Melody West - Executive Director
George Hightower, MD - Medical Director
Dr. Hightower grew up in the inner city of Los Angeles. He dreamed of becoming either a doctor or a professional basketball player. He almost achieved both goals. At Whitter College, In 1978 he was named Whittier College Athlete of the Year. That same year he was named Captain of the Basketball Team and led his team in representing the U.S. in the Jones Cup Tournament in Taiwan. Eventually, he was twice inducted into the Whittier College Athletic Hall of Fame.
After college, he got serious about his other goal. In 1985, he was named a Health Professions Scholar by the U.S. Navy and was awarded a full scholarship to the medical school of his choice.
In 1989, he graduated from the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington D.C. During his tenure there he was awarded the Commonwealth Fellowship Fund Scholarship for research in Pediatric Oncology at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda M.D. In addition, he was named to the George Washington University Admissions Committee and honored with the Outstanding Student Leadership Award.
After graduation, Dr. Hightower completed his internship at the Naval Hospital, San Diego and served our country during the 1st Persian Gulf War. During his 12-year naval career, he was awarded 2 Navy achievement medals and a Navy Commendation Medal. After his naval career, he completed another post-graduate year in at SDSU/UCSD School of Medicine in Preventive Sports Medicine.
In addition to the U.S. Navy, Dr. Hightower was on staff at Oasis sports medical group, the then team physicians for the San Diego Chargers. He and his wife Linda started and successfully pioneered a thriving Occupational Medicine practice in Williston, ND. They sold that practice in 2017 and moved to Alaska for their next adventure.
Dr. Hightower and his wife Linda love the outdoors. Fishing and hiking are among their favorite things to do.
William Frantz, DDM - Dental Director
Valera Brickel - Finance Director
Ms. Brickel was born and raised in Alaska. She came to the Matanuska Susitna Valley as a teen and graduated from Palmer High School. In 1984 she began work in purchasing at Valley Hospital in Palmer a small nonprofit hospital. She continued with the hospital moving to a staff accountant position in 1989 experiencing the growth and merger with a for-profit corporation and construction of MatSu Regional Medical Center. After 23 years of employment at the hospital, Ms. Brickel moved north to Talkeetna and joined the staff of Sunshine Community Health Center as an accountant in November 2007.
As chief staff accountant for SCHC, she quickly became the “go-to” person when questions arose during the implementation of the new Practice Management System/ Centricity EMR Program. Valera’s attention to detail, tenacity in solving problems, and keen knowledge of the fiscal operation made her the prime candidate for advancement when the CFO left in April 2009. In filling the role of Finance Director with payroll, accounting, and patient billing under her direction she has expanded her knowledge with both online and conference training.
She received a Hospital Accounting Certificate from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. She has completed NWRPCA’s CFO Skills series.
Stephanie Stanley-Harrell - Human Resources Director
Tanya MacDonald - Operations Director
Tanya has been employed by SCHC since August 2011. She started in a part-time position as administrative support and has worked across departments to where she now works in Operations with a managing role in Compliance. Tanya has an accounting background and has worked in this field since 1989, while completing a Bookkeeping Diploma in Johannesburg, South Africa and an Accounting Technician Program in Aylesbury, England.
Interested in the Medical field, Tanya certified as a Pharmacy Technician in 2013 and went on to complete an AAPC program in 2017 that designates her as a Certified Professional Compliance Officer.
Tanya visited Talkeetna in 2001 and finally settled in early 2003. Tanya loves the area and community and has participated as a volunteer for both KTNA and the Food Bank of Alaska over the years previous to employment with SCHC. Tanya enjoys her horses and dogs and can often be found floating on anything inflatable in the water, as well as swimming, daily walking and longer hikes as time allows.