Women's History Month: The Legacy of IG June Gibbs-Brown
From 1993 to 2000, HHS-OIG had at its helm the trailblazing June Gibbs-Brown. As a seasoned Inspector General who achieved meaningful results, and the first woman Inspector General both at HHS-OIG and in the IG community at large, IG Brown inspired many and had a lasting impact on the HHS-OIG workforce.
IG Brown was a member of the first class of Inspectors General, having been nominated by President Carter to serve as the Inspector General for the Department of Interior after the IG Act was enacted in 1978. Under President Reagan, she became the IG for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and in 1987, she moved over to serve as the IG for the Department of Defense.
When IG Brown came to HHS-OIG in 1993, she quickly made an impact on the scope and caliber of OIG’s work. Under her leadership, HHS-OIG was able to guard against loopholes in Medicare programs—enabling the agency to not only detect fraud, waste, and abuse, but also prevent it. IG Brown also introduced the self-disclosure protocol, a tool for providers to voluntarily report instances in which they think they may have committed fraud. She instilled in the HHS-OIG workforce a commitment to public service and interagency collaboration—a legacy that lives on in HHS-OIG’s repeated ranking as one of the top places to work in the federal government.
For Ann Maxwell, HHS-OIG’s Deputy Inspector General (DIG) for Evaluations, joining OIG under IG Brown’s leadership proved inspiring. Ann began her career at HHS-OIG in 1997 (and just celebrated 25 years at HHS-OIG!), as a Program Analyst in OIG’s Chicago region. After finishing up her master’s degree in Social Services Administration at the University of Chicago, Ann came to HHS-OIG to evaluate HHS programs in the Office of Evaluations and Inspections (OEI).
Ann recalls how important it was to her as a young woman to have a female Inspector General leading her new workplace. She reflects, “We have learned how important representation is, and to see a woman as the IG was a really powerful representation.”
From the get-go, Ann saw that IG Brown was very highly regarded and respected as an IG, and seen both within OIG and externally as a thoughtful and skilled leader. She remembers learning about how hard IG Brown had worked to get where she was; IG Brown began her federal career working for the Navy, all while attending night school and raising her two children. This resonated with Ann, who saw the difficulties in managing “all the responsibilities women juggle.” To have a leader that understood this nuanced reality of being a woman meant a lot.
Then and now, Ann sees HHS-OIG as a community that values hard work, competency, and merit, but also a place that supports work-life balance. Being a part of an organization that recognizes work-life balance has made Ann feel supported, particularly as a woman who must deal with the reality of juggling work responsibilities, family needs, and countless other priorities on the daily.
IG Brown sadly passed away in 2022. However, her legacy and impact on HHS-OIG, and the broader OIG community, continues. Thanks to the pioneering and dedication of IG Brown, HHS-OIG is better positioned to prevent health care fraud, saving taxpayers billions of dollars, and to protect those served by HHS programs. IG Brown’s legacy also continues to live on in the culture of inclusivity, hard work, and public service that remains at HHS-OIG today.
As Ann states, “The trailblazing that IG Brown did has borne fruit and paved the way for women to contribute their skills and abilities to advance the mission of OIG.”