50th anniversary logo

To celebrate our 50th anniversary, Alaska Regional Hospital is featuring profiles on Alaskan healthcare legacies who helped grow the hospital since it welcomed its first patient in 1963. Read about the historical developments that followed a course similar to the state’s own history leading up to the hospital that Alaskans know today and have relied on for generations.

photo of Vernon Cates

Vernon Cates
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photo of Gilbert Dickie

Gilbert Dickie
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photo of David Dietz

David Dietz
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photo of Tom-Kent

Tom Kent
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photo of Ronald Feigin and Royal Kiehl

Ronald Feigin and Royal Kiehl
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photo of C. Jerry Little

C. Jerry Little
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photo of Anne Morris

Anne Morris
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photo of Gerald Morris

Gerald Morris
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photo of Donald Rogers

Donald Rogers
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photo of Cynthia Toohey

Cynthia Toohey
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photo of Robert Whaley and Jean Persons

Robert Whaley and Jean Persons
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photo of Tryon Wieland

Tryon Wieland
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Alaska Regional welcomed its first patient on June 18, 1963, just eight days after the hospital was dedicated. The 45-bed facility was a nonprofit operated by the national Presbyterian Ministries, Synod of Washington-Alaska, which built several hospitals in the territory as part of its mission to provide medical care for those in need. It offered full emergency, medical, surgical and obstetrical care for patients.

Although Presbyterian Community Hospital, as it was first known, was ahead of its time, the $800,000 facility on the corner of Eighth Avenue and L Street was just one small step toward the 50-year evolution of what would become one of the largest full-service healthcare facilities in the state.

In 1968, a group of local physicians organized as the Doctor’s Clinic took control of Presbyterian Community Hospital and changed the name to Anchorage Community Hospital. Still, Presbyterian is considered the springboard for the current Alaska Regional Hospital on DeBarr Road. Today, the building is home to the city’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Frontier Spirit

Anchorage Community Hospital had a heavy patient load from pipeline construction in the early ‘70s, though local permitting battles, mounting financial problems, and personality conflicts led the group of investing physicians to sell the hospital in 1976 to the Teamsters Union led by Jesse Carr. He was regarded by many as the most powerful political force in Alaska’s history and the person responsible for building today’s facility.

Carr had the 200-bed hospital relocated to its current location on DeBarr Road. It cost $23 million and included an adjoining 84,000-square-foot professional building that cost $8 million and housed Teamster headquarters, a Teamster-owned dental clinic and pharmacy, and office space. Carr’s intent was to reduce the cost of medical care for members of the Teamsters Union.

The Next Generation

Although the official name of the hospital was the Alaska Hospital and Medical Center, the media dubbed it the Teamsters Hospital, a name that stuck for many years. In 1982, the Teamsters divested and the name changed to Humana Hospital Alaska. In 1993, a merger gave control of Humana to Columbia/HCA and the name changed to Alaska Regional Hospital before being branded as Columbia Alaska Regional Hospital in 1996. Finally, in 1997, the name reverted back to Alaska Regional Hospital.

A World of Caring

Today, the hospital has close to 1,000 employees and a medical staff of about 600 independent practitioners. It continues to be affiliated with HCA Healthcare, giving Alaskans access to the advanced medical resources available through one of the nation’s largest healthcare providers. Our 50 years of success are due in large part to the dedication and skill of the hospital and medical staff at Alaska Regional, past and present.