Alaska Rural Health Notes

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3211 Providence Dr. Diplomacy Building #404 Anchorage, Alaska 99508 (907)786-6579 fax: (907)786-6576 Judith Snow-Rosander, RN, ACRH board director since the late 1980s

Alaska Rural Health Notes

Volume 7, Number 2; Summer 2005

A Publication of the Alaska Center for Rural Health

Alaska Center for Rural Health

University of Alaska Anchorage

Eva Sensmeier, PA-C, ACRH board director since 1990

Interviews with Eva Sensmeier and

Judith Snow-Rosander, ACRH

Board Members

Judith Snow-Rosander, RN


Teellll uuss aa lliittttllee aabboouutt yyoouurrsseellff..

My half Yupik mother came from Holy Cross, my half Aleut father from Unalaska. Somehow they managed to meet, marry and raise six children in McGrath, Athabascan country. My grade school was completed in McGrath, high school at Copper Valley. Copper Valley was a Catholic boarding school that does not exist anymore but still has annual reunions at the site where it burnt down.


Hooww ddiidd yyoouu sseelleecctt hheeaalltthh ccaarree aass aa ccaarreeeerr??

I am not really sure. There weren't a lot of health care providers in McGrath. We saw the public health nurse, but she wasn't a positive influence for me back then. Yet, I knew at age 5 that I wanted to be a nurse. There was no question in my mind and I don't even know what the draw towards it was.


Whhaatt wwaass nnuurrssiinngg sscchhooooll lliikkee??

I went to nursing school in Salinas,

California at the age of 22 for an RN pro-gram. My first semester of nursing school was my first time in a hospital, other than as a patient. It was the second time that I was out of the state of Alaska. The first time was when I drove the Alcan with a couple of friends. When we hit Seattle and its free-ways, I was on the plane back home the next morning.

(Continued next page)

Eva Sensmeier, PA-C


Teellll uuss aa lliittttllee aabboouutt yyoouurrsseellff..

My family is from Ruby on the Yukon River. It has a population of about 285 residents. I am the daughter of Fred and Lillian Olin, and one of 12 children. From Ruby, we moved to Fairbanks where I went to school. In 1970, when I was 17, my mom moved us all back to Galena. Fairbanks was too hard.


Hooww ddiidd yyoouu ggeett iinnttoo hheeaalltthh ccaarree??

The first time I looked under a microscope I was hooked. I knew I wanted to work in a lab. In 1972, I went to college in Colorado Springs to be a lab technician. Then in 1975, I moved to Anchorage and worked for ANMC in the lab. After a year, I was tired of the city and moved back to Galena. When the pipeline opened up, I went to Coldfoot to earn quick money. Instead, I quickly found a husband. We married in 1977; he is Tlingit and we moved to Yakutat. There weren't any lab tech jobs in town, but I could become a CHAP. It was meant for me, and I loved it. I loved working with my Native people and helping them. After 3 and 1/2 years as a CHAP, I decided to go to physician assistant (PA) school. Why? I did essentially everything a PA did, but wasn't being compensated at the PA level. My financial aid fell right into place and every-thing was paid for. There are lots of schol-arship opportunities for Natives. It worked really well for me.


Interview with

Eva Sensmeier



Whhaatt ccaann wwee ddoo ttoo ggeett oouurr rruurraall yyoouutthh iinnttoo hheeaalltthh ccaarree??

I am an advocate for mentorship programs. Kids need information on how to find resources: financial aid, academic support, etc. They need to know where to look for help. Dr. Nice did a program years ago, a bridging program that helped CHAPs that were going to the University of Washington (for PA program) to get them down there and hooked up with financial aid, etc. He sent me down there for a week each year to help the students, literally taking them by the hand so they wouldn't get discouraged by the process. When you come from a vil-lage of 300-400 people, and then are shoved into a metropolis and you don't know any-body, you need help. Thinking beyond that program, we need to target high school kids, and work closer to that age group.


Whhaatt mmoottiivvaatteedd yyoouu ttoo jjooiinn tthhee AACCRRHH BBooaarrdd,, aanndd wwhhaatt ccoommppeellss yyoouurr ccoonnttiinnuuiinngg ccoommmmiittmmeenntt??

I ran into Beverly Hugo and she asked me if I would be interested. Then Dan [Johnson] invited me to a board meeting. At the first

meeting, I saw that ACRH can do a lot. One of our first suc-cesses, with one of those mini-grants, was starting the Rural Human Services program. Now it is very successful, and the grad-uates get certificates. The ACRH board also unifies the public and private sector. The breadth of members is one of its strengths. It is a cohesive group that can accomplish things for the benefit of Alaska.


Doo yyoouu hhaavvee aannyy ffiinnaall ccoommmmeennttss??

Health care is the largest industry in this state. Why do we have to import people? We need to encourage our younger people to go into medical care. I am one of the "aging" health care workers; I could retire in 12 years. Hopefully, there will be another Native to take on the challenge. And it is a very rewarding field.

Interview with Judith

Snow-Rosander Cont...

Cultural shock was extremely difficult that first year in nursing school. All the land was fenced in, people helped others if it did not inconvenience them, you had to make an appointment to go visit someone. After accepting the differences, I had a wonderful time in California the last year.


Baasseedd oonn yyoouurr oowwnn eexxppeerriieennccee,, aanndd wwhhaatt yyoouu''vvee sseeeenn,, hhooww ccaann wwee ggeett rruurraall yyoouutthh iinnttoo hheeaalltthh ccaarree??

We have to hit the grade schools. If we want to grow our own, that's where we have to start. They need the tools of math, science and English. Those tools will also help them live their lives productively. The teacher should start putting ideas into their heads about what they enjoy, what they want to do, how they want to contribute to society. These academic skills have a purpose - they are utensils for your path in life, the path you choose. Teachers need to care enough about the kids to instill this philosophy, and make the time it takes to do it.


Whhyy ddiidd yyoouu jjooiinn tthhee AACCRRHH bbooaarrdd aanndd wwhhaatt ccoom m-ppeellss yyoouurr ccoonnttiinnuuiinngg ccoommmmiittmmeenntt??

I am from the rural areas, and the whole purpose of ACRH is to recruit and retain professionals in the rural/bush/frontier areas. I continue to be on the board to remind my urban counterparts that people from remote Alaska can't be forgotten. What we do at ACRH must directly benefit remote Alaska. The kids in RAHI or Upward Bound are self-motivated; they'll find a way to get where they want to go. But the kids in the villages who don't see their full potential, don't see what they can do -they have to be reached. As an example, the program in Galena [Galena Summer Health Academy] that Margaret [Wilson] manages (see HETC article, p.3) has a good variety of kids from different places. If funding were available, that program should be replicated. We need to support the rural youth.

Breaking nnews!

ACRH received notice of two grant awards from HRSA: 1) the Alaska Behavioral Health Careers Program (HCOP) and 2) the Alaska Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Basic Program. Stay tuned for more information in the next edition of the Alaska Rural Health Notes.


It's a Wrap! Alaska HETC

Looks at First 3-Year Grant


Health Programs Director Blanche Brunk says, "Thanks to our HRSA funding, we've been able to make a strong case for delivery of col-lege classes in health subjects in a totally new blended format. There's been a phenomenal rate of success for our rural Alaska Native stu-dents advancing their health careers and upgrading credentials through enrollment in our programs."

It all began in September 2002 with the first year's funding to establish Alaska's Health Education Training Center (HETC) within the College of Rural Alaska at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). Director Brunk and faculty created the innovative blended

deliv-ery system consisting of face-to-face sessions, audio-conferencing, and web-based blackboard sessions. Each cohort of students in two sub-ject areas is assisted as a group and encouraged with individual attention. They form strong support groups and work with Native elders to help them relate Western theory with Alaska Native culture and traditions.

Delivery innovation has meant all the dif-ference in the world to 23 students in the

Behavioral Health track in this first three-year period. Continuing their work as village coun-selors, they also attended classes and advanced from a Rural Human Services certificate to a Human Services A.A.S. degree. For 16 of those students, the program further enabled them to continue in UAF's Bachelor of Social Work degree program.

For over 50 health corporation employees working in rural hospital billing offices and enrolled in the Health Care Administration track, blended delivery has meant making progress towards a Health Care

Reimbursement certificate. In the case of 10 of those students, it has meant successfully passing the national exam to become a certified mem-ber of the American Association of Professional Coders.

In the second and third year of the HRSA grant, other funding sources were solicited that now reinforce the progress and planning of the original grant. A new proposal to HRSA scheduled to be funded this fall could mean extending the current program to include rural high school student preparation for behavioral health careers. For more information, please contact our Program Coordinator Lillian Ruedrich at (907) 455-2054,, or visit our web site: “There's been a

phe-nomenal rate of suc-cess for our rural Alaska Native students advancing their health


Join the National Rural

Health Association Today!

In today's rapidly changing health care world, it is vital to have access and availability to effec-tive political representation, reliable and timely information, and a solid professional support network. For more than 25 years, the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) has been that source, providing valuable services to rural health care professionals and advocates.

Reducing health disparities for rural popu-lations by ensuring the provision of accessible, equitable, quality health care services is the key priority of the NRHA. You may even be famil-iar with some of the NRHA's work as it has influenced change and educated legislators, policy makers, health care service providers, and the public at large on the unique health

care issues facing rural communities. The NRHA has been a driving force behind important legislation such as

increased Medicare payments for rural providers, the extension of the J1 Visa plan providing underserved areas with for-eign-educated providers, and

even the creation of the Office of Rural Health Policy. In addition to advocacy work, NRHA hosts a variety of educational confer-ences drawing some of the largest gatherings in the nation of rural health professionals. The NRHA is also your source for rural publica-tions, offers an excellent web site reference and information access tool, and offers members more than 9,000 rural health colleagues with whom to network. For more information, go to or call 816-756-3140.


Jean E. Ballantyne, Ph.D., RN

Electronic Health Records

System FREE!

The following is big news for the Health Information Technology world.

The US Government just released the VISTA system. Apparently, the federal government is anxious to see electronic health records (EHR) in every office and standard-ized. Using the VA's electronic health record Vista, they paid a

contractor to make the system more user friendly and to get it running under Windows. This is now done, and they are giving the whole thing away! You can download it from the Vista web site, and User's Groups are active. Since it is promoted by the Feds for

national use and is free and immediately avail-able, it could become "the standard."

Dr. Tom Nighswander with ATAC reports that he has had the Vista demo disk (older ver-sion) and has been impressed. “It does not

have all the bells and whistles of some of the commercial products, but clinically it is very functional." He further reports: "I went to the link [provided below] and did an online chat (very user friendly)... The official version was to be released by CMS on August 1, but it has not happened yet. They expect it to happen in the next several weeks.”

Check it out at or Google Vista EHR.

It does not have all the bells and whistles

of some of the com-mercial products, but

clinically it is very functional.

School of Nursing Gets New



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The University of Alaska Anchorage's School of Nursing, which over the past few years has

grown into one of UAA's flagship programs, has appointed a director to help lead them to even greater success in several core strategic areas important to their mission to serve Alaskans.

Jean E. Ballantyne, Ph.D., RN, an assistant professor and former interim dean in Montana State University Bozeman's College of Nursing, took the helm at UAA in July. Her qualifications make her uniquely suited to her new position. Her doctoral major was gerontolog-ical nursing, an area of strategic focus for UAA's College of Health and Social Welfare. (In addition to the School of Nursing, the College of Health and Social Welfare also houses two independent centers specializing in gerontology: the Alaska Geriatric Education Center and one of the country's only two federally funded National Resource Centers for American Indian, Alaska

Native and Native Hawaiian Elders.) Her mas-ters degree was in rural nursing, which also makes her a good fit for UAA and its mission of serving Alaska's often far-flung and isolated communities.

"Dr. Ballantyne is wonderfully suited to this position, bringing experience in education-al administration, rureducation-al heeducation-alth, gerontologiceducation-al nursing, distance education, work with multi-campus programs, and education of Native American students," said Dr. Cheryl Easley, dean of the College of Health and Social Welfare. "She is a recent graduate of an excel-lent doctoral program in nursing and is actively interested in furthering the research agenda of the College. Dr. Ballantyne interviewed extremely well and was favorably viewed by faculty, staff, and administrators here at UAA."

Easley also spoke favorably of the doctoral program at Oregon Health & Science

University, where Ballantyne earned her doc-toral degree. The UAA School of Nursing is currently partnering with OHSU to develop a web-based distance doctoral program.

Ballantyne succeeds Dr. Tina DeLapp, who retired from UAA in September 2004. Under DeLapp, the School of Nursing became one of UAA's most high-profile units, with a growing national reputation for turning out highly qual-ified graduates.


Governor Murkowski

Appoints Jackson DHSS


On August 9, 2005, Governor Frank H. Murkowski announced that he

has appointed Karleen Jackson Health and Social Services Commissioner, effective October 1. Jackson has served as DHSS Deputy Commissioner since February 2003.

"Karleen has played an integral part in the leadership of the department during this administration, and I am pleased that Karleen will continue to carry out the health and social

services initiatives my administration has put in place,"Murkowski said. "She has been in Alaska for almost 40 years, has a strong back-ground in the field of social services, and pos-sesses the skill and talent to serve the people of this state well."

DHSS Commissioner Joel Gilbertson, who recently resigned, will leave state service September 30 to accept a position with Providence Health System Alaska Region.

For more information, contact: Becky Hultberg, cell (907) 321-6665, or Sherry Hill (DHSS), cell (907) 321-2838 or (907) 465-1618.

Don’t Miss the 2006 Rural

Health Conference:

Alaska’s R

Rural H



Alaska Primary Care Association 903 W. Northern Lights, Suite 200 Anchorage, AK 99503

Brought to you by:

Alaska Center for Rural Health; Alaska Native Health Board; Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium; Alaska Primary Care Association; Alaska State Hospital & Nursing Home Association; Alaska Small Hospital Performance Improvement Network; Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority; State of Alaska, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Commissioner; the Denali Commission; and the University of Alaska.


February 15-17, 2006 Where:

Anchorage, AK

Marriott Downtown Hotel Tracks OOffered:

!Optimizing Operating Systems

!Workforce Development



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Booklet Available

Philip Nice, M.D., with the assistance of Walter Johnson, M.D., recorded the development of the Community Health Aide Program from the initial system developed by the Russians to the present. This book documents the intensive efforts 25 years ago to develop a common statewide curriculum. It describes the evolution

of the program, from the Sanitation Aides and Chemotherapy Aides through the present sophisticated Community Health Aide Program.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy or copies of this booklet, please print and complete the form that is available at the ACRH web site:

Target AAudience:

!Policy makers !Clinicians !Advocates

!Consumers and Directors of Rural and

Urban Clinics

!Community Health Centers !Tribal Health Corporations !Hospitals

Sustaining Our Systems of Care

Alaska’s Rural Health Continuum

“Karleen has played an integral part in the

leadership of the department during this administration...”


PRSRT STD U.S .P ostage PAID Per mit No.107 Anchorag e,AK

Alaska Center for Rural Health

3211 Providence Dr . Diplomacy Building,Suite #404 Anchorag e,Alaska 99508 (907) 786-6579

Alaskan Events

Sep. 15-17:22nd AAnnual AAlaska NNurse PPractitioner AAssociation Conference. Anchorage Marriott Downtown. Web site:

Sep. 16-17:13th AAnnual CCare oof tthe EElderly CConference-QQuality CCare: Improving HHealth OOutcomes. Harrigan Centennial Hall, Sitka. Contact: Jill Hanson; phone: 907-747-7733; email:

Oct. 10-13:Alaska PPrimary CCare AAssociation FFall 22005 CConference.

Westmark Anchorage Hotel. Contact: Robyn Langlie; phone: 907-929-2724; email:; web site:

Oct. 26-28:Alaska SState Hospital aand NNursing HHome Association AAnnual Conference. Alyeska Prince Hotel. Web site:

Nov. 9-12:30thAlaska EMS SSymposium.

Anchorage Marriott Downtown. Web site: conference.htm.

Nov. 28-Dec. 2:23rd AAnnual AAlaska HHealth SSummit.Hotel Captain Cook, Anchorage. Contact: Marie Lavigne; phone: 907-332-1030 (or Toll Free in AK 1-866-907-332-1030); email:; web site: healthsummit.htm.

Feb. 15-17, 2006:Alaska RRural HHealth CConference 22006. Anchorage. Phone: 907-269-7969; email:

Events Outside Alaska

Oct. 4-7:Critical AAccess HHospital aand RRural HHealth CClinics CConference.

Kansas City, Missouri. Contact: Alan Morgan; phone: 703-519-7910; email:; web site:

Oct. 22-26:CHAMPS/NWRPCA FFall 22005 PPrimary CCare Conference. Seattle, Washington. Phone: 206-783-3004; web site:

Nov. 5-9:American PPublic HHealth AAssociation 1133rd AAnnual MMeeting and EExposition. New Orleans, Louisiana. Web site:

Feb. 27-March 1:National RRural HHealth AAssociation’s PPolicy IInstitute Conference. Washington, D.C. Web site:

May 15-19:29th AAnnual NNational RRural HHealth AAssociation aand 112th Annual RRural MMinority && MMulticultural HHealth CConferences. Reno, Nevada. Web site:

The Alaska Center for Rural Health (ACRH) is housed within the School of Nursing in the College of Health and Social Welfare at UAA. Our mis-sion is to help strengthen systems to deliver comprehensive and culturally relevant health care to rural Alaskans. ACRH Staff:

Beth Landon, Director

Janice Troyer, ABHCP Prog. Director Mariko Selle, Research Associate Lisa Pettit, Program Assistant Mary Anaruk, Denali Commission

Program Director


ming Events...

Visit oour wweb ssite!