U. of Alaska Associate Dean of Clinical Health Sciences to Lead State HIE

Aug. 8, 2023
Kendra Sticka, Ph.D., R.D.N., will work to increase partnerships with community-based organizations and state agencies to continue advancement of Alaska’s healthcare ecosystem

HealtheConnect Alaska, the state-designated health information exchange, has chosen a faculty member at the University of Alaska Anchorage as its new executive director.

Prior to joining healtheConnect, Kendra Sticka, Ph.D., R.D.N., has worked at the University of Alaska Anchorage for the last 20 years and most recently as the associate dean of clinical health sciences since 2020.

“Dr. Sticka brings ample experience across healthcare delivery in Alaska and has held various positions across clinical and administrative positions in the public service sector demonstrating her commitment to communities at the grassroots level,” said Tim Ballard, M.D., M.S., healtheConnect’s board chair. “We believe Dr. Sticka is the perfect person to lead these efforts and we’re looking forward to seeing the impact healtheConnect will have with her in charge.”

In April 2023, Gene Quinn, M.D., healtheConnect board president, told Healthcare Innovation that the HIE has a new state contract to expand services and use cases, a partnership with CRISP Shared Services, and a rapidly growing membership roster.

Quinn, who is director of quality and population health at the Alaska Heart & Vascular Institute, said the new contract with the state reaffirms the organization’s status as the state's neutral nonprofit health information exchange and a trusted source for that data. “It also allows us to continue our building of stakeholder relationships, reaching out to other organizations, some of which include Tribal organizations that tend to operate in more rural areas,” he said. “It will allow us to address more use cases as well, especially as we transition toward being at a health data utility to continue to support the Medicaid program, as well as provider groups that are working on value-based care and population health.”

The new contract with the state also will allow healtheConnect to reach more regions where access to quality care has been historically limited, such as underserved rural and urban Alaskan communities.

The HIE recently experienced a growth spurt, more than doubling its user base from 2021 to 2022. The number of organizations increased 40 percent during that time. “I think we can give the pandemic a little bit of credit for that,” Quinn said. “It's hard to say that there are silver linings with COVID. But one of the things that happened was that we all realized that we're a little bit more connected than we thought we were. Our healthcare system is a team sport and is not conducive to silos.”

Sticka is charged with steering the organization into continued growth and development, including ensuring the organization fulfills its commitment to the Alaska Department of Health.

“HealtheConnect has seen tremendous growth over the last year and has provided Alaskan communities and providers access to critical patient health information, typically not easily available prior to or at the time of care,” Sticka, in a statement. “I’m excited to build on this trajectory and ensure that all Alaskan healthcare providers have access to appropriate patient health data that’s necessary to make informed clinical decisions.”

Sticka will work to increase partnerships with community-based organizations, state agencies and other public and community health organizations to continue advancement of Alaska’s healthcare ecosystem to ultimately improve health outcomes and reduce total costs of care for Alaskans.

“HealtheConnect is playing a crucial role in the positive healthcare and health IT transformation in Alaska. It takes persistent collaboration and strong leadership to ensure the right voices are heard so we can continue to develop innovative projects that support valuable health outcomes,” said Jared Kosin, president and CEO of the Alaska Hospital and Healthcare Association, in a statement. “We’re looking forward to collaborating with her as she leads the HIE into its next phase.”

“As the largest geographical state with the smallest, most diverse population, Alaska has unique strengths and challenges when it comes to healthcare delivery,” Sticka added, “and it’s our goal that all care stakeholders have access to advanced data so we can better provide our communities with whole-person, wrap-around care.”

Sticka holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She is a registered dietitian and holds a Master of Science in Nutrition from Central Michigan University and a Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutrition from Montana State University. She currently serves on the board of directors for Hope Community Resources in Alaska.

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