The National Indian Health Board honored Southcentral Foundation (SCF) Vice President of Resource and Development/Chief of Staff Dr. Kevin Gottlieb with a 2009 National Impact Award. Gottlieb received the award at the annual National Indian Health Board Consumer Conference in Washington, D.C. in September. Awarded to only six individuals or organizations nationally, it recognizes individuals who influence American Indian and Alaska Native health care on a national level.
“To be recognized in this manner is not just a tribute to me,” said Gottlieb. “The National Indian Health Board also recognizes the 27 years of health care transformation led by the Alaska Native community. Partnership, from all corners of Alaska to Washington, D.C., is critical for continued health care successes.”
Gottlieb’s contributions to the health care industry began when he entered the Indian Health Service (IHS) for his dental residency after graduating from Georgetown University’s School of Dentistry in 1976. He went to Alaska to help the people IHS identified as having the worst dental health in the country. As an IHS-commissioned officer, he helped develop and implement the largest ongoing preventive dental health care program in the State of Alaska. He also provided dental services in various rural Alaska villages, including villages without electricity and running water. While working with patients in an aging Alaska Native hospital in Anchorage, he recognized the gross inefficiencies in a system that focused only on dental emergencies, and he set foot on a path to effect real change.
Gottlieb left IHS in 1982 to become the first dentist for the fledgling SCF, and is now one of SCF’s five longest-serving employees. Gottlieb recognized early on that, to be effective, SCF’s health care services would have to be based on the values of the Native people. He helped establish SCF’s first clinic – a clinic for dental care. It was SCF’s first attempt at providing a “family practice” model of service delivery.
Working from a small dental facility in Anchorage, Gottlieb expanded dental services to help address the unmet needs of the entire Native family, including dentures for Elders and preventive care for all family members.
In addition to implementing one of the first computerized billing systems at IHS, Gottlieb spearheaded comprehensive training programs to develop health care leaders from within the Alaska Native community to build and sustain the system. To ensure professional development of Alaska Native and American Indian people, he instituted mentoring, formal education support, individual development plans and career ladders. Today, 96 percent of SCF’s dental assistants are SCF-trained Alaska Natives: three are enrolled in dental school and one has already become an award-winning Public Health Service dentist. Gottlieb also facilitated a pediatric dentistry residency program to meet future needs in Alaska.