To call Delegate Donna M. Christensen a ‘trailblazer’ may be one of the most accurate terms to capture the career of this member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
In Congress, Del. Christensen represents the Virgin Islands, a U.S. territory in the eastern Caribbean. In addition to her duties a legislator, Christensen is also a board-certified physician, becoming the first female doctor in history to serve in Congress.
Christensen’s role as a legislator has also earned her the distinction of becoming the first woman to represent an offshore territory in Congress. She was elected to Congress in 1996 after running a successful private practice in family medicine for nearly 20 years.
Her work as a legislator is unique considering the status of the Virgin Islands as a U.S. territory. Christensen does not have an official vote in Congress, similar to the delegates of the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories. Despite her voting status, however, Christensen has still pushed for votes on Medicaid, Supplemental Social Security (SSI), and IRS reforms for U.S. territories. She has also advocated for territories to gain the right to vote in presidential elections, which they do not yet have.
Del. Christensen is quite active in Congress, serving on various committees and subcommittees, including the Committee on Natural Resources; Subcommittee on Fisheries, Oceans, Wildlife and Insular Affairs; Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee and the Committee on Homeland Security. She is also a member of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security and the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications.
In addition, Christensen is a member of the Democratic Caucus, serving as the assistant minority whip. She is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, where she serves as the second vice chair. Dr. Christensen also heads the CBC Health Braintrust, the authority on minority health policy in Congress.
Del. Christensen was born in the Virgin Islands in 1945. She received her bachelor of science degree in 1966 from St. Mary’s College in Indiana. From there, she earned her M.D. from the George Washington University School of Medicine in 1970. Her residencies included work at Howard University Medical Center in the mid-1970s. Dr. Christensen earned her board certification in 1977.
Del. Christensen has two daughters and three grandchildren.