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Panelist Bio


Kristy Nichols
Louisiana Department of Social Services Secretary

Kristy Nichols was appointed Secretary of the Department of Social Services on December 10, 2008. Before being appointed, she had served as a policy advisor on health and social services initiatives to Governor Bobby Jindal since January 2008. As a policy advisor, Nichols worked on the successful passage of Governor Jindal's health care legislative package during the 2008 legislative session, including legislation on mental health care reform, health care transparency initiatives, increasing health care technology, and increasing access to private health insurance for uninsured Louisiana children.

From July 2002 to November 2007, Nichols served as the director of the Bureau of Primary Care and Rural Health at the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) where she oversaw a $36 million grant budget, and administered grant funding from federal, national, and state philanthropic organizations. Nichols also oversaw recruitment and retention services, health systems development, health information services, led a pharmacy access initiative, and oversaw chronic disease programs.

As director of the Bureau of Primary Care and Rural Health at DHH, Nichols increased funding for community health initiatives from $3 million to $36 million over four years. She also led community-based Hurricane Katrina recovery planning and coalition building, resulting in more than $21 million in federal funding for restoring access to primary health care services in disaster-recovery areas and $50 million in federal funding for health care workforce development in disaster-recovery areas. Because of her work in this position, she was a recipient of the 2006 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leadership Award, considered the nation's highest honor in community health leadership.

From July 1999 to June 2002, Nichols served as the Rural Community Health Network Development Director of the Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center's Louisiana Rural Health Access Program, where she worked to establish four formal rural health networks that were successful in securing more than $4 million in funding for community health improvement initiatives, including an integrated rural transportation system, local pharmacy access initiatives and a free volunteer clinic.

Nichols has a bachelor's of administration in business from the University of Tennessee at Martin and a master's in communication from the University of Louisiana in Lafayette.

Nichols is married and has one daughter.

Current Topic


04/16 - Opiates & the Bayou State

How is Louisiana tackling this serious addiction epidemic?

Special Presentation


12/15 - Election 2015: An Analysis

What strategies did each of the major candidates use during the Governor's race?

Special Presentation


Breaking Away:  A Louisiana Public Square Special Presentation

Would the breakaway City of St. George quash Baton Rouge’s school desegregation progress?

Coming Soon!


05/16 - Louisiana Veterans Coming Home

What challenges face our returning veterans?

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03/16 - Justice on Hold: Louisiana’s Public Defender Shortage

How serious of a problem is the shortage of public defenders in Louisiana?


02/16 - Effects of Expansion: Medicaid in Louisiana

How will the lives of those who now have access to health care change?


01/16 - Police POV: Body Cameras in Louisiana

What happens when police and the people they arrest have different versions of their encounters?


11/15 - Living Below the Line

What is living in poverty like?

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