The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium has selected SEARHC Senior Vice President Ken Brewer to succeed Ethel Lund as president of the regional Native health organization.
Board Chairman Lincoln Bean announced the selection Tuesday.
``We feel fortunate to have someone with Ken's qualifications,'' Bean said. `He is respected as a statewide leader in the area of Native self governance.''
Brewer said he worked under Lund for eight years and considered her ``the visionary for many of SEARHC's long-term goals.''
``She had the experience of seeing most of her goals come to life,'' Brewer said Tuesday. ``It's critical that we re-vision and establish new long-term goals. That will be my priority.''
SEARHC is a consortium of 20 Native communities and tribes in Southeast Alaska and is one of the oldest and largest Native-administered health care organizations in the nation. It operates outpatient clinics in Haines, Juneau and Prince of Wales Island, as well as the Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka.
Brewer was picked from a field of 23 candidates who began the search after Lund announced her intent to retire last fall. She helped found SEAHRC about 25 years ago.
Bean said one of the key responsibilities of the SEARHC president is to work with the board and tribal governing bodies in Southeast.
``Ken has spent time in the communities, and as a Native American he is sensitive to the cultural needs of Native people,'' Bean said.
Brewer, a member of the Blackfeet tribe, has worked in the health care field for the past 10 years. Before joining SEARHC, he served as assistant administrator of the Washington Health Care Authority.
One of the first internal fires Brewer needs to put out is a disagreement with Ketchikan tribal leaders, which could have far-reaching financial consequences for Native health care in Southeast.
Ketchikan Indian Services set up its own clinic a few years ago, replacing SEARHC's facility. Its leadership recently asked the federal Indian Health Service to redirect funding for its members' hospital care from SEARHC's Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital to Ketchikan General Hospital.
Ketchikan tribal leaders want $1.8 million, which they believe to be their share of the federal money allocated to medical treatment for Native Americans in Southeast Alaska.
``The concern we have is that KIS would provide better services to their own active 1,200 members, but it would be to the detriment of the other 12,000 people being served at Mt. Edgecumbe,'' Brewer said.
He said SEARHC is trying to work out an agreement ``that would be suitable to both parties. SEARHC has already had two meetings with KIS about the matter, and is currently trying to convene a third, Brewer said.
Brewer grew up on the Blackfeet reservation in Browning, Mont., and spent his first 12 years in and around Browning. When he was 12, the Air Force transferred his father to Libya. Brewer spent three years the Middle East, three years in New Jersey and three on Guam.
Traveling with his father ``certainly exposed me to cultural diversity, and that helps me in my current role,'' Brewer said.