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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Leader Visits With Young River People’s Council

Mikah Carlos, Young River People's Council acting president, gives Dr. Karen DeSalvo, acting assistant secretary for health in the U.S., a gift after her visit to the Community. Photo by Tyler Manuel.

A Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community youth group got a special visit recently from Dr. Karen DeSalvo, acting assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

DeSalvo visited the Community on July 20 and spent about an hour with the Young River People’s Council, answering health-related questions and taking ideas. Phoenix Indian Medical Center leaders also visited as part of DeSalvo’s group.

The discussion focused on health issues facing the Community such as diabetes, mental health, drug abuse and cancer.

“I really think what we shared hit home with her and think she can relate,” said Mikah Carlos, the youth group’s acting president. “She’s seen a lot of similar things with her own patients, so I think our stories and our experiences really resonated with her.”

DeSalvo has focused her career toward improving access to affordable and high-quality healthcare for all people, according to her government biography. She worked in New Orleans as that city’s health commissioner from 2011 to 2014, when she joined the Department of Health and Human Services as the national coordinator for health information technology, a position she still holds even as she serves as acting assistant secretary for health.

SRPMIC President Delbert Ray Sr., who welcomed DeSalvo and shared a brief history of Community, said the Community averages one death a week, many stemming from diabetes and cancer.

DeSalvo commended the youth group for its push for the Community to adopt a “No Texting While Driving” ordinance. She challenged the group to keep working to help others.

“I got some good messages here,” she said. “I appreciate the candor.”