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As the new State of Alaska Commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services, Valerie Davidson oversees about 3,600 workers in public health, children’s services, Medicaid and public assistance.
Valerie grew up in Bethel and Aniak before moving to Salcha, outside of Fairbanks. Her mother, Matilda Davidson, is from Kwigillingok. Valerie says her grandmother, the late Annie David, was the smartest person she’s ever known and gave her a piece of advice she will take with her to her new position.
“She taught me to ‘lead with love and you will never stand alone.’ That has helped me so much not only in my personal life but also professionally,” said Valerie.
Valerie is excited about the opportunity to help all Alaskans but especially Alaska Natives. Her upbringing in rural Alaska will bring a rural perspective to state government. Along side her law degree, she says her Yup’ik culture of collaboration will serve her well in her new position.
“You have to be able to work together in order to survive,” said Valerie.
Her first priority is Medicaid expansion, which improves access to health services. According to Valerie, Medicaid expansion will also help with medically necessary travel for those living in rural areas. Valerie says Alaska faces many health care challenges and she hopes to address many of them. Valerie has previously championed health efforts in the state including efforts to develop the Dental Health Aide Therapy program.
Valerie’s 15-year career in tribal health includes seven years for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.
Despite challenges in her life and career, Valerie says your struggles define you and give you strength. She encourages people to treat others with respect and focus on creating a bright future.
“People can do the most amazing things under the most impossible conditions for the right reasons,” said Valerie.
“Quayana cakneq to the Region for raising me.”