President’s Update for Nov. 2, 2012

In this edition...

In this edition …

Dr. Kristen Widmer joins medical staff in Sitka: S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital has added Kristen Widmer MD to its medical staff as a family physician. Dr. Widmer earned her Medical Doctorate from the Medical School for International Health (a collaboration between the Columbia University Medical Center in New York and Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel). She also completed a residency in family medicine at the University of New Mexico. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Prior to moving to Sitka, Dr. Widmer served as a community health aide trainer with the Norton Sound Health Corp. in Nome. Dr. Widmer’s medical interests include women’s health and family planning, preventive health and palliative care. She also enjoys anything outdoors with her dogs, cross-country and back-country skiing, hiking, biking everywhere, gardening, and she hopes to state sea kayaking.

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Mobile mammogram van provides 694 mammograms in 2012: The mobile mammogram van recently completed its 2012 schedule, and the numbers are in. This year, the van provided mammograms to 694 women in rural Southeast Alaska. This is close to the four-year average of 696 mammograms (2009-12). The mobile mammogram program is a partnership between the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program and Bartlett Regional Hospital. The van visits Kake, Angoon, Skagway, Haines, Yakutat and Gustavus during its spring schedule, and it visits Hoonah, Haines, Skagway, Klawock, Craig and Metlakatla during the fall. The program makes regular mammography screening services available to women who live in communities where they aren’t available year round. For more information, call the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program in Sitka at 966-8782 (or 1-888-388-8782, toll-free in Alaska), send e-mail to askwh@searhc.org, or go to the WISEWOMAN website.

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Recent weather events shine spotlight on emergency preparedness: Are you prepared for a disaster or other emergency? This past week highlighted the importance of being prepared, with tsunami warnings issued last weekend in Southeast Alaska and the rest of the West Coast, plus this week's arrival of Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy on the East Coast. If we get caught in an earthquake, tsunami or big storm, how will you survive? Do you have a “go kit” packed with spare clothes, food, medications and other necessities in case they evacuate your community? What will you do if the power gets knocked offline for several days? Here are a couple of sites to help you prepare and make sure your food stays safe. This page has info about emergency preparedness in Alaska.

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Sitka announces autumn-quarter winners in Kutx Ayanahá employee recognition program: On Tuesday, Oct. 30, we honored the autumn-quarter winners in the Kutx Ayanahá employee recognition program (Kutx Ayanahá means “star” in Tlingít). We honored the Terrific Trio — Chuck Miller, Donovan Duncan and Melinda “Mindi” Tysor RN — with a traveling trophy for three months, a paid day off work and a $100 gift certificate to a Sitka business of their choice. In addition to the Terrific Trio, the other Staff of the Season were Jhun Raquel, Jennifer Lynn Henderson RN, Sonja Conner RN, Darin Gagner RN, Mandie Smith DDS, Colleen Jackson and Amy Stonebreaker. The employees nominate each other for this award, with the next batch of awards scheduled to be presented in January. At the end of the year, one employee will be entered into the Hall of Fame and will have his or her picture hanging in the hospital. We hope to expand this program consortium-wide in the near future.

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November is National Native American Heritage Month: National Native American Heritage Month is November, and there will be celebrations in many communities in honor of Native American/Alaska Native contributions to society. The Sealaska Heritage Institute will host a lecture series in Juneau, and the University of Alaska Southeast-Juneau Campus will host a weekly Alaska Native Film Series (click here for details). The Sitka Tribe of Alaska is planning events for later this month, and people should watch the newspapers and listen to the radio for when that schedule is announced (note, a calendar of Sitka events has been posted on SEARHC's Facebook page, scroll down to find it). In other communities, please contact your local tribal organizations to see what events are taking place locally.

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SEARHC clinics to be open on Veterans Day: All SEARHC health care facilities will be open regular business hours this year on Monday, Nov. 12, in honor of Veterans Day. Veterans Day is designated as Nov. 11 each year. But when that date falls on a Sunday, as it does this year, many organizations celebrate the holiday on Monday. Many of our SEARHC patients and employees are veterans, and SEARHC is proud to honor the sacrifice of these men and women who helped protect our great nation and the citizens of Southeast Alaska. SEARHC also reminds patients who are veterans that we now have staff who are trained to help get you enrolled for Veterans Affairs health care services. There are four employees who are coordinating VA enrollment services at SEARHC — Juanita DeRose (364-4465) for SEARHC patients in Juneau, Judy Mills-Brown (966-8307) and Michael Lang (966-8488) for Sitka patients, and Nellie Kookesh (966-8814) for patients who live in our other SEARHC communities. Please contact your local SEARHC health care facility or local SEARHC patient advocate if you have any questions.

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November is National Diabetes Awareness Month: Did you know that Alaska Natives and American Indians have the highest occurrence of Type 2 diabetes amongst all racial and ethnic groups in the United States? Did you know that you can reduce your risk for developing diabetes by lifestyle changes? Do you know your numbers? If you don’t know your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose numbers, you should ask your provider. If you know your current numbers, have you been told you have pre-diabetes? Did you know you can join the Lifestyle Balance team, and learn how to prevent or prolong the conversion to Type 2 diabetes? Throughout November, SEARHC will be partnering with its beneficiaries to learn about signs and symptoms of diabetes, how to prevent diabetes, and how to manage diabetes if they live with it. If you would like more information about preventing diabetes, please contact Renae Mathson, Health Educator II, at 966-8797. If you would like information on how to control your pre-diabetes, please contact Health Educator II Walleen Whitson in Sitka at 966-8916 or Health Educator II Kathy Dennis in Juneau at 364-4453. If you would like information on how to manage your diabetes, please contact Jennifer Henderson, RN, CDE, in Sitka at 966-8595, Robert Meadows, RN, in Juneau at 463-4040, Julie Sturdevant, RN, CDE, in Klawock at 755-4975, or Lisa Schwartz, RN, CDE, in Haines at 766-6328. You can also learn more information by following us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Pinterest.

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Just a reminder …

SEARHC now has a page on Facebook: If you haven’t already done so, please check out SEARHC’s new page on Facebook. This page will provide people with updates about what’s happening around the consortium. This page is new, so it will be adding more content over time. If you’re on Facebook, please like our page so you can keep up on the news at SEARHC.

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Medicare open enrollment is now through Dec. 7: Just a reminder for our patients who are enrolled in Medicare health coverage for seniors, the open enrollment period for the 2013 plan year is open from now until Dec. 7. This is the time when you can sign up for new plans, or change your existing ones. The Medicare website has lots of tools to help seniors look at the costs, levels of coverage, convenience and quality of care they can expect in the different plans so they can make the best selection. Even if you don’t plan to make any changes from your existing coverage plan, it’s always a good idea to review your options to see if there’s one better suited to what you need. The Medicare Plan Finder can help you check the health and drug plan options available in your area. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services also has a page with Medicare information, even though Medicare is a federal program. If you still need help comparing plans, you can call the Medicare help line at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). SEARHC employees Judy Mills-Brown (966-8307 or toll-free at 1-888-966-8307) and Nellie Kookesh (966-8814) also can help patients with Medicare questions.

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SEARHC patient advocates serve as customer liaisons: SEARHC has three patient advocate positions in Southeast Alaska — Bryan Whitson (Sitka), Cyndi Reeves (POW), and Debra Graceland (Juneau) — who serve as customer service liaisons between patients and SEARHC, and help patients navigate their way through SEARHC’s health system. In addition, the Alaska Native Medical Center provides Anchorage-based patient advocates who serve patients from around the state receiving care at the Alaska Native Medical Center. Patients living in Sitka, Angoon, Kake, Pelican, Tenakee Springs, Yakutat, Petersburg and Wrangell should contact Bryan Whitson at 966-8860. Patients in Klawock, Craig, Hydaburg, Kasaan, Thorne Bay and other POW communities should contact Cyndi Reeves at 755-4983 (965-0040, cell). Patients in Juneau, Haines, Skagway, Klukwan and Hoonah should contact Debra Graceland (463-6656). Patients traveling to Anchorage for care should contact the ANMC patient advocates at 729-3990.

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SEARHC hosts 24/7 crisis help line, toll-free at 1-877-294-0074: A personal or family crisis doesn’t always happen during clinic hours, so the SEARHC Behavioral Health Division has contracted with a crisis call center to provide help for Southeast Alaska residents when they need it most. The SEARHC Help Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it will be staffed with a team of master’s-degree-level mental health therapists who will listen and provide effective, compassionate care. This line provides confidential telephone counseling for people during a time of mental health crisis, and it is not just an answering service. The counselors will assess the situation and provide appropriate intervention using protocols developed with SEARHC Behavioral Health. Follow-up calls from SEARHC Behavioral Health or our partner agencies will be made the next business day. For more information, contact SEARHC Behavioral Health/Suicide Prevention Program Manager Wilbur Brown at 966-8753.

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SEARHC provides 24/7 on-call travel coordinators for patients traveling for care: SEARHC has a 24/7 on-call travel coordinator to assist patients needing after-hours help while traveling for a medical appointment. The on-call staff person helps patients find new connections when a plane is diverted by weather, or assists with late-night housing. For assistance, call 1-800-916-8566 (toll-free in Alaska) or 1-907-966-8345 in Sitka, and then follow the prompts. To help us better help you, please call as soon as you know your travel schedule has been changed. For patients needing assistance from the Community Resources Program (contract health), such as emergency health care while traveling, call 1-866-966-8316 (toll-free).

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Charles Clement SEARHC President/CEO

Charles Clement

Just a reminder...