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SRPMIC Meets With Top Indian Health Service Official

Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Council Member Ricardo Leonard greets Indian Health Service Principal Deputy Director Mary Smith at the Phoenix Indian Medical Center.

Leaders of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community recently met with Indian Health Service officials, including its top official, Principal Deputy Director Mary Smith.

The informal October 12 meeting at the Phoenix Indian Medical Center (PIMC) was part of a celebratory sendoff for Capt. Marie Russell, acting CEO of PIMC. SRPMIC Council Member Ricardo Leonard shared a Community-related summary of health care with the group, which included Russell; Phoenix-area IHS Director Charles Ty Reidhead; and Benjamin Smith, director of the Office of Tribal Self-Governance, a branch of IHS. SRPMIC Assistant Community Manager Lena Jackson also attended the meeting.

Leonard presented Russell with an O’odham basket dancer sculpture, thanking her for her service. Leonard then recommended to the group the return of a former CEO of PIMC, Capt. Michael Weahkee.

SRPMIC Council Member Ricardo Leonard speaks to officials from Indian Health Services at the Phoenix Indian Medical Center.
“We appreciate the naming of an area office director,” Leonard said. “We have had positive experiences working with Dr. Ty Reidhead. We know that he is responsive to tribes. Although Capt. Weahkee has had an excellent replacement with Dr. Russell, her leaving creates a gap. PIMC is important to the Phoenix-area tribes, and without consistent leadership, there are initiatives and programs that wait to be implemented.”

It’s unclear if or when Weahkee will return to his PIMC role, but Smith said she is working on getting him back to the Valley soon.

“Thank you for letting me borrow him because I know he is needed here at PIMC,” Smith said.

The meeting lasted about 15 minutes and included a brief update on the Salt River Clinic expansion, which will house a wellness clinic that will treat patients whose primary diagnosis is diabetes.

(l-r): Benjamin Smith, director of the Office of Tribal Self-Governance, IHS Principal Deputy Director Mary Smith, Lillian Cayala, of the San Lucy District of the Tohono O’odham Nation, SRPMIC Council Member Ricardo Leonard, Eva Ceyala, San Lucy District Chairman, SRPMIC Assistant Community Manager Lena Jackson, Acting CEO of PIMC Capt. Marie Russell and Phoenix-area IHS Director Charles Ty Reidhead.
The meeting also included an update regarding the PIMC Northeast Ambulatory Care Clinic planned in the Community. SRPMIC has set aside about 15 acres for this project, Leonard said.

“The Community is looking forward to the completion of this project,” he said. “There is significant land value for this land; however, we are committed to healthcare.”