A healthy investment: Pat McAdoo’s giving shapes a flourishing future for Alaska

by Eric Olson  |   

Pat McAdoo
UAA donor Pat McAdoo, past president of the Alaska Physical Therapy Association, is inspired to support the UAA Nursing Endowed Scholarship as an investment in the next generation of homegrown health leaders. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

Physical therapist and UAA scholarship donor Pat McAdoo first encountered the university after moving to Alaska in 1985 to work at the Alaska Native Medical Center. A colleague there told her that one really needs to have some structured activities in the winter.

“The worst thing you can do is work, go home and hibernate,” she said.

So McAdoo signed up for a class at UAA in the evenings: Alaska, the Land and its People. “I was just so impressed and learned so much — an awesome introduction to Alaska and to UAA,” said McAdoo.

After retiring in 2000 from her position as president of the Alaska Physical Therapy Association, McAdoo started getting calls that hospitals in rural villages were looking for help with swing-bed coverage. Soon, she began weeklong trips to Nome, Dillingham, Sitka, Petersberg, Ketchikan and other rural cities to help out.

“One thing you quickly realize in the rural hospitals is how short they are with nursing,” she said. Many traveling nurses aren’t as knowledgeable or experienced in the culture, so there is high turnover.”

Today, the UAA School of Nursing offers undergraduate programs in 15 communities across the state of Alaska. In Nome, a program jointly offered by the Bering Strait Region Health Consortium and UAA is producing registered nurses with almost no travel out of the region.

“I’ve really seen the difference between nurses who know the people and the culture versus folks who don’t know the community,” said McAdoo. Like many retired health care providers in Alaska, McAdoo continues to give back her time and knowledge to fill the gap in the state’s health care shortage, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“From the Alaska Native community, I’ve learned about the concept of community as a whole,” she said. “We tend to think of households and families, but I began to see in practice the idea of interconnectedness and unsung heroes who often make a huge impact. In the clinical setting, it’s the environmental health (janitorial) workers and clerks who make such a difference.”

McAdoo sees her giving to the university through a similar lens: small gifts make a big difference. She gives $75 a month to the UAA Nursing Endowed Scholarship, along with regular gifts to the KUAC public radio station.

Her steadfast generosity has fueled opportunity for the next generation of health care providers. McAdoo hopes recipients of the UAA Nursing Endowed Scholarship find inspiration from gifts like hers and that they can begin their careers.

“Through my gifts, I’m telling them: ‘I trust you to make Alaska better.’ You never know how much of a proportionate investment that is. If I’m an average person and I give $100 or $25 a month, that money might be a night out at the movies. Whatever they gave up, they trust that you’ll make good use of it,” said McAdoo.

McAdoo sees her monthly gifts as an investment in the future health for Alaskans. Now in her 70s, McAdoo continues to fly to rural communities across the state to help patients from all walks of life gain mobility, while mentoring students along the way.

“I was a scholarship recipient in college,” she said “I hope [the donors] think they got a return on [their] investment. Investing in people lasts forever.”

To make a gift to the UAA Endowed Nursing Scholarship, visit engage.alaska.edu/uaa/nursing.

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