IHS Recognizes Chairman, Whidden

Submitted by Seminole Health Department

NASHVILLE, TN — Chairman Mitchell Cypress and Health Director Connie Whidden have made a tremendous impact on community health and it has not gone unnoticed. On June 27, the Indian Health Service (IHS) recognized both of these outstanding individuals for their health promotion and disease prevention efforts at the Nashville Area 2006 Health Summit.

Chairman Cypress was presented the Tribal leader “Walk the Talk” award for his relentless efforts to bring health and fitness to all reservations. Known nationwide for his success in changing lifestyle habits to improve his own health, the chairman has made it a personal mission to help others accomplish this same goal.

Drawing from personal experience, Chairman Cypress has paved the way for others to follow the path to health–overcoming addiction, improving diabetes and cardiovascular health and incorporating fitness into everyday life. The development of the Fitness department, the construction of the Big Cypress Walking Trail and sponsorship of the community walking programs and senior Trikefest competitions are just a few of his many invaluable contributions to community health.

Health Director Connie Whidden was presented the director’s “Champion of Champions” award for her steadfast pursuit of events and activities designed to encourage community members to take charge of their own health by becoming more active.

In 2000, faced with health statistics depicting substantial weight gain in the fall holiday months, she happened upon the idea of an intertribal competition beginning in October featuring small walking events and culminating in January with the grand Reservation Rally 5K walk/run. Upon receiving this award for successfully impacting the communities by implementing, funding and promoting the Reservation Rally event, Whidden was quick to give credit to all Tribal departments for their time and expertise, without which, the Reservation Rally would just not be possible.

Having completed six Reservation Rally events, she looks at this fun family event as a springboard for participants to seek other avenues to continue to improve their health status.

Both awards were presented by Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills and Native American Institute Area Director Richie Grinnell. Billie Mills, Oglala Lakota (Sioux), selected as the top athlete of the century for South Dakota, by Sports Illustrated, gave an inspiring motivational message of setting goals and never giving up on one’s dreams–with faith and perseverance, dreams become reality and can be reached.

This IHS initiative is ongoing and geared toward “Preparing the Way for Future Generations” to insure a healthier today and tomorrow for Indian people.