Women’s History Month: Celebrating the Women of Tribal Health

Women’s History Month is wrapping up – and what better way to close out the month than by honoring 4 of Tribal Health’s outstanding female leaders? Below, some of our most impressive leaders talk about the valuable transformation they’re creating in healthcare, their leadership philosophy, and the women who’ve inspired their achievements.  

Angelia Frederick

Let’s start with Angelia Frederick (Zeman) FNP-BC, a Tribal Health veteran who’s been at Rosebud IHS since November 2017. Her medical journey took a circuitous path, beginning with serving as a certified nurse’s aide (CNA), then becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT), and then a registered nurse (RN). Working in multiple roles in a rural hospital, Angie trained in OB, ER, and Med/Surg. – which naturally led to her becoming Director of Nursing of the nursing home. Here’s something that tells you the kind of leader and clinician she is: in an effort to make nursing homes across the state actually feel like “home,” she admitted herself twice to nursing homes. By experiencing firsthand what it was like to be bathed, toileted, and fed, she gained invaluable insights that helped her help residents “feel like they still had a choice and that being in a nursing home was part of their journey – not the end.” She even authored a book about the experience: ‘Resident for 24 hours: The Experience to Making a Difference.” After that, Angie earned her master’s degree while working multiple jobs, went through a divorce, and became a certified nurse practitioner in family medicine. Today she is a much admired leader of Team Tribal, with colleagues praising her proactive problem-solving abilities and natural rapport with patients. She’s also happily remarried to her supportive husband Greg Zeman, with whom she shares a combined 6 children and currently 8 grandchildren. Her advice to women: “Courage women to continue in adversity.  Don’t forget where you’ve been and what you’ve accomplished. Looking back at where you were and how far you’ve come is your fuel. Always reach for your dreams no matter how hard it seems. The fight is worth it, you’re worth it!!”  

Ashley Sanders, CFO

Our fearless Chief Financial Officer met Dr. John Shufeldt years ago while she was working with Angel Med Flight and he was serving as Medical Director. She was working for a hospital in Wickenburg when she received a phone call about working for Tribal EM – and her journey began. Today, Ashley heads all financial operations for Tribal Health, with a leadership philosophy that is grounded in kindness. Aware that finance people can be “rigid,” she says she expects her team members to be kind and compassionate: “You never know what someone’s going through.” Committed to the Tribal Health mission, Ashley sees her team’s efficiency as a key component in supporting our front-line clinical workers. Whether it’s someone requesting reimbursement or correction of an incorrect paycheck, her team acts to do it immediately. “We take care of the people taking care of the people,” she says. She also encourages people to grow in their career. “I empower rather than keeping my thumb on people,” she says. “I don’t believe in micromanaging; I’m going to be your biggest support.” When she’s not making finance magic happen, Ashley’s family time with her husband, 2 kids, and 3 dogs) is often focused on motorcross racing: “That’s my life.” Ashley’s favorite woman of history is Queen Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen whose reign saw the defeat of the Spanish Armada, a golden age of literature and  the rise of playwrights William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and a gift for turning marriage proposals into political power. “She seemed really bad ass, not marrying and making her country the strongest it’s ever been,” Ashley says.

Karen Cotton

If you’ve served patients in the Great Plains, then you must know Karen Cotton – a guiding light among our Pine Ridge and Rosebud teams, who look to her significant expertise in Indigenous health. Having served for more than a decade in Native communities, Karen is known for her clinical intelligence and her compassionate wisdom. “I know my work as a mother and healthcare provider makes my heart full,” she says of serving in the Great Plains. “I am definitely in the job I was meant to be in. My strength comes from helping all people, most especially my family and the wonderful humans I have had the pleasure to care for, for over 10 years on the Pine Ridge Reservation.” Karen named Susan LaFlesche Picotte (Omaha) as a woman from history she admires. A Native American physician who is today known as the first Indigenous woman to earn a medical degree, LaFlesche Picotte was inspired to attend medical school after watching a physician refuse to treat a Native woman, who died. In addition to her work as a public health activist who campaigned for the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis, LaFlesche Picotte helped educate patients about alcoholism and preventive health, and fought for her Omaha tribe’s land rights. “She always, always fought for the underdog,” Karen says. “She recognized the need to stand up for people who could not or did not know they could.  Her work gave her strength.”

Angel Wilson-Crowe (Lakota)

Nurse Practitioner Angel Wilson-Crowe (Retired CAPT USPHS) plays an invaluable role at our Great Plains facilities, where she is recognized as a leader in both clinical and cultural expertise. Known for her vast repository of knowledge on Indigenous healthcare, Angel has educated countless team members on community history and ways to connect patients with outside resources and services. “I am so grateful for joining Tribal Health since I retired from federal service in 2015,” she says. “It has allowed me to continue serving the Native American communities and balance my time with my family and hobbies.”  A Board Certified, Advanced Practice Family Nurse Practitioner, Angel has seen the impact of staffing shortages and she understands how these gaps affect the morale of department staff. Fluent in various leadership philosophies and program needs, she’s experienced working in small organizations and larger acute care hospital settings – including federal clinics and emergency departments in the Great Plains of South Dakota, such as the Rosebud Indian Health Service Hospital, Wanblee Ambulatory Clinic, and the Sioux San Hospital and Urgent Care Clinic. Her final federal years were spent at the Phoenix Indian Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, and the Crow/Northern Cheyenne Hospital emergency room and Pryor Ambulatory Clinic in Pryor, MT. “It’s hard to believe, but I was born at the old Rosebud Hospital on the rez in South Dakota!” she says. “My parents raised me and my many siblings on the Rosebud Reservation, where we grew up with rodeos, horses, brandings, and chasing cattle much of the time. These days, I am happily married to Mr. Darren Crowe, and we have a beautiful blended family consisting of four children and seven grandchildren, including recently added twin baby girls, as well as two foster grandchildren. My hobbies include spending time with my grandchildren, attending powwows, caring for my dogs, chickens, and horses, sewing ribbon skirts and shawls, making belts, cultivating native plants, gardening, and working on my loghouse. My husband and I, along with some of our granddaughters, participate in Sundancing and sweat lodge ceremonial prayers, and we are actively involved in efforts to preserve our Lakota language.” According to her colleagues, one of Angel’s most remarkable gifts is her ability to make patients comfortable while deepening their engagement with their treatment plans. She brings to mind the saying that a doctor’s or nurse’s approach can be more powerful than prescribed medicines. As a colleague said, “Angel is a legend here. We all turn to her for advice because of her wealth of knowledge and wisdom. She is a superstar nurse practitioner who somehow manages to be on top of everything that needs to get done while making patients feel comfortable, cared for, and heard. Her amazing rapport with patients echoes her commitment to our communities – and we are grateful to work with a nurse practitioner of her caliber.” Happy Women’s History Month!  

2 Responses

  1. Four very impressive leaders. Of which, one of them Angelia Frederick (Zeman) is my daughter. I’m very proud of all her accomplishments. Angelia did it all on her own working hard while raising 3 children & beings involved in their school activities and sometimes working 3 jobs to get where she is. I am glad she is finally receiving some credit for her past and continuing hard work. ( Yes, I am a very proud mother).

    1. She is so inspiring – we totally understand why you’re proud of her! We’re grateful to have her on our team.

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