ICHS History

Leaders in improving the health of Northern populations

The Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies was formed by the Alaska Legislature in 1988 and charged with encouraging international cooperation amongst Circumpolar nations, and identifying, addressing, and finding solutions to health problems of Alaskans.

In 1988, during the 15th Alaska Legislature, University of Alaska’s statutes were modified by the legislature’s creation of the Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies (ICHS), which was established in AS 14.40.088. From its inception in July 1988 through September 1994, ICHS had five acting directors or administrators. In September 1994, the Institute’s first permanent director, Dr. John Booker, was appointed. Initially, ICHS’ primary focus was on coordination of exchanges between the Russian Far East and Alaska. Under its permanent director in 1994, ICHS’ stated mission was “[t]o improve the health of the peoples of Alaska and other circumpolar areas through instruction, information services, and basic and applied research in health and medicine.”

Over the decades since ICHS was founded, the faculty have worked to improve the health of Alaskans and populations in the Circumpolar North through collaborative, applied research. ICHS also houses the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies (CAAS).

Past ICHS Directors

  • Janet Johnston, PhD — Acting Director,  August 2017 - 2018
  • David Driscoll, PhD, MPH, MA — Director, August 2008 - August 2017
  • Brian Saylor, PhD, MPH — Director, March 1998 - June 2007
  • John M. Booker, PhD — Director, September 1994 - February 1998
  • Sven Ebbesson, PhD — Acting Director, September 1992 - June 1993
  • Michael Dimino, PhD — Acting Director, December 1991 - August 1992
  • Patricia Longley Cochran — Acting Administrator, July 1991 - November 1991 & July 1993 - August 1994
  • Victor Fisher — Acting Director, January 1991 - June 1991
  • Theodore A. Mala, MD — Acting Director, July 1988 - December 1990