• Lou Schmitz
    More About Lou
    Lou Schmitz, BS, GCPH has over 29 years of service in Indian healthcare and tribal public health. Her areas of experience in Indian country include public health emergency preparedness and response, cross-jurisdictional collaboration, tribal health department management, electronic health record implementation, patient-centered care delivery, health programs planning and design, community-based participatory research, healthcare reform, quality assurance, data management, and grant development. She has designed and successfully implemented programs and quality assurance measures for various clinical, prevention, and community health services. Ms. Schmitz was one of the tribal health department representatives to collaborate in developing the groundbreaking Olympic Regional Tribal Public Health Mutual Aid Agreement in 2010.  As a NextGen Certified Professional and NCQA Patient-Centered Medical Home Certified Content Expert, Ms. Schmitz managed the implementation of a health information management system for a Washington tribe, receiving the National NextGen Best Practice Award for Excellence. Ms. Schmitz is an alumnus of the University of Washington School of Public Health and the Northwest Public Health Leadership Institute. She is an Affiliate Instructor for the University of Washington School of Nursing Department of Psychosocial and Community Health. Lou is a member of AIHC’s team of consultants and serves as lead consultant for the Commission’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness projects.


  • Jan Ward Olmstead
    More About Jan
    Jan Ward Olmstead, MPA, is a Chumash descendant of the Santa Ynez and Barbareño, California Mission Indians. She serves as the Senior Public Health Policy and Project Advisor to the American Indian Health Commission (AIHC) for Washington State.
    In partnership with Tribal Leadership, Tribal Health programs, and community members, Jan helps create Native approaches that draw on unique cultural resources, community vision, and the engagement of Tribal elected officials. She brings an understanding of evidence-based public health knowledge from working with tribal communities. Jan has over 40 years of experience in health policy, public administration, and Tribal and intergovernmental affairs. Her experience includes the development of models and curriculum to support culturally grounded strategic thinking and program development.
    Jan earned a master’s degree from The Evergreen State College, Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Tribal Governance-management, policy, and leadership for Indigenous organizations. She has served as adjunct faculty in the MPA Tribal Governance and General Cohorts at The Evergreen State College. Jan is a certified master trainer in Neuroscience, Epigenetics, Adverse Childhood Experience, and Resilience. She applies a historical and cultural context in trauma-informed approaches as a path to healing through Seven Generation Strategies, acknowledgment of intergenerational core strengths, and self-determination. Jan also serves on multiple boards and committees to address systemic racism, support equity, and community-driven capacity building in American Indian and Alaska Native health and wellness.  Together, Jan and her husband Roger, have four grown sons, their partners, and their first grandchild.


  • Cindy Gamble
    More About Cindy
    Cindy Gamble, MPH, is Tlingit and a member of the Kaax’oos.hittaan, or Man’s Foot Clan. As a Tribal Public Health Consultant with the American Indian Health Commission, Cindy is the lead on the WIC Research Project and the Maternal and Infant Health work, and works collaboratively on other public health projects. Cindy has enjoyed working over 30 years with Tribal and Urban Indian Communities in Alaska and Washington State as a Community Health Educator and as a Tribal Health Director. Cindy is married to her husband Jerry; they have 3 grown children and 4 grandchildren.



  • Heather Erb
    More About Heather
    Heather Erb, AIHC Legal Counsel. Heather owns a law practice in Bellingham, Washington and has been practicing law for the last sixteen years. She represents nonprofits, Tribes, and Tribal organizations in public health, health care legal policy, contract drafting and negotiation, mutual aid agreements, emergency preparedness, code/ordinance development and nonprofit corporate governance. In her representation of the American Indian Health Commission, Heather assisted in drafting the Washington Indian Health Improvement Act and the Washington Indian Behavioral Health Act. She has previously provided training and outreach to tribal members, leaders, and Indian health program staff and administration across the State of Washington on American Indian and Alaska Native income tax exemptions, Medicaid expansion, cost-sharing, premium sponsorship, and contracting with qualified health plans. In the early years of her career, Heather served as an assistant state attorney prosecuting felony crimes.


  • Kathryn Akeah
    More About Kathryn
    Kathryn Akeah (Yakama/Diné, she/her) has over 17 years of experience in project management, contract management, and communications in public health, small business support, labor, and the justice system. She sees her work in a broad context of social justice, anti-racism, and healing from historical injustice. She works for AIHC as a Tribal Health Consultant, specifically focused on Medicaid Transformation Projects and the Tribal Behavioral Health System. She also works part-time for the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts, supporting judges and court administrators in the Tribal-State Court Consortium. With a foot in each world, Kathryn has been assisting with jurisdiction issues and framing Indian Health Care Provider work for state agencies and their contractors. She is available to provide technical assistance to departments, clinics and programs on a range of issues related to Tribal Behavioral Health Integration, Tribal FQHCs, and Medicaid Transformation Projects: workforce development, planning, training and policies, success stories and messaging, communications products, and reports. Kathryn has an MBA from WSU, a 3rd grader full of sass, and three step-teens. Her favorite traditional foods are roots, with huckleberries coming in a close second.


  • Aubrey Gamble
    More About Aubrey
    Aubrey was raised in rural Southeast Alaska and is Kaax’oos.hittaan, or Man’s Foot Clan. After receiving her BA from Stanford University in Human Biology and Psychology, she followed a passion for early childhood education and has many years’ experience as both a teacher and administrative support staff at the Bing Nursery School in California. Aubrey enjoys organizing successful events and keeping information flowing, assisting in the preparation, planning and implementation of many of the AIHC’s Public Health events as well as being editor of the quarterly AIHC newsletter and providing website updates as needed. Aubrey spends every spare moment with her young son, Kaikoa, and enjoys being behind the scenes in building positive communities and equitable resources for all youth. The preservation of Native culture is very important to her, so she continues to learn more about Tlingit language and traditions for her own health and well-being, as well as to strengthen her son’s heritage, and for the generations who follow.


  • Lisa Rey Thomas
    More About Lisa
    Lisa Rey Thomas, Ph.D. is a member of the Tlingit Tribes and her family is from Southeast Alaska. Lisa works with the Commission to coordinate the American Indian/Alaska Native Opioid Response work to reduce opioid-related morbidities, improve access to best practices for treatment of opioid use disorder, and prevent opioid-related overdoses. Lisa also works with the U of WA Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute (ADAI) as a research scientist to support the State Opioid Response (SOR) work, the Center for Opioid Safety Education (COSE)/Center for Drug Safety and Services Education (CDSSE), and the Medication-First project. At ADAI she is particularly committed to the use of Community Based/Tribally Based Participatory Research approaches to ensure that research with Indigenous communities is collaborative, respectful and ethical; with the Commission, she follows the Pulling Together for Wellness Indigenous methodology. Dr. Thomas has worked in collaboration with multiple organizations to plan and implement a series of behavioral health conferences and summits and has worked closely with lead addiction scientists and harm reduction advocates over the course of her training and professional positions. Lisa previously served as the Opioid Response Project Director with the Olympic Community of Health (OCH) which brings multiple sectors across three counties as well as state, Tribal, and federal partners together to work collaboratively to address the opioid public health crisis in the Olympic region. Prior to joining OCH Dr. Thomas was the Director of the Suquamish Tribe Wellness Center which provides Adult Mental Health, Child and Family Mental Health, Substance Use Disorder, Adult Psychiatric, Naturopathic, Problem Gambling, and Victims Advocacy services.

    Lisa has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology and worked with Dr. Alan Marlatt at the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the U of WA and Dr. Jerry Mohatt at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. In addition to her work with ADAI, Lisa recently worked with the Jamestown Tribe as the Opioid Treatment Program project manager. She has two sons, 29 and 20, as well as a lovely daughter-in-law, and loves to walk, garden, and knit.


  • Maria Gardipee Ness
    More About Maria
    I was born in Texas, the second of 8 children in a Migrant Farmworker family.  Our family migrated and settled in Idaho when I was 3.  After high school, I attended Kaley Medical Center in Caldwell Idaho, acquiring my Medical Assistant Certification.  I continued my education throughout my lifetime and as an “Adult” learner I attended the University of Texas at El Paso, the Walla Walla Community College, and the Yakima Valley Community College.  My study areas included general studies, Administrative and Management and obtaining my certificate in the UW Health Care Advocacy course.  I’ve attended the “adult studies” program at Evergreen State College, focusing on general studies, Public Law and Community Relations.

    As a young adult, I worked as a field laborer to help support our family.

    My professional career includes serving as the Executive Director for Migrant and Community Health Centers in Idaho, Oregon, Texas and Washington, for 15 years.  I then worked at the Washington State Department of Health as Program Manager for various Health Professions, Director of the Office of Health Systems Development, Divisional Legislative Lead, Special Assistant to Governor Gary Locke on Farmworker Housing. I was proud to serve as the Department of Health’s Multicultural Coordinator and the first agency Tribal Liaison. During my tenure in these careers, I was:

    • Elected President of the National Association of Community Health Centers,
    • Appointed to serve on the “National Advisory Council on National Health Service Corp” by DHHS Secretary,
    • Selected to work on State Health Care Reform efforts,
    • Responsible for providing and arranging Legislative testimony on “State” Health Personnel Resource issues and Farmworker Housing efforts,
    • An annual guest speaker at the University of Washington, providing an overview of farmworker housing efforts and a periodic speaker at Evergreen State College on health equity and multicultural issues.

    I retired from the WA State Department of Health in 2015 after 28 years and began working with the AIHC as the Legislative Liaison.

    As the American Indian Health Commission’s Legislative Liaison I provide outreach to State Legislators and policymakers to increase AIHC’s relationships with them, help prepare for annual legislative sessions and report any findings that could impact AIHC’s legislative priorities.  I aid the Executive Director in creating procedures for the development of legislation that include collaboration and communication efforts, arranging testimony, raising timeline sensitivity issues, accomplishing legislative outreach and identifying bill sponsors. I also assist with other issues and needs as identified by the Executive Director.


  • Wendy Stevens
    More About Wendy
    Ms. Wendy Stevens, MNPL, MSS serves the American Indian Health Commission in support of tribal immunizations and health, also serving in the development work of the AIHC Tribal Urban Indian Health Immunization Coalition (TUIHIC).  Wendy has also worked on the AIHC Tribal 10 year Continuum immunization work addressing tribal vaccine and immunization; she has also served emergency preparedness work as tribal liaison for the state, tribal and federal areas, as well as addressing health and emergency preparedness within the local public health jurisdiction. Over the years Wendy has served in many areas to include AIHC youth suicide prevention, tribal immunizations, and infectious disease prevention, H1N1 pandemic tribal vaccine access, COVID-19, HHS Reg 10 Adult Immunizations National Plan strategies, healthcare provider vaccine hesitancy, PRAMS, EHR & RPMS/Child Profile IIS data exchange and more. Wendy has 35+ years of experience in government-to-government, non-profit and private sector expertise and has served youth for many years both as a professional and volunteer.

    Wendy served as the Tribal Relations/Tribal Liaison as well as served in presidentially declared disasters in Alaska and Washington. Wendy is an advocate of education and has earned a Master of Security Studies from the Naval Postgraduate School Center of Defense and Homeland Security (CHDS) with a focus on US Tribal Nations. Wendy also earned a master’s degree from Seattle University in Non-Profit Executive Leadership and a BA degree from Pacific Lutheran University in Sociology and a minor in Communications. Wendy lives in the Pacific Northwest and enjoys bike riding, hiking, and time with her family and fur-family of 3 dogs, and 2 horses.


  • Jen Olson
    More About Jen
    Under construction