PHOENIX (AP) — The chief medical officer for the Navajo Area Indian Health Service based in Arizona has been named to the same position for the national service.

Dr. Loretta Christensen, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, began her career with the Indian Health Service as a general surgeon and has been chief medical of the Navajo Area service since 2014. She previously served as chief medical officer at the Gallup Service Unit in New Mexico and has been the acting IHS chief medical officer since May.

IHS Acting Director Elizabeth Fowler announced Christensen’s appointment Friday to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agency which provides health services for about 2.6 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in 574 federally recognized tribes in 37 states.

She “has been a consistent voice and leader in the Navajo Area IHS for years, most recently serving as a leader in the area’s COVID-19 response by ensuring that patients received quality care, communicating safety measures to the public and staff and establishing safety standards for the area,” Fowler said.

Before joining the Navajo Area service, Christensen served 17 years as the clinical trauma director and associate director of the surgical intensive care unit at Jersey Shore University Hospital.


Eds: This story corrects an earlier version to show the abbreviation for Indian Health Service is IHS, not HIS.