The Alaska Kidney Foundation Donor Advised Fund is used to help people from Alaska with or at risk of kidney disease.

Mission Statement 

The mission of the Alaska Kidney Foundation Fund is to wisely use its resources to help Alaskans with or at risk of kidney disease.

Purpose

Now a fund at The Alaska Community Foundation, the Alaska Kidney Foundation Fund is committed to granting funds to organizations that are addressing the causes and treatments of kidney disease in Alaska, and supporting Alaskan residents with, or at risk of kidney disease.  Grants may be awarded to special projects, programs, or general operating support for established nonprofit organizations.

Kidney Disease in Alaska

Kidney disease impacts millions of people worldwide.  In the United States one in 10 adults, more than 20 million, have some form of chronic kidney disease. In Alaska there are over 500 people on dialysis and that number is steadily increasing.  Diabetes is the leading primary diagnosis of end-stage renal disease.  The American Diabetes Association reports that 68,500 Alaskans are affected by diabetes.  According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, there are hundreds of Alaskans waiting for a transplant. According to the Northwest Renal Network, “Alaska is 2000 miles from the lower 48 states, upon which it depends for a number of specialized healthcare services including renal transplantation.  Travel between the more widely dispersed communities is by air or sea”.  Due in part to the many remote areas of the State, Alaskans with chronic kidney disease, especially those new to dialysis, and those waiting for a transplant may be at a significantly higher risk for financial hardship.

History

Alaska Kidney Foundation began in 1973, operating the first dialysis centers in Anchorage and Fairbanks.  In 1999 both dialysis centers were sold to Renal Care Group, and proceeds were used to establish the Alaska Kidney Foundation as a charitable, philanthropic grant-making organization.

Alaska Kidney Foundation began in 1973 as a, not for profit kidney health organization and began operating the first dialysis centers in Anchorage and Fairbanks in 1974.

Dialysis was done as early as the 1940s but could only be conducted for a few days. The problem was veins would collapse or develop thrombosis.  Around 1963 Dr. Schribner of Seattle, Washington, perfected the surgical technique of drawing the large volume of blood needed for dialysis without those complications. Dr. Schribner developed the fistula or access technique,  and many consider him the “father of dialysis.”

1965 Medicare was enacted, but it covered only acute, in-hospital, short-term dialysis for age 65 and over patients. Providence and Anchorage Community Hospital each had one dialysis machine.

01 June 1973 As the need for dialysis continued to grow in Alaska, there was no intent for AKF to own or operate a dialysis center.   At the time, it’s primary purpose was to raise money to help  patients pay for transplants and to help nurses and other providers cover the cost of being trained in home dialysis at the NW Kidney Center in Seattle. Dr. Tom Wood was instrumental in recruiting a Board for the Foundation, and AKF was incorporated as a not for profit kidney health organization.  John Bowerman was the first President of the Board.

Effective 01 July 1973, Medicare coverage was expanded to cover outpatient chronic dialysis for everyone regardless of age. This change provided the federal funding that made dialysis centers financially feasible in Alaska.

In December 1973, Bob Swartz and his wife Chris were hired by Providence to run its acute dialysis unit, which was in the basement of the Providence Professional Building. Bob and Chris previously worked at Hillcrest Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as a Dialysis Technician and Registered Nurse, respectively. They were recruited by Dr. John Selden, who was instrumental in working with Providence to get them relocated to Anchorage and set up as employees of Providence.

Dr. Selden and Dr. Woods were the only Nephrologists in Anchorage at this time, and both played a large part in the establishment of the Alaska Kidney Foundation dialysis unit.

The first AKF Board meeting was held in February 1974. At this meeting, Dr. Selden proposed that the Board ask Providence Hospital to establish an out-patient dialysis service.

In April 1974 Providence told AKF that it did not want to own or operate an out-patient chronic dialysis unit and encouraged AKF to set one up somewhere off the hospital campus. With Dr. Tom Wood’s and Dr. Selden’s strong support and encouragement, the Board agreed to pursue an outpatient dialysis center.

Between April and October, at the direction of the Board, Bob Swartz obtained approval from the Alaska Health Planning Board and Medicare (with some help from the office of Senator Gravel) for a dialysis clinic. He also purchased and re-built a used machine which the VA donated. Alaska Furniture Manufacturing donated four recliners for use by patients while receiving dialysis.

In October 1974, the Alaska Kidney Foundation dialysis unit was opened for business in the basement of the Providence Professional Building with two employees: Bob Swartz, Dialysis Technician, and Chris Swartz, Registered Nurse. Financially, it was touch and go. A $35,000 loan was obtained from the National Bank of Alaska to provide working capital, but only after several AKF Board Members signed the note as personal guarantors. For a period of time, the loan payments were interest only.

In 1975/1976 the AKF dialysis center qualified for an ‘Exception Rate” of reimbursement from Medicare based on Alaska’s higher costs and it was able to re-qualify for this Exception Rate each year.  This rate enabled the Anchorage dialysis unit to operate on a sound financial basis when coupled with sound Board and Management practices.

Between 1974 and 1992 the Anchorage dialysis unit leased space and move numerous times.

1985 Established the Northern Alaska Kidney Center dialysis unit in Fairbanks.

1993 AKF built its own dialysis unit at 4160 Tudor Centre Drive. It had 35 dialysis stations.

In 1998 negotiations began with a for profit dialysis corporation Renal Care Group to purchase and run the Alaska dialysis centers.  The demand for patients needing dialysis in Alaska exceeded the capacity of the not for profit organization to manage the expansion desperately needed across the State.

February, 1999. AKF sold the dialysis units to Renal Care Group. Proceeds from the sale were used to establish AKF as a charitable philanthropic grant making organization.  Foundation leadership included nine Board of Directors, medical advisor and executive director.

March/April 1999 Bob Swartz retires as Director and moves to Bremerton, WA. Bob Harvey serves as Interim Director.  Blythe Campbell and Suzanne Goodrich have also served as Executive Director.

01 January, 2004: The IRS ruled that AKF is a private foundation within the meaning of section 509(a) of the Code.

Since obtaining its private Foundation status in 2004 AKF has awarded grant funds to charitable kidney and related health organizations that meet seven AKF goals including grants for emergency relief for dialysis patients and transplant patients, promoting organ donations, early kidney disease screening, patient education and support, kidney disease prevention education, professional education and research.

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