Environmental health is one of many important contributions to the IHS mission of raising the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level. The Division of Environmental Health Services, part of the Office of Environmental Health and Engineering, provides direct environmental health services and consultation to American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments and IHS programs.
DEHS recently recognized three outstanding employees who were recipients of annual environmental health awards for going above and beyond to serve American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
Environmental Health Specialist of 2020
Lt. George Chung
Lt. George Chung, environmental health officer for the Keams Canyon Service Unit in the IHS Phoenix Area, was selected as the Environmental Health Specialist of 2020 [PDF]. DEHS has awarded this honor since 1993 for the environmental health specialist representing the division with distinction and positively impacting the health outcomes of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Lt. Chung is recognized for his IHS Injury Prevention Fellowship project to assess the Hopi Tribe’s motor vehicle crash data collection and reporting system, which resulted in six significant evidence-based recommendations to improve the system. He is also being recognized for his leadership during COVID-19, in which he provided outreach and technical assistance to facilities serving at-risk populations, and for leading the health care center’s respirator fit testing program. Lt. Chung demonstrates the highest degree of innovation, excellence, and personal commitment to the IHS mission and his performance and willingness to go the extra mile have allowed him to strengthen relationships with tribal partners and enhance the quality of environmental health services provided.
Rick Smith Injury Prevention Award
Debbie Whitegrass Bullshoe
Debbie Whitegrass Bullshoe, Tribal Injury Prevention Coordinator for the Blackfeet Nation [PDF], is the 2020 recipient of the Rick Smith Injury Prevention Award [PDF]. This award from the DEHS Injury Prevention Program is given to recognize the performance of special efforts and contributions in the field of injury prevention that have resulted in a significant impact and led to improved public health for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Debbie served as the coordinator under the IHS Tribal Injury Prevention Cooperative Agreement Program from 2015-2020. Under her leadership, community members and youth in local schools received traffic safety education, child passenger safety technicians were certified, car seats were provided to children, an active injury prevention coalition was created, and mandates were developed for increased law enforcement of traffic laws. These efforts resulted in passage of the Blackfeet Nation primary seatbelt law, known as Ordinance 85, and an increase in driver seatbelt use rates from 17% to 39%, a 129% increase in seatbelt use.
Gary J. Gefroh Safety and Health Award
Lt. Cmdr. Michelle Livingston
Lt. Cmdr. Michelle Livingston, Western Oregon Service Unit infection preventionist, received the 2020 Gary J. Gefroh Safety and Health Award [PDF]. This award is given to recognize significant contributions resulting in improved health care safety and/or infection control conditions at an IHS or tribal health care program. Lt. Cmdr. Livingston led a multi-disciplinary team to standardize cleaning agents and environmental services competencies. Utilizing the Advanced Model for Improvement, this resulted in a 25% increase in cleaning efficiency and also reduced blood borne pathogen exposures to environmental services staff. Also serving as the IHS Portland Area acting infection preventionist, she successfully guided standardization of infection control policies across the Area. Lt. Cmdr. Livingston was vital to the Western Oregon Service Unit’s response to COVID-19 by developing the pandemic policy and screening protocol, leading PPE management and training, and providing employee health services. Her efforts helped improved health care infection control and patient care conditions at both the service unit and in the Portland Area.