Federal Faces: H. Allen Dobbs

May 15, 2012

Name: H. Allen Dobbs

Position: Chief medical officer, National Disaster Medical System, Department of Health and Human Services.

Best known for: Dobbs instituted major reforms that have improved care for victims of man-made and natural disasters and afforded better protections for health providers who respond to such emergencies. He oversaw creation of an electronic system that collects patient data from disaster victims and makes it available to the receiving medical institutions. With this system, disaster victims get a bar-coded identification tag to assist in tracking and an abbreviated electronic medical record containing essential elements of their care. The system proved invaluable during the U.S. response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. It also was used during hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008, and the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Biggest challenge: In the midst of a crisis like a hurricane or a tornado, coordinating with state and local officials to determine what health-care services are needed and making sure everyone is on the same page and can communicate with each other.

Government service: Dobbs spent three years on active duty at Camp Pendleton, Calif., as part of the Public Health Service before joining the Indian Health Service in 1991. He worked for two years on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota caring for members of the Oglala Lakota tribe, and later served as medical officer, clinical director and chief of emergency medicine at health facilities in Arizona and New Mexico. He became chief medical officer of the National Disaster Medical System in 2008.


Dr. H. Allen Dobbs. (Sam Kittner/kittner.com)

Motivation for public service: When the opportunity arose to work on an Indian reservation early in his career, Dobbs took the chance out of a desire to help the underserved and because of his interest in different cultures and new experiences. He gained a great respect for the people he served.

Quote: “To go home at the end of the day knowing you’ve been working hard on a worthwhile mission — that’s important to me. I’ve gained so much out of public service. I’ve really benefited from serving folks who may not have good access to health care.”

The Partnership for Public Service

For a full profile, go to The Fed Page at washingtonpost.com/politics/federal-government.

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