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Storytelling is the best medicine, doctor touts Nuka System of Care

Health care professionals from all around the world are in Anchorage this week for the ninth annual Southcentral Foundation’s Nuka System of Care Conference.

Dr. Terry Simpson visited KNBA’s studios to talk with Morning Line host Danny Preston about the conference.

“The conference is for several types of people. Number 1 is for physicians who want to learn more about relationship-based medicine,” Simpson said. “But Number 2 it's for large healthcare systems to adopt I we're working with a number of health care systems.

Simpson says that Southcentral Foundation is working with other health care systems – including indigenous systems with the Cree and Cherokee – and other systems from Canada, Sweden and the U.K.

“They're here learning about the system to adapt it,” he said. “Because funny thing, even though we made this system our culture by storytelling, we've discovered that's everybody's culture but you know what's not a culture -- paternalistic western medicine -- what is a culture is being able to talk to your doctor. When you adapt that system-wide, you can not only save money and improve health care, we've proven that.”

Simpson says that when he started working for Indian Health Service in Phoenix, the model wasn’t a good one – and that people often considered a bad model for universal healthcare.

That changed in Alaska, he said, when Southcentral Foundation took over and “changed it in a way that is appropriate for our culture.”

“For example, what's important to us is storytelling, so when you go and see your doctor outside of Southcentral, how long, how much do they know about you, or ask about you, or know about your story,” Simpson said. “If you have that relationship with your physician -- from storytelling -- then what we've discovered is what the paternalistic western system calls compliance is much higher.”

The conference continues through Friday.

“It's something that's been lost in western medicine, and we're bringing it back.”

Editor's note: KNBA coverage of the ninth annual Nuka System of Care conference is sponsored by Southcentral Foundation.

Hailing originally from the Puget Sound region of Washington State, Danny Preston has lived in Alaska for more than 40 years. His career in radio began in 1991, and since 2004 he has hosted KNBA’s Morning Line program. He is also the station’s music director.
Originally from the Midwest, Tripp Crouse (Ojibwe, a descendent of Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, pronouns: they/them) has 15-plus years in print, web and radio journalism. Tripp first moved to Alaska in 2016 to work with KTOO Public Media in Juneau. And later moved to Anchorage in 2018 to work with KNBA and Koahnic Broadcast Corporation. Tripp currently works for Spruce Root in Juneau, Alaska. Tripp also served as chair of the Station Advisory Committee for Native Public Media.