Dana Mathis stands before the refurbished salmon donor wall at the Rasmuson Health Center. Katie Emmets
Skagway welcomes new health care provider: Dana Mathis
By KATIE EMMETS
Dana Mathis is the new general health nurse practitioner at the Dahl Memorial Clinic.
Originally from Atlanta, Mathis received her undergraduate degree in nursing from Georgia Baptist College of Nursing at Mercer University and earned her Masters Degree from the University of Utah.
Her focus is family practice, or “birth-to-death” as she refers to it. She is a general practitioner who treats people of all ages.
Mathis said she has wanted to move to Alaska for quite some time.
Fifteen years ago, she found herself volunteering for a church in Anchorage, and when her work was over, she toured the state.
“When I saw a job listing for Skagway, I applied,” she said. “I was only in Skagway for a couple of hours, but it is one of the towns I actually remembered.”
Dahl Memorial Clinic medical director Carol Borg said the general health nurse practitioner job was first posted in January, after former health care provider Jim Lepich informed the clinic board he would be taking a job elsewhere. He moved back to his home state of Maine in June.
The clinic originally received about 40 applications, however the pool of job hopefuls was whittled down to about five.
Borg said the clinic board interviewed two nurse practitioners before Mathis, and both of them declined the clinic’s offer of employment.
Mathis was flown to Skagway from Utah for a final interview in June, and she was offered the job. She began work here in September.
Before moving to Skagway, Mathis resided in Kanosh, Utah, for five years where she worked as a health care provider for the Paiute Native American Tribe.
“They are a small tribe that really had a rocky history,” she said.
The Paiute originally received federal recognition in 1929, however, at the time, the tribe felt as if it didn’t need the help of the United States Government — but it did, Mathis said.
“They were recognized, and they decided they didn’t need federal support,” she said. “They finally got their recognition back in the 80s.”
In April of 1880, by an act of Congress, the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah was created.
Mathis worked with two of the five tribal bands.
“They have the same struggles most other tribes do,” she said of the Paiute. “But they are hard workers and great people. I really miss them.”
Though the tribe privately owns the clinic, it is opened to both the 2,000 tribe members in the area and the surrounding community.
“It was a really good thing for the community,” she said. “It was the only clinic within a 50-mile radius.”
Mathis moved to Skagway over Labor Day weekend, and when she walked into her office for the first time, she was greeted with something familiar.
The background for the month of September on her desk calendar was Monument Valley, Utah.
“I saw it and I thought ‘Oh! A little bit of home,’ ” she said.
Mathis said she has enjoyed living in Skagway.
“The people have been awesome,” she said. “I feel like I’m making friends.”
Upon arrival, Mathis tried her luck to find home fixtures on the Skagway Swap Facebook page.
Though she was looking for end tables, a coffee table and a storage shed for her backyard, she received several questions instead.
“I knew it was a small town, but when I posted, people were like ‘are you the new health care provider?’ and ‘Did you just move into such and such house?’ “ she said. “And then someone gave me the history of the house I moved into.”
But she is no stranger to small towns.
According to the last U.S. Census, Kanosh had a population of 474 people.
“It was a close-knit group,” she said. “It takes a while for them to get to know you.”
And Kanosh and Skagway have something else in common, too – wind.
“There were high winds in Utah,” she said. “But there were no arctic winds in Utah.”
Along with cold winds, there are other things about Skagway’s weather she will need to get used to.
“I don’t mind the rain, I don’t mind the cold, but I’m still not a fan of the cold rain,” she said with a laugh.
But Mathis said she is looking forward to winter and enjoys winter sports.
“I downhill ski, cross-country ski, snowshoe, sled, and throw snowballs,” she said, smiling.