Wellness & Wisdom Blog

Guiding Growth: Jessica Whitaker’s Path of Learning and Leadership at SEARHC

May 24, 2024
Wellness & Wisdom Blog

As a Behavioral Health Administrative Operations Manager for SEARHC, Jessica Whitaker plays an integral role in the mental health and well-being of our patients in Southeast Alaska. Over the last three years, while living in Wrangell, she worked toward earning her Bachelor in Business Administration with a focus on Management through the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS). Jessica accomplished this while balancing full-time work and quality time with family. Her story is not only one of persistent hard work but also of community support and a balance of mind, body and spirit. 

SEARHC has been proud to support Jessica in her career and educational aspirations, aligning with our strategic goal of being the healthcare employer of choice in our region. When we invest in our employees and give them space to learn, to build and live their purpose, our communities experience the benefits. It has been a joy to work with Jessica and watch her develop as a leader, and we can’t wait to see her continued growth! We held a brief Q&A with Jessica to gain some insight into her background and experience as she furthers her career: 

SEARHC: What made you want to pursue a career in mental health? 

Jessica: I’ve always had a strong desire to serve and help others. Initially, my plan was to become a teacher. I enjoyed leading and sharing knowledge. That plan didn’t work out, and I found myself gravitating more toward leadership and management roles. In 2011, I had an opportunity to begin working with a local Wrangell organization (AICS) that provided healthcare services. I quickly started to learn about the mental health field. I’ve been here learning ever since. 

S: What do you love about your job? 

J: I love the people I work with and serving people in Southeast. The thing I really enjoy about my work is creating systems of change. I spend a lot of time working with partners across the state in advocating for changes within the healthcare field. I like learning about the challenges and strive to find solutions that will better serve organizations, staff and patients. 

S: What made you want to grow your career with SEARHC? 

J: In all different facets of life, I have strived to continually grow. I often tell people that I’m a lifelong learner and if things are not constantly changing, I find myself getting bored. I’ve never been bored at SEARHC and the opportunity to continue to learn and get better is something that excites me. 

S: Can you speak to why you want to live and work in Wrangell and how you were able to meet your goals without having to move out of Southeast Alaska? 

J: My familial roots are tied to Wrangell, and I am a lifelong resident. I am Tlingit, Tahltan, & Tsimshian from the Southeast area. Growing up I loved living here. The cultural connections, the sense of community, the love and support I’ve felt here have not been matched anywhere else I have ventured. In my early adulthood, I made a conscious decision to start my family here and raise my children with the support of my husband and family. By having the support of my whole family, I was able to flourish and grow, providing me with opportunities to travel and expand my career. 

S: What are ways that SEARHC supported you in your growth?

J: I have had some wonderful mentors and coworkers that have supported my continual growth, allowing me to participate in meetings, encouraging me to obtain certifications and recently supporting me through my journey to obtain my bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in management. 

S: What tools/resources did you get access to in order to develop your skills and education? 

J: Shortly after joining SEARHC, I was encouraged to pursue certifications to help develop my administrative skill set, and when I decided I wanted more than certifications and wanted to pursue a degree, my team was very supportive. SEARHC leadership provided me with flexibility in my work schedule to accommodate my academic demands and they also helped provide financial support through the Employee Educational Assistance Program. 

S: What’s next? 

J: I just graduated on May 5, so for the next year the plan is to spend quality time with my family and friends and enjoy my most recent accomplishments. In the next year I have plans to enroll in a master’s program and continue my educational journey. I am excited to have the opportunity to continue to work to serve the people of Southeast.

Learn more about UAS and the Business Administration Program.

The views and opinions expressed on the Wellness & Wisdom Blog belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium. The Wellness & Wisdom Blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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