Dr. Ellen Hodges named Alaska Doctor of the Year

Dr. Hodges gets her vaccine shot. (Photo courtesy of AKAFP)

Congratulations to Bethel doctor Ellen Hodges, MD, who was recently named Family Medicine Doctor of the year by the Alaska Academy of Family Physicians.

Dr. Hodges completed medical school at the University of Minneapolis Medical School and her residency in Family Medicine at the Alaska Family Residency in Anchorage. She lives in Bethel and works for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation.

Dr. Hodges realized in her first year of medical school, when she was matched up with a family physician mentor, that she wanted a career in family medicine. She observed her mentor go from a nursing home to a delivery room in one afternoon and was very moved by the impact this physician had on her community. Everyone seemed to know and trust this one physician to take care of their loved ones, without regard to their age.

She expressed the rewarding things about her career in Bethel are her patients and the team she works with. She feels they have the best patients in the world! She feels blessed to be part of team of professionals who provide world class care to their patients in rural Alaska.

Many things solidified her career choice in family medicine however, she recalls one elderly patient who had an impact early on. This was before EMR and the patient could not remember what medications she was on. One call to her family physician provided all the information and history that they needed for that patient. Those patient relationships have been an important part of her practice and she has tried to provide that kind of care to her patients.

Like most physicians in Alaska COVID has been a large part of Dr. Hodges practice since the pandemic began. She helped with a large distribution project for the first wave of vaccine called Project Togo (after the lead dog from the Nome serum run) and helped distributed thousands of doses in a few weeks using planes, ice road trucks, and snow machine.

They would fly into a village, vaccinate health care workers and first responders on the runway, wait 20 minutes and then fly to the next village. It remains the single most amazing and impressive project she has ever been privileged to be a part off.

Dr. Hodges feels family medicine is uniquely situated to manage the pandemic, “We already advise people on vaccinations and public health measures to keep them and their family safe. Talking to our patients about the best way to stay safe in these uncertain times is really what family medicine does best. And, we’re used to working closely in a team environment to get all the things done for our patients – that is critical in this pandemic. We have to rely on each other to get the care our patients need.”

The AKAFP is a constituent chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians. The AKAFP serves 419 members including 323 active family physician members.