Project Background

In September 2004, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Oral History Program initiated an oral history project about the early days of the Community Health Aide Training program with funding from the University of Alaska, Health Programs. The story of this historic program begun in 1968 is being told in the words of the people from around the state who were first involved in the program. Included in the oral history are the first health aides, the doctors who taught and administered the program, and the technicians who built the communication systems that the health aides use. It is expected that the stories told by the participants will help current health care professionals understand the nature of health issues in rural communities, such as:

  • use of traditional medicines,
  • role of the family and the community in health care,
  • preventative medicine,
  • midwifery, and
  • response to Western medical practices.
The recordings of the interviews and the associated photographs are integrated into an interactive computer-based program (Project Jukebox) for Internet delivery. The original recordings are preserved and publicly available at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska and Polar Regions Collection at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library. In 2005 and 2006, the Oral History Program interviewed former and current health aides, doctors, technicians and administrators who were involved in the beginnings of the program or who have long-term experience with the program. Interviewers for this project were Karen Brewster, Marla Statscewich and William Schneider. Topics explored in the interviews include:

  • job recruitment and training,
  • communication issues with doctors and patients,
  • changes in health care delivery,
  • mixing of western and traditional medicine,
  • level of involvement from doctors,
  • how providers' health care practices were influenced by the community health aide program,
  • stories of success, failure, satisfaction and frustration with the program,
  • impact of new technology on the delivery of medical care, and
  • influences the job and the program had on personal lives and careers.

The transcripts in this project were created by Carol McCue of Heartland Court Reporters in Fairbanks, Alaska. The following Project Jukebox staff worked on the website: Karen Brewster, Marla Statscewich, Marie Mitchell, Sara Harriger, Andreas Droulias and Louann Rank.

This special collection was made possible by the University of Alaska Health Programs through a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration.