Senior Program Manager, Tribal Public Health, National Coordinating Center for Public Health Training (NCCPHT)
New Orleans, LA
Laura Sawney is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and is also affiliated with Muscogee Creek Nation, Euchee Tribe, Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, and Navajo Nation. Laura has been blessed to have worked in Tribal Public Health for the past 14+ years. Laura has lived almost all her life on the Cherokee Reservation in the northeastern part of Oklahoma. Laura graduated high school from an Indian Boarding school ran by her Tribe, Tahlequah-Sequoyah High School. Laura has always wanted to work in healthcare to strive to improve the health & well-being of her Native people. Originally her path was going to be that of a physician working in a Tribal Health facility as she herself grew up receiving her healthcare exclusively from Tribal Health facilities or Indian Health Service facilities. Laura had yet to really know about the career path called Public Health. Laura was a first-generation college student on both her father and mother’s side and attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK. Laura took a pre-professional health track designed for future physicians, dentists and other clinical healthcare professionals. Laura graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Organismic Biology and minor in Chemistry. Laura was active in many Native Organizations holding leadership positions in many of them including the American Indians in Science & Engineering Society (AISES) and Association of American Indian Physicians (AAIP). It was through participation with these Indigenous organizations that Public Health was introduced to Laura and the rest is history.
Laura attended and graduated from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center’s College of Public Health with a Master of Public Health degree (MPH) emphasizing in Health Administration and Epidemiology. Laura went on to work for her Tribe as a public health educator and later was promoted to Manager of Public Health Infrastructure, Policy & Performance Management where she spent 6+ years dedicated to facilitating the development of a Tribal Public Health infrastructure that used PHAB’s PH accreditation standards as a road map to achieve a Tribal PH Department/System with the capability and capacity to achieve the high excellence of becoming accredited – Laura is always very joyous and proud to share that Cherokee Nation became the 1st Tribal Nation to have its Tribal Public Health Department become accredited by PHAB. Eventually Laura went on to work for the Osage Nation after Osage Nation compacted with the federal government (IHS) to govern their own health facility. Over the next 6+ years Laura gained experience on the clinical side of healthcare while still championing Public Health whenever and wherever she could. Laura wore many hats in her work with Osage Nation, initially as a Compliance Officer/Credentialing Specialist/Accreditation Officer then being promoted to Chief Compliance & Performance Officer and then during the last years as the Chief Operating Officer. Laura’s true love will always be Public Health, so she is grateful to have been provided the opportunity to get back into exclusively focusing on public health.