Private family medical practice shuts doors in Dillingham

Dillingham’s only private family medicine practice closed at the beginning of October.

In August 2013, Family Nurse Practitioner Brenda Spofford opened Spirit Sent Health Care in her home.

“It was based with the goal of providing affordable, accessible, quality healthcare within the community of Dillingham,” says Spofford. “Every move toward developing the practice came from a  lot of introspection, prayer, and guidance from God, and that’s exactly where the name came from.”

Spofford had spent several years with the Community Health Aide Program at the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation before opening her own practice.

Over the two years Spirit Sent Health was open, Spofford says she saw between 10 and 60 patients a week. During that time, what she and her husband thought would be a brief family emergency turned into the long-term foster care of her two young grandsons.

“That has been the part that’s made it impossible to run Spirit Sent,” said Spofford. “Before having the boys I would spend a lot of my evenings doing paperwork, getting things done. It was a full-time job as it was.. And now having two little people that are very demanding of time, I feel I cannot give the same quality of work to the practice that I’m committed to giving.”

Despite ongoing difficulty in finding childcare, Spofford says she has enjoyed providing a wide range of healthcare services in Dillingham.

“Most of the days that I was in practice, it felt like it was so worth it,” says Spofford. “I’ve enjoyed seeing families, seeing kids. I’ve enjoyed being able to be there for people for things that would have been very, very expensive for them had they made other choices of healthcare. I enjoyed doing volunteer work with the schools, with the health fairs. It was wonderful to have the practice be a part of the community.”

Spofford says she will miss her patients in Dillingham, and her patients say the same. Brooke Spurlock regularly took her kids to Spirit Sent Health.

“It was great to be able to see Brenda when the hospital was hard to get into,” explains Spurlock, “and that’s why we were using her, besides her expertise. She was personable, and thorough.”

Ayla Budrow says Spofford was always just a phone call away, even when traveling.

“My husband got shingles, so I called her for some advice and help on that. She was on vacation, but she talked me through it, told me what to do, and checked up on him,” recalls Budrow. “She’s been really nice to have in town. We’re really, really going to miss her.”

Budrow, who grew up going to Kanakanak Hospital herself, has been taking her two toddlers to Spirit Sent Health. Now she says she’s not sure what their next checkup will look like.

“Mmm, that’s a tough one… I guess we don’t really have any options. But that’s okay, we’ll go out there [to the hospital].”

Spofford has accepted a position at Peace Health Medical Group on Prince of Wales Island.