Donald Warne, MD, MPH


Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Director, Indians into Medicine (INMED) Program; University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Grand Forks, ND

Donald Warne, MD, MPH is the Director of the Master of Public Health Program at North Dakota State University, and he serves as the Senior Policy Advisor to the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board.  In addition, he is an adjunct clinical professor at the Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law where he teaches American Indian Health Policy.  Dr. Warne is a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe from Pine Ridge, South Dakota and comes from a long line of traditional healers and medicine men.  He received his MD from Stanford University in 1995 and his Master of Public Health from Harvard University as a Commonwealth Fund/Harvard University Fellow in Minority Health Policy in 2002.  Dr. Warne is a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), and he is a Diplomate of both the American Board of Family Practice and the American Board of Medical Acupuncture.  In addition to Minority Health Policy, he completed a Fellowship in Alternative Medicine from the Arizona Center for Health and Medicine.

Donald Warne’s work experience includes several years as a primary care and integrative medicine physician with the Gila River Health Care Corporation in Sacaton, AZ, and three years as a Staff Clinician with the National Institutes of Health in Phoenix where he conducted diabetes research and developed diabetes education and prevention programs in partnership with tribes.

Dr Warne’s professional activities have included:

  • Member, National Board of Directors, American Cancer Society (2011-2014)
  • Director, Office of Native American Health, Sanford Health (2010-2011)
  • Executive Director, Aberdeen Area Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board (2008-2010)
  • Senior Fellow, American Indian Health Policy, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy, University of New Mexico (2009)
  • Health Policy Research Director, Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (2006-2008)
  • President of the Board, Native American Community Health Center, Inc in Phoenix (2004-2007)
  • President and CEO, American Indian Health Management & Policy, Inc
  • Co-Chair, Native Research Network
  • Member, National Institutional Review Board, IHS
  • Member, Association of American Indian Physicians

His awards include: 1997 Walter Brazie, MD Award as Arizona’s Outstanding Family Practice Resident from Arizona Academy of Family Physicians; 1999 and 2001Plain Language Awards in Community Health Education from National Institutes of Health; 2002 Dr Fang Ching Sun Memorial Award for Commitment to Underserved Communities from Harvard School of Public Health; 2004 Phoenix Area Impact Award form National Indian Health Board; 2007 Healthcare Hero Finalist from the Phoenix Business Journal; and the 2008 Josiah N. Moore ASU Native American Alumnus of the Year.








Strategic Plan for Diabetes Intervention in the Gila River Indian Community


Pima Indians from the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona have the highest incidence and prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes in the world.  Prior to 1930, before the Coolidge Dam was built on the Gila River, there were no documented cases of diabetes in this population.  For thousands of years the Pima Indians and their ancestors lived a healthy lifestyle with a yearlong water supply from the Gila River in the deserts of what is now Arizona.  The members of this tribe were traditional farmers who were very active working in the fields, and their diet consisted of farmed foods, fish and wild game.  Following the damming of the river, the lifestyle was dramatically changed to a more sedentary existence with dependence on unhealthy government commodity foods.  By the 1970’s, the Pima Indians had the highest rates of diabetes in the world, and the problem continues to worsen each year.  There are multiple federal, state and local health agencies working in this community, and there is no comprehensive strategic plan to address diabetes.


To develop a strategic plan for intervention, interviews were conducted with primary care providers who work in this community, tribal health agency leaders, political leaders and experts working in the field of community intervention and translational research.  Literature was reviewed in the areas of community engagement, community oriented primary care, prevention methods and public health infrastructure development.  Also, I drew upon my personal experience as a family physician in this community as well as my coursework at HSPH.


Political leaders and healthcare professionals agreed that the health programs addressing diabetes in this community are poorly coordinated with minimal accountability for outcomes.  The health system is chronically under-funded, there is poor data collection and the programs initiated by the Indian Health Service are paternalistic in nature and rarely involve the community in design, implementation or evaluation of programs.  From the community perspective, there is a sense that diabetes is “overwhelming” and inevitable with a strong link to depression and alcoholism.  There is also a strong belief that the loss of traditional culture and lifestyle that resulted from the damming of the Gila River is at the root of the current state of poor health.


A comprehensive, culturally relevant strategic plan is needed for diabetes intervention in this community with a focus on the following five areas:

  •     Cost of Illness Analysis
  •     Health System Infrastructure Assessment
  •     Intervention Program Design and Implementation
  •     Community Engagement
  •     Collaborations and Sustainability

Faculty Preceptor:

Robert Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIH)