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IHS Leadership Training inspires staff throughout Indian Country

by Olivia Beckman, M.D., Clinical Director, White Earth Health Center

This spring, I recently had the opportunity to attend the Indian Health Service Leadership Training Series hosted by the Oklahoma City Area office. The training focuses on motivating, empowering, and inspiring current and future leaders. Through this training, I’ve learned that effective leaders spread vision and integrity, while being responsible for strategic and critical decisions.

The training series included presentations on the administrative responsibilities that are a part of a leadership role within the Indian Health Service. Participants learned about appropriation law, supply services, property, contracting, third-party billing, quality assurance and human resources.

Understanding diverse aspects of IHS operations enhances our ability to support the mission of raising the physical, mental, social and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level.

Even though I spend most of my time focusing on the clinical services IHS provides, because of the training, I became aware of the critical role other departments play in each service unit and how everyone works together to contribute to the overall mission.

Participants from across IHS were able to network with presenters as well as each other. We also discussed leadership topics such as conflict resolution, information technology, and specific areas of finance.

I enjoyed hearing from fellow attendees about their experiences, both positive and negative; the wealth of information and experience in the room impressed me and I enjoyed watching as attendees became comfortable sharing alongside the presenters. We fluctuated between excitement when learning disciplines less familiar to us, stress when discussing how to handle conflict, and relief when covering a section that was in our comfort zone.

By broadening my understanding in areas outside my expertise, I am better prepared to productively contribute to discussions and make decisions at my service unit. I can ask better questions that can lead to more directed solutions.

This iteration of the series ended in May. As relationships solidified between attendees from different IHS service areas, the overall atmosphere of the sessions became increasingly encouraging and mutually supportive.

Relationships were built during informal meals and friendships and mutual respect became a common theme amongst all of the participants. As colleagues, the training created a support system amongst the participants. After the training, many of us made plans to keep connected.

Management often includes mitigation of possible conflict, facing barriers in communication and trust, as well as dealing with personalities and management styles that are different from our own; yet, leaders must aspire to always remain hopeful even when change seems slow and resolution seems distant. I walked away from the IHS leadership training inspired to look daily at my resources and to believe that we can make a difference and can be a part of improving quality of care, moving the needle, and exceeding expectations across Indian country.

Related content:

IHS Strategic Plan

About IHS

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Olivia Beckman, M.D., Clinical Director, White Earth Health Center
Dr. Olivia Beckman, MD, MPH, is a family medicine physician who serves as the clinical director at White Earth Service Unit in the Bemidji area. She graduated from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, followed by 17 years of experience in program development and education. Most recently, she has completed a Master of Public Health at the University of Minnesota with a focus on global and maternal-child health.