About the Institute

The Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies (ICHS) is located within the University of Alaska and provides support and coordination for health research, information, and training. ICHS was created by the Alaska State Legislature in 1988 to develop new solutions to health problems in Alaska and the north.

The Institute maintains collaborative relationships with organizations within the University and outside the University. Working closely with faculty, ICHS provides technical assistance and support to increase the capacity within the state to address the health needs of all Alaskans. ICHS also encourages student involvement through academic course work, internships, and research assistantships.


In addition, ICHS provides professional development and training through conferences and workshops for public health and medical professionals, and informational services and educational programs for the general public.


Mission Statement


The mission of the Institute is to improve the health of peoples of Alaska and other circumpolar areas through instruction, information services, and basic and applied research in health and medicine.


The Alaska Statutes (AS 14.40.088) specifically directs ICHS to: 

"...provide a mechanism for communication and cooperation between the University and the Commissioner of Health & Social Services in addressing the needs of Alaskans for health care services, opportunities for education in medical and health sciences, and other mutual concerns."

History of the Institute


In 1988, UA’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.”

List of Past ICHS Directors/Management

• David Driscoll, PhD, MPH, MA
   Director Aug. 2008 - Present
• Brian Saylor, PhD, MPH
   Director March 1998 - June 2007
• John M. Booker, PhD
   Director Sept. 1994 - Feb. 1998
• Sven Ebbesson, PhD, 
   Acting Director Sept. 1992 - June 1993
• Michael Dimino, PhD
   Acting Director Dec. 1991 - Aug. 1992
• Patricia Longley Cochran
   Acting Administrator July 1991 - Nov. 1991
   July 1993 - Aug. 1994

• Victor Fisher
   Acting Director Jan. 1991 - June 1991
• Theodore A. Mala, MD
   Acting Director July 1988 - Dec. 1990