Letter to the Editor: Support House Bill 43 for medical education in Alaska

* Please ask your legislators to support “HB 43 – University Institutes of Law and Medicine” sponsored by Representatives Kawasaki, Josephson, Tuck, and Kerttula.

What about a medical school in Alaska? It is in our best interest to have excellent medical education and teaching hospitals where we live.

The acronym, WWAMI, stands for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho; five states that have one medical school at University of Washington.  Alaska gets 20 places yearly at University of Washington. We need local health professionals. Because of the leadership of Harold Johnston, M.D., Alaska has 36 Primary Care Residents at Providence Family Medicine Center. Many of these Residents have remained in Alaska and gone to Bush areas to practice. If a medical school were started, more Alaska medical residency programs will be established.

The comparative costs of health care in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, and North Dakota shows that Alaska health care is much more expensive according to the Milliman Report “Drivers of Health Care Costs in Alaska and Comparison States”  http://dhss.alaska.gov/ahcc/Documents/docs/drivers_healthcare_costs.pdf 11/29/11

What about a law school here in Alaska, the only state in the U.S. that does not have one?  As Alaska population has doubled, the number of Alaska lawyers has not kept pace with our population growth.  There are about 2,500 In-State Alaska attorneys and 601 Alaska Active Out of State attorneys for a total of 3,100 Alaska attorneys per Todd Communications Alaska Directory of Attorneys Page 2 Fall, 2012.  Therefore, 24% of the Alaska attorneys are Alaska Active Out of State. This is the highest percentage in the U.S.  Why are there 601 Alaska Active Out of State attorneys, most of whom have never landed on our soil?   Alaska Active Out of State attorneys are making money off Alaska.

Ms. Leslie Need, new lawyer liaison Board of Governors Alaska Bar Association, reported in March, 2013 Alaska Bar Rag that in the last five years 37% of the Alaska Bar licensees have been by reciprocity.  Why is there only about a 60% passage rate on Alaska Bar Exam, most of whom are Alaskans? Some other states have 30% higher passage.  All Wisconsin law school graduates are inducted into Wisconsin Bar without testing.  Alaska residents licensed to practice law in one of the 39 reciprocal states should be allowed to practice here without testing.  http://www.alaskabar.org/servlet/content/reciprocal_jurisdictions.html

Dr. Talis Colberg, Alaska attorney since 1984, Ph.D., Alaska Attorney General 2006-2008, and current Director, Mat-Su College, wrote a column in Alaska Bar Rag “Election of an Attorney General” published 12/12 stating that our then 53 year old state has had 24 appointed Alaska Attorneys General.  43 states has elected Attorneys General.  Dr. Colberg concluded:

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“. . .It is a mistake to make the chief law enforcement office of the state an at will employee of the governor. . . . Alaska would be better off with an elected Attorney General.”

If you are told that Alaska cannot afford medical and legal education, please respond that Alaska has probably over $20 Billion in reserves currently.  American medical and legal education Alaska will save money and lives in the long run.  Let’s make certain HB 43 passes in the 28th Alaska Legislature.


Theresa Obermeyer

UAA student