Virginia Trotter Betts

Virginia Trotter Betts, a nationally recognized leader in health and mental health policy, serves as the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities and as a member of the Cabinet of Governor Phil Bredesen.

Commissioner Betts most recently served as Director for Health Policy and Professor of Nursing at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center (UTHSC). Prior to her UTHSC appointment, she served as the Senior Advisor on Nursing and Policy to the Secretary and Assistant Secretary of Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Within the Office of Public Health and Science, she was actively engaged in the Surgeon General's initiatives on mental health. This included development of the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Suicide; Mental Health: a Report of the Surgeon General; and the national campaign to combat the stigma of mental illness. She also headed the DHHS Interdepartmental Mental Health Policy Team, which received the 2000 DHHS Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service.

Ms. Betts currently serves on the DHHS/SAMSHA working group on the integration of mental health and primary care and on the Bazelon Center’s expert panel for improving health care for persons with serious mental illness. She is a member of the Tennessee Nurses Association where she served as president from 1985-1987 and the Tennessee Bar Association. Ms. Betts was president of the American Nurses Association from 1992-1996.

A graduate of the University of Tennessee, the Vanderbilt School of Nursing and the Nashville School of Law, Ms. Betts is also the recipient of an honorary doctorate of humane letters by the State University of New York for her contributions to the health profession’s involvement in health policy development.

Visit the Tennessee Department of Health website at: