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Indian Health Service The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives

Community health representative: The first tribally contracted program, since 1968 - American indian paraprofessional healthcare providers


Accomplishments and awards

Congratulations to Corinne Justin, the first Native American to win the annual Esther M. Holderby Dedicated Community Health Worker Award

Corinne, a Gila River Indian Community tribal member with 27 years of service as a Community Health Representative, received the award for her commitment and dedication to the community health worker profession, as she overcame personal adversity to promote health in her community in Arizona. When asked how she felt when she found out, she said “I was surprised”.

Carley Desillier, Corinne Justin, Lisa Renee Holderby
L-R: Carley Desillier (Grandaughter of Esther M Holderby) -
Corinne Justin - Lisa Renee Holderby (Daughter of Esther M Holderby)

Corinne’s personal life challenges, family hardships, which included the fortitude to deal with the stressors associated with her husband’s medical complications and social diseases faced by her family, forced her to become the primary head-of-household, which includes five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Through it all she did not relinquish her focus on the wellness of her community.

As a valued long-standing member of the Public Health Nursing (PHN) Department, Corinne has served as a resource for her peers and colleagues. She has been the mentor to new CHRs coming into the department. Her scheduling system to insure that patients on her caseload are visited on a regular basis has been adopted as the standard for the CHR Program within the PHN Department.

Corinne’s focus is on the wellness of her community. She is drawn to the elders, sensitive to their needs, listens to their concerns, providing the support and assistance they require. Sometimes, this may require that she stay a bit longer and brew a pot of coffee. She coordinates with her clinical team and with the department to insure identified needs are addressed.

Corinne sidesteps obstacles when she sees a need that requires tending. On one of her scheduled visits to an elder in the Community who was bed-ridden, Corinne’s knock on the front door went unanswered. She walked around the house and was able to make contact with the patient by talking through a bedroom window and discovered that the patient’s caregiver had not shown up in over a day to provide for his basic needs. Corinne found a masonry block to use as a stepping stone, removed the window screen and hoisted herself through the window. She then proceeded to provide the desperately-needed personal care to, and prepared a meal for the patient.

Throughout her career, Corinne has dedicated her work to the community whose residents greatly respect and revere her. She takes every opportunity to learn from her patient’s wisdom and knowledge of the culture. She finds strength in their words of encouragement. At a low point in her life, a patient’s words to her, to “keep doing what you’re doing, you’re doing good for the people” gave her newfound determination to honor that patient’s belief in her and continue her work as a Community Health Representative.

Corinne exemplifies what CHRs are all about – caring, compassionate and committed to the patients they serve and resourceful in getting around obstacles that may get in the way.

Thank you to Mercy Banez-Car, Director, Public Health Nursing and June M. Shorthair, Public Relations Director for sharing information.

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