By Public Relations Specialist Connie Irrigoo

Choosing to quit tobacco is one of the best choices you can make for your overall health. Many people like customer-owner Karen Stephan have quit, and so can you. Keep in mind that quitting tobacco is a process. It may take some people several tries before they quit completely, others may quit on their first try. Every step toward quitting is a success.
You can learn the skills needed to quit tobacco for life. Southcentral Foundation tobacco educators can provide you with the tools and resources to help you be successful. If you have any questions, talk to your health care provider or a tobacco educator at SCF.

Stephan is originally from the Colorado Indian Tribe in Parker, Arizona; she lives in Anchorage with her husband, Ray. She remembered seeing and reading information about the Quit Tobacco program at an annual SCF Gathering. Stephan later learned that she had to quit tobacco to have knee replacement surgery.
“I called [SCF] Health Education to help me quit tobacco before surgery to replace my knee,” said Stephan. “Health Education set me up with gum and patches; in 49 years, I never tried to quit smoking. I had to have my knee replaced, so I gave it a try.”

Today, Stephan is nearly a year tobacco-free. She encourages others to try, even if they are unsure whether they will be able to quit. Stephan noticed that she initially gained weight but has since lost it. Since Stephan has quit smoking food tastes better, she can smell better, and pain from the surgery and rheumatoid arthritis has subsided. She no longer needs her inhalers, and her wheezing has stopped. Stephan attributes all this to quitting tobacco.

Quitting smoking greatly reduces many health risks, including the risk of oral cancer. People who use tobacco are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with oral cancer. Men in particular are twice more likely to have oral cancer than women, and Alaska Native people are nearly one-and-a-half times more likely to be diagnosed with oral cancer.
The American Dental Association recommends checking your mouth regularly for any lumps or sores if you are at increased risk. Schedule routine annual dental exams, talk with your primary care provider, or call a tobacco cessation specialist to discuss how SCF can help you make healthier choices.

Schedule a routine dental exam (when operations return to normal in SCF Dental), at (907) 729-2000, or call SCF Health Education to join a virtual tobacco cessation learning circle for Alaska Native and American Indian people in the Anchorage Service Unit. The tobacco cessation program offers one-on-one counseling, follow-up services, group counseling, and access to nicotine replacement therapy.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call SCF Health Education at (907) 729-2689 or the Benteh Nuutah Valley Native Primary Care Center Wellness Center at (907) 631-7630.

April Kyle began her career at Southcentral Foundation during a period of rapid growth for the organization. She was hired in 2003 as the manager of employment and recruitment and quickly advanced into more senior positions. By 2010, Kyle was named the director of human resources. After five years in this role, contributing to SCF’s innovations and best practices for hiring, training, promoting and rewarding “best fit” employees within the entire Nuka System of Care, she joined the Vice President Leadership Team as vice president of behavioral services.
Kyle has worked closely with internal and external partners to support SCF’s workforce and build greater capacity to serve the Alaska Native Community. SCF Leadership, employees, and customer-owners have appreciated her expertise and deep understanding of the Alaska Native health care system from the customer-owner perspective. She was one of the first graduates of SCF’s Executive Leadership Experience, as well as a member of the Alaska Native Executive Leadership Program’s inaugural class at Alaska Pacific University and the Alaska Journal of Commerce’s Top Forty Under 40 class of 2013.
A CIRI shareholder of Athabascan descent, Kyle was born in Eagle River and spent summers in the village of Ninilchik where her father was raised. With the support of The CIRI Foundation’s educational scholarships and grants, she received her bachelor’s degree at Montana State University. Kyle later earned her master’s at the University of Washington Foster School of Business. Her passion for family and her children helped shape SCF’s family friendly policies and a balanced approach to employee wellness.

by Jerry Markus
Imagine seeing your health care provider in the comfort and privacy of your own home, office, car, or even miles away while you are fishing or at a cabin. As long as you have a good Wi-Fi connection or cellular signal and a smartphone, computer, or tablet, you can see your health care provider for anything from a minor illness, chronic condition management, behavioral support, or preventative care visit.

This is now a reality at most Southcentral Foundation clinics using a new, secure video telehealth program on Zoom, a cloud-based video and audio-conferencing platform. Customer-owners can use the platform with a computer, laptop, mobile device, or tablet. Primary Care Provider Allison Critchlow reported that Elders have been especially enjoying the face-to-face experience Zoom provides. “These are customer-owners that I had had some phone visits with but then we switched to Zoom. They stated that they haven’t been able to get out much and to be able to actually see the provider on their computer screen was therapeutic in itself.”
Customer-owners with children or unpredictable schedules have also found telehealth visits to be convenient for them. “[It eliminates the stress of] finding transportation and childcare. Customer-owners appreciate being able to show . . . conditions that otherwise would need to be seen in person. [Zoom is] easy to use and saves time,” says Primary Care Provider Elizabeth Harding.

If needing assistance in joining a telehealth visit, Zoom’s help center ( is a terrific resource for guides and video tutorials. “It is very easy to set up! Customer-owners have been very happy and grateful that they can connect virtually,” noted Anna Pfhal, a Primary Care Provider. Ask your provider team about this option the next time you call for a visit.
Here are some great reasons to use a telehealth visit:

  • No risk of exposure to other illnesses
  • Convenient and comfortable setting
  • Eliminate travel time and cost
  • No waiting rooms
  • No arranging of childcare
  • No need to take off time from work, since the visit can be done during a break time
  • You can include who you want in the visit, even if they are miles away
  • Choice of connection options — phone, computer, or tablet
  • Improves access — other health care providers can easily join the visit
  • Reduces costs to the system — helping to improve and expand services

If a telehealth visit isn’t a suitable option for you, SCF clinics have practices in place to make your in-person visits safe. SCF is performing verbal screenings with every customer-owner who enters a clinical building. During the screening, individuals are asked about recent travel, recent contact with people who are sick, and potential symptoms of COVID-19. Once customer-owners are cleared to enter the building, a wristband is provided to signify successful completion of the screening and a face mask is provided if they do not already have one.

When in a clinical building, face masks are required and must be worn correctly, covering the mouth and nose at all times. With both employees and customer-owners wearing a mask, everyone can feel more comfortable visiting SCF clinics when they need to see a provider. Social distancing is practiced when possible, and frequently touched surfaces are sanitized often.
Visit or use the reference below to locate the clinic’s phone number in your area and schedule your telehealth visit today.