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Tribal member employees help guide HHS

Karen Two-Shoes takes part in a cooking demonstration in 2022 inside the Betty Mae Jumper Medical Clinic on the Hollywood Reservation. (File photo)

The Seminole Tribe’s Health and Human Services Department (HHS) has a number of programs under its umbrella in addition to oversight of health clinics and pharmacies. The list includes integrative health, case management, behavioral health, the tribe’s health plan, as well as non-clinical services such as environmental health, advocacy and guardianship, and elder services to name a few.

HHS executive director Dr. Vandhana Kiswani-Barley describes it as “a huge list that is all linked to health and mental health” in some way. The huge list also requires a lot of employees.

“Luckily the current team we have is a good fit and are motivated for the right reasons,” Kiswani-Barley said.

Some of the programs have tribal member employees, which she said is particularly important. For example, there are tribal member employees in nursing and integrative health; there’s a dietician, health educators and a crisis response team member with the Center for Behavioral Health (CBH). Kiswani-Barley said she’d like to see the numbers grow. 

“We try to keep tribal members; they add that value of cultural sensitivity to ensure that what we’re providing is culturally sensitive. We like when they come through and stay for a long time,” she said. “They guide the team; they help the team. There’s no class out there to teach you the dos and don’ts in health care when it comes to the cultural piece.”

Kiswani-Barley said HHS is in the beginning phases of composing a curriculum on culturally sensitive issues that would be included in the onboarding process for new employees. She said Geraldine Osceola, who participates in a CBH program, is helping to guide the process.

“There are also things that we should not know [about the culture], that we respect,” Kiswani-Barley said. “We also need an elder perspective on things. It helps us to have that.”

She expects more tribal member employees to join Osceola on the project, like Edna McDuffie, a health outreach coordinator in Big Cypress; Karen Two-Shoes, the Hollywood health nutrition coordinator; and Patty Waldron, a Brighton clinic supervisor.

“Karen helps us tremendously when it comes to knowing certain things about the culture, health, food, how to say things in a certain way, because she’s knows what we’re trying to achieve,” Kiswani-Barley said. “She’s informed us in terms of trauma and things of that sort, too.”

For more information on HHS’ programs, go to and click on “Health and Human Services” under the “Services” banner.

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at