First Lady visits Anchorage. Her message: Get vaccinated

Two women talk, both wearing face masks, near medical equipment.
Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson, president of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, speaks with First Lady Jill Biden on Wednesday. (Hannah Lies / Alaska Public Media)

First Lady Jill Biden was in Alaska for a few hours Wednesday. She came with a message.

“I’m asking all of you, who are listening right now, to choose to get vaccinated,” she said. “COVID is more contagious than ever, and it continues to spread. Even one hospitalization, one life lost is too many.”

This was a refueling stopover for Biden. She’s en route to Tokyo to lead the U.S. delegation to the Olympic Games. But Biden said she asked to do a little more while she was on the ground in Anchorage.

A woman in blue blazer speaks into a microphone, with women in face masks on either side of her.
First Lady Jill Biden speaks at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in Anchorage. To the left is Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink and to the right is ANTHC President Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson. (Hannah Lies/Alaska Public Media)

On Wednesday afternoon, Biden visited the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, the state’s largest tribal health organization.

There, ANTHC President Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson and the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, gave her an overview of the Alaska Native health care system and demonstrated how telehealthcare works for rural Alaska.

Two women wearing face masks talk inside, near big windows.
First Lady Jill Biden talks with Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink. (Hannah Lies / Alaska Public Media)
A woman waves at another woman who appears on a screen.
First Lady Jill Biden waves at Dr. Cate Buley, the medical director of Primary Care Clinics at the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium. (Hannah Lies / Alaska Public Media)
Four people stand in a line, looking at a woman in a white coat who appears on a screen near them.
First Lady Jill Biden is briefed on telemedicine services. From left to right: Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink, President of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson, First Lady Jill Biden and Cardiologist Dr. Joseph Park. (Liz Ruskin / Alaska Public Media)

This was an opportunity to brief someone who has the constant ear of the most powerful man in the world, and Davidson took it. She explained how tribal organizations took over from the Indian Health Service to run the Alaska Native Medical Center. She also explained ANTHC’s work to build water and sewer systems in rural Alaska. And she told of the success they’ve had in fighting COVID-19.

“In some of our communities we have 100 percent vaccination,” Davidson said.

Biden also met with military families at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

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Listen to Alaska Public Media’s Liz Ruskin talk with News Director Lori Townsend about First Lady Jill Biden’s visit:

A woman in a blazer looks out of a window.
First Lady Jill Biden at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. (Hannah Lies/Alaska Public Media)

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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