President’s Update for Feb. 5, 2011

In this edition...

In this edition … SEARHC encourages prevention during flu season: As the flu season hits full swing, SEARHC wants to remind its patients there are several ways to prevent the spread of influenza and other respiratory illnesses. So far Alaska’s flu activity this year is below the national rate, but on the rise. Following these healthy habits can help protect you and your family from getting the flu, colds and other diseases — get vaccinated, cover your cough, wash your hands, avoid touching your face, avoid close contact with people who are sick, stay home if you are sick and practice good health habits. Please note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now lists Alaska Natives and American Indians with the flu vaccine priority group for those people at high risk for flu-related complications due to high rates of complications during last year’s flu outbreak. Updated information on the seasonal flu, including more ways people can prevent flu’s spread, can be found online at http://www.pandemicflu.alaska.gov/ (state site) or at http://www.flu.gov/ (national site). SEARHC also has flu information at http://www.searhc.org/flu/. Back to top SEARHC clinics to close in honor of Elizabeth Peratrovich Day on Feb. 16: SEARHC will honor the achievements of Alaska Native civil rights leader Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich by observing Elizabeth Peratrovich Day on Wednesday, Feb. 16. Elizabeth Peratrovich Day is a special day for our patients and staff, and it is important that we honor her achievements. Our outpatient clinics will be closed on Wednesday, Feb. 16, for Elizabeth Peratrovich Day, but we will have on-call staff available to provide emergency services at those clinics that offer emergency services. We also will have staff working at S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital to take care of our patients who are hospitalized. Back to top 2011 Ethel Lund Village Health Occupations Program (VHOP) applications available: Each year, SEARHC selects several Southeast-area Native students interested in health careers for the Ethel Lund Village Health Occupations Program (VHOP), and the students spend a week at S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka learning about different health careers and educational requirements. Health careers usually offer good pay and employee benefits, as well as the satisfaction of helping others. Also, the health field is growing, which means plenty of job opportunities for people with the right training. This year's VHOP session is scheduled for April 18-22, with travel dates being April 17 and 23. Students selected to participate in VHOP receive assistance to cover the travel costs to and from Sitka, housing, meals and some evening entertainment. The application deadline is Monday, March 21. Completed applications may be mailed to Romee McAdams at SEARHC, c/o Human Resources Department, 222 Tongass Drive, Sitka, AK 99835. Applications also can be faxed to 966-8404, or scanned and e-mailed to romee.mcadams@searhc.org. Because space is limited, interested students should apply early. Application packets will be sent to high school offices, Tribes, local village corporations or by going to http://www.searhc.org/vhop/. VHOP is sponsored by SEARHC and funded by the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority through the Alaska Area Health Education Center at the Alaska Center for Rural Health. Back to top VA names new Birdwell to head new Office of Tribal Government Relations: After continued advocacy from U.S. Sen. Mark Begich on behalf of Alaska Native and rural veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced the establishment of a new Office of Tribal Government Relations. Stephanie Elaine Birdwell, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation from Oklahoma, will serve as the office’s first director, ensuring the more than 200,000 veterans nationwide who are American Indians, Alaska Natives and Hawaiian Natives receive the VA benefits they have earned. “I am so pleased to see the VA respond to my continued requests to find ways to better serve Alaska Native veterans and those who live in rural areas of the state,” Begich said. In an effort to convince the VA of the need for a tribal relations position, Sen. Begich organized a weeklong trip throughout Alaska for several VA under-secretaries and other key officials this summer. The group traveled to several communities including Golovin, Nome, Bethel, Kenai and Eklutna. Back to top S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital approved for IHS Loan Repayment Program: The SEARHC S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital has been approved for this year’s Indian Health Service (IHS) Loan Repayment Program. The hospital was not eligible the past two years, and this eligibility approval is for the hospital and not other SEARHC facilities. The IHS Loan Repayment Program offers health care professionals the opportunity to lighten qualified student loan debts and help IHS meet the staffing needs of Indian health programs. It is open to health professionals who will commit to working for a minimum two-year service obligation in health facilities serving American Indians and Alaska Natives. Opportunities are based on staffing needs and availability of funds. IHS has created a ranking system to distribute loan repayment awards with the utmost fairness. The goal of the program is to fill staff vacancies in Indian health programs, so the ranking system gives highest consideration to program staffing needs and shortages in specific health profession disciplines. Once the need is assessed, each site is ranked according to the need. For more information, go to http://www.ihs.gov/JobsCareerDevelop/DHPS/LRP/. Back to top Regards, Roald