Congresswoman Donna M. Christensen, M.D., retired
Congresswoman Donna M. Christensen won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996, the first woman to represent the U.S. Virgin Islands, a multi-island territory in the eastern Caribbean. During her tenure, Christensen, the first female medical doctor to serve in Congress, focused on improving the living conditions and economic opportunities on the Islands, especially where they intersected with federal issues.
During her tenure in Congress, Dr. Christensen served on numerous Committees and broke ground as the first delegate to serve on several of them. She chaired the Congressional Black Caucus’ Health Braintrust for 16 years. The Braintrust over-sees and advocates on minority health issues nationally and internationally. In this capacity as well as her seat on the Health Subcommittee of Energy and Commerce, she was intimately involved in the creation of the Affordable Care Act, especially the health equity provisions. Dr. Christensen also worked to include other important provisions, including an increase in support for minority health providers' training, the creation of the National Institute for Minority and Health Disparity Research at NIH and the expansion of offices of minority health, increased funding for health in the territories, the 12-year exclusivity for bio therapeutics in the bill and ensuring that the PCORI is an independent entity and that its research would include minorities, women and persons with co-morbidities. During her tenure she also worked on the creation of the Minority AIDS Ini-tiative and oversaw its reauthorizations and increases in funding. She helped to nego-tiate the final law giving FDA authority to regulate tobacco and has been recognized for her unrelenting advocacy at NIH. It was under her leadership that the Louis Stokes Health Policy Fellowship was founded.
It was on the Small Business and Natural Resources Committees that Dr. Christensen first had an opportunity to formally address health issues, specifically examining practices at CMS, protecting the rights of people with disabilities and providing oversight for the Indian Health Service.
She was a member of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues; member of the Steering Committee of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus; member of the Congressional Rural Caucus; member of the Friends of the Caribbean Caucus; a member of the Congressional National Guard and Reserve Caucus as well as many other caucuses and task forces.
Dr. Christensen earned a Bachelor of Science in 1966 at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, and her Doctor of Medicine in 1970 from the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.
She interned at Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, did her residency in family medicine at Howard University Medical Center after working as a staff physician and assistant medical director of the Upper Cardozo Community Health Center in Washington.
She began her medical career in the Virgin Islands in 1975 as an emergency room physician and became a board-certified family physician in 1977. She served as staff physician at the Maternal & Child Health program, medical director of the Nesbitt Clinic in St. Croix, director of the Frederiksted Community Health Center and director of maternal and child health and family planning.
She also served as the medical director of the St. Croix Hospital and rounded out her medical career as the Territorial Assistant Commissioner of Health and as the Acting Commissioner of Health. She maintained a private practice in family medicine from 1975 until her election to Congress in 1996.
Dr. Christensen is the recipient of numerous awards and is a sought-after speaker on health especially on the issue of health equity. She has received honorary degrees from St. Georges Medical School in Grenada, Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the Medical University of South Caro-lina at Charleston and the University of the Virgin Islands as well as recognition from Howard University School of Medicine and the George Washington University.
In 2017 the Donna Christensen Institute for Community Health and Empowerment was established after first being announced at the Annual National Minority Quality Forum/ CBC Health Braintrust Conference in 2014.
Dr. Christensen has been a member and officer of the National Medical Association, the Virgin Islands Medical Society, the Caribbean Studies Association, the Caribbean Youth Organization and the Virgin Islands Medical Institute among other organizations. Prior to her election to Congress she served on a variety and civic associations and boards.