Katherine Gottlieb to resign from Southcentral Foundation

Katherine Gottlieb, center, Southcentral Foundation president and CEO, at a 2012 ribbon cutting for the Benteh Nuutah Valley Native Primary Care Center. (Ellen Lockyer/Alaska Public Media)

Katherine Gottlieb is resigning as president and chief executive of Southcentral Foundation, one of the state’s largest medical providers and a hub of the Native health care system.

The news was announced Monday morning, two weeks after Southcentral fired three dentists, including Kevin Gottlieb, the CEO’s husband, who was also a senior executive at the organization.

The dentists were alleged to have falsified health records to show a different provider had conducted a number of routine dental exams than the practitioner who’d done the work. The benefit to falsifying records in that manner is not clear. All exams, Southcentral said, were conducted by qualified, licensed dentists.

RELATED: Southcentral Foundation fires three dentists, including husband of chief executive, for falsifying health records

“At this time, we have no reason to believe that Mrs. Gottlieb had any involvement with the actions that led to the terminations of three Southcentral Foundation dentists,” a Southcentral spokesperson said in an email.

Katherine Gottlieb has been with Southcentral since 1987 and has been its chief executive for nearly 30 years.

“I would say her story is one of the great Alaska success stories,” said close friend and professional colleague Diane Kaplan, president of the Rasmuson Foundation.

Born in Old Harbor and raised in Seldovia, Gottlieb dropped out of high school and had a baby while still in her teens. Kaplan said Gottlieb started at Southcentral as a receptionist but earned advanced degrees and in a few short years rose to chief executive.

“I think when she was hired they had a total of 12 employees and today they have 2,500 and that was all under her watch,” Kaplan said.

Gottlieb is a celebrated leader of Alaska Native and American Indian health care and wellness. She is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School as a part-time lecturer on global health and social medicine. She’s received numerous national awards, including a 2004 MacArthur Fellowship – known as a “genius grant.”

The Southcentral announcement provides no reason for the resignation. Her annual salary was $641,000, according to the organization’s 2018 tax return. Kevin Gottlieb, as vice president and chief of staff, earned $724,000 that year.

Southcentral Vice President April Kyle will serve as interim CEO.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Liz here.

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