Award-winning innovator in Alaska tribal health resigns

Katherine Gottlieb, center, is greeted by family and friends after speaking as the keynote speaker during the Alaska federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage, Alaska, on Oct. 26, 2006. (AP Photo/Al Grillo, File)

Joaqlin Estus

Anchorage CEO’s departure follows the firing of her husband and two dental directors

Joaqlin Estus
Indian Country Today

The longtime president and CEO of one of Alaska’s leading tribal health care providers is resigning following the recent firing of her husband, a senior executive, and two dentists amid fraud allegations.

Katherine Gottlieb, who has been with the Southcentral Foundation for more than 30 years, will conclude her service Aug. 31, the nonprofit said Monday.

Her husband, Kevin Gottlieb, was chief of staff and vice president of resource development. He was fired last month, along with dental directors Thomas Kovaleski and Clay Crossett, after an independent investigation resulting from an anonymous complaint.

“The investigation showed the dentists falsified health records by attributing one dentist as the provider of routine dental exams when that dentist did not actually perform the procedures,” the organization stated. “All procedures were performed by qualified dentists, and there was no impact to customer-owner safety.”

The Southcentral Foundation has reported the findings to the U.S. attorney’s office, which told the Anchorage Daily News it could not comment on whether it is investigating.

The foundation’s announcement did not provide a reason for Katherine Gottlieb’s resignation. She did not return a call from Indian Country Today seeking comment, and Drs. Kevin Gottlieb, Kovalesky and Crossett could not immediately be reached.

Katherine Gottlieb was the recipient of a McArthur “genius” award, and is widely recognized for her innovations in tribal health care. The Southcentral Foundation operates the outpatient side of the Alaska Native Medical Center, serving 65,000 people in Anchorage and dozens of other communities.

The Anchorage Primary Care Center at the medical center works to provide its “customer-owners” with same-day appointments and the opportunity to pick their regular care provider. It focuses on preventive care such as cancer screenings and vaccinations. Alaska Public Media reports the Southcentral Foundation has an annual budget of $400 million and 2,500 employees.

“With heartfelt thanks, we extend our deepest appreciation for the decades of service Katherine Gottlieb has given to Southcentral Foundation,” the foundation said. “Gottlieb helped nurture and grow SCF into the world-class health care system it is today. Her tireless dedication to wellness within the Alaska Native Community has improved lives and will no doubt be one of her greatest legacies.”

April Kyle, vice president of the foundation’s Behavioral Services Division, will serve as the interim CEO.

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Joaqlin Estus, Tlingit, is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today and a longtime Alaska journalist.
Updated to add source of statement from US Attorney's office.

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