Darrell, an enrolled member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, joins the Indian Health Service as the director of the IHS Office of Clinical and Preventive Services at IHS headquarters in Rockville, Maryland. The Office of Clinical and Preventive Services (OCPS) aims to improve and promote wellness for American Indian and Alaska Native people by serving as the primary source of national advocacy, policy development, budget development and allocation for clinical, preventive, and public health programs for IHS, Area Offices, and Service Units. It is also the voice for clinical, preventive, and public health needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Darrell most recently served as the director of the Office of Facilities, Property and Safety Management with the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, overseeing a $250 million program that serves the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education. Darrell recently discussed his excitement of being back at IHS and his transition into his new position.
What made you want to start your career with the Indian Health Service?
I had two major influences that steered me towards a career with the Indian Health Service. First, I am a second generation engineer officer in the U.S. Public Health Service and Indian Health Service. My father had a 30-year career with the IHS Office of Environmental Health and Engineering program. I was also fortunate enough to have received the IHS Health Professions Scholarship. I am a member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and take great pride in being able to serve American Indian and Alaska Native people.
How has being a member of the USPHS Commissioned Corps impacted your career?
Being a member of the Commissioned Corps definitely opened doors for me. As an officer, you are exposed to broad public health and medical experiences beyond what a regular engineer would have received. In addition to their day-to-day job, Commissioned Corps officers are expected to further their education and participate in readiness activities, which provide more experience that enhance your daily job.
What will you take from this experience that will support your role as director of the Office of Clinical and Preventive Services?
When I retired from the Commissioned Corps, I entered the Senior Executive Service as the Director, Office of Facilities, Property, and Safety Management with Indian Affairs under the Department of the Interior. The director position was an incredible experience working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Indian Education, and the Office of Justice Service. In addition to providing common services to both bureaus, I had the opportunity to routinely work with the department, Office of Management and Budget, and Congress. I feel that having the experience in building relationships and partnerships across organizations is part of the value I can add to the OCPS director position.
What are you looking forward to most in your role?
I am looking forward to being back with the Indian Health Service, which feels somewhat like a homecoming. I look forward to the challenge of learning more about the programs that are at the heart of the IHS and bringing them together to improve the overall health for American Indians and Alaska Natives. I am excited to work with our senior leadership – most of whom I have crossed paths with at varying times throughout my career—as we work together to raise the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level.
How do you see the work of OCPS fitting in to the IHS mission of raising the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level?
OCPS is and has been the heart of the overall IHS health program. There are so many specialties represented in OCPS that touch every aspect of our people’s health. I see OCPS as an office that not only provides strong clinical and health leadership in these specialties, but also coordinates program execution to maximize impact and resources.