completed in 1997. Dr. Reede continues to provide unconditional support, encouragement and insightful advice to me on my career path and helped me see the possibilities for my current career.

How has your career evolved over time?

I initially was a physician and medical director in the Indian Health Service in Arizona for four years until I became interested in approaching Indian health problems from a public health or community/population perspective. I completed my masters in public health degree and then sought additional faculty development and research training prior to my appointment as faculty at the University of Arizona College of Public Health and College of Medicine.