50 Making a Difference Profile: Robyn Sunday-Allen, Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, Chief Executive Officer

Article excerpt

It can be extraordinarily difficult to walk the line between family obligations, cultural traditions and the demands of a busy executive office. Yet it's a line that Robyn Sunday-Allen walks with great skill and effectiveness as chief executive officer of the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic.

A member of the Cherokee Nation, Sunday-Allen grew up using the Indian Health Service (IHS). "As a child, both of my grandparents had chronic illnesses that caused us to visit the IHS facilities often," she said. "I knew then that I wanted to become a health care professional who worked in the IHS system serving American Indian people."

Sunday-Allen earned her bachelor's degrees in psychology and nursing as well as a master of public health degree from the University of Oklahoma. She joined the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic in 1995 as a registered nurse. She was subsequently promoted to nurse manager of health services in 1997, to chief operating officer in 2001, and to chief executive officer in early 2009. She is a member of the Oklahoma Nurses Association and the Oklahoma Public Health Association.

"It has been a thrill to implement so many innovative health care programs that have affected thousands of Indian people in Oklahoma - programs that have changed the face of preventive medicine, diabetes management, early obesity intervention, HIV/AIDS and substance abuse in our state," she said. "To be involved with Native people and to see health, pride and joy return to the faces of those who once hurt so badly has been my greatest accomplishment."

Sunday-Allen is also motivated by the knowledge that she is helping people who would otherwise have little or no access to health care, and that she sets an equally positive tone for the employees who report to her. In 2009, Oklahoma Business magazine recognized the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic as one of the "Best Places to Work in Oklahoma." Personally, she also received Outstanding Leadership and Outstanding Performance awards from the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic.

"My mom is my most important influence," Sunday-Allen said. "As a single mother and licensed clinical social worker, I saw her daily trials and tribulations, as well as her dedication to charitable issues outside of our home. …