What They’re Watching: Commissioner Valerie Davidson, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

In her interview with State of Reform, Valerie Davidson, Commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) points to a fundamental difficulty that many states are experiencing in health care reform–figuring out just what the word “reform” means.

When Alaska became the 30th state to accept expansion of eligibility in the Medicaid program, there were strong reservations and outright opposition. Now in the infancy of implementation, the Commissioner admits that there are still as many questions as answers.

“We’re interested in moving forward, but we realize that we don’t have all of the answers,” said Davidson. “We have to work with the stakeholders, with tribal organizations, to be able to move forward.”

Davidson will play a central role in the upcoming year to finding common ground between the state’s key health organizations.  A Yup’ik born in Bethel, who has advocated for Indian and Alaska Natives for over 15 years, Davidson reveals the origin of her passion for better health outcomes.

“Growing up in a village, you learn from an early age that you have to work together for better outcomes and to make sure that everyone makes it through the winter. No matter what the weather or the obstacles, you dig in and get it done. It doesn’t matter if it’s 40 below or 40 above, you do what it takes to survive. But you can’t do any of that without the health of you, your family, your whole community.”