Wasilla, Alaska – The Mat-Su Borough School District (MSBSD) Health Advisory Team (HAT) has been recognized with the Mat-Su Health Foundation’s (MSHF) Bert Hall Award for Commitment to the Health of the Community. The “Bertie” is an annual award presented to an individual or organization that consistently exemplifies commitment to working at the systems level to improve the health and wellness of Mat-Su residents. This year is the first it has been awarded to a team rather than an individual. The HAT was chosen for this honor because of their exceptional to commitment to community health which made allowing in-person instruction in the Mat-Su without significant COVID-19 spread possible.

The group of nearly a dozen HAT members, comprised of district administrators, community health members, a local physician and a public health nurse liaison, established operational zones and created pandemic-necessary protocols such as conducting classroom investigations, providing transportation, creating indoor foot traffic routes, disinfectant processes and the handling of extra-curricular activities. The team also set up contact trace training for school nurses to help alleviate a bottleneck of investigations delaying family notifications and school re-openings. Because of their tireless collaborative efforts, all 46 schools in the MSBSD were able to stay functional most of the year.

“The Mat-Su Borough School District’s HAT kept Mat-Su youth and teachers healthy and in school during a pandemic that shuttered schools across the globe,” said MSHF President and CEO Elizabeth Ripley. “This was uncharted territory, but they found a way through extraordinary effort that involved high-level collaboration and communications, dedication to science and data analysis and focus on a solution-based approach. They spent their evenings and weekends after working long days to track cases, maneuver challenges and communicate with staff, students and families—heroic work resulting in a huge win for our families, kids and community.”

The Bert Hall Award is named in honor of Mat-Su resident Bert Hall who helped put together the Valley Hospital Foundation Board of Directors and has been a Mat-Su Regional Medical Center Trustee. Bert has also served Alaska in many other capacities, including as a Mat-Su Regional Medical Center board member, associate director of the US Department of Veterans Affairs, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services, director of Health and Social Services for the Municipality of Anchorage and as the Alaska liaison to the US Department of Health and Human Services. Bert has been president of the Alaska Public Health Association, represented Alaska on the Governing Council of the American Public Health Association and served on the Alaska Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

MSBSD Superintendent Dr. Randy Trani accepted the award this year on behalf of the HAT. Other members of the team included Luke Fulp, deputy superintendent; Justin Ainsworth, MSBSD associate superintendent; Reese Everett, associate superintendent; DeeDee Hanes, associate superintendent; Jillian Morrissey, public information officer; Katherine Gardner, executive director of human resources/payroll; Katherine Ellsworth, executive director of federal programs; Dan Molina, executive director of student support services; Rhonda Lackey, districtwide nurse; Justin Michaud, IT supervisor; Dr. Anne Zink, State of Alaska Chief Medical Officer; Dr. Joseph McLaughlin, State Epidemiologist; Dr. Elizabeth Ohlsen, State of Alaska staff physician, Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS); Debra Golden, State of Alaska perinatal nurse consultant; Dr. Therese Thomasoski, pediatrician for Ptarmigan Pediatrics; Karrin Parker, RN, DHSS Public Health nurse consultant; Renee Dillow, RN, DHSS Public Health nurse; Bridget Roughneen, RN, DHSS Public Health nurse manager.

Previous Bert Hall Award recipients include Kimberly Schlosser (2020), Lt. Tom Dunn (2019), Rachel Greenberg (2018), Bill Hogan (2017), Herman Thompson (2016), Margaret Volz (2015), Craig Thorn (2014) and Bert Hall himself (2013).


About Mat-Su health Foundation: Mat-Su Health Foundation (MSHF) is the official business name of Valley Hospital Association, Inc., which shares ownership in Mat-Su Regional Medical Center. In this capacity, MSHF board members and representatives actively participate in the governance of Mat-Su’s community hospital to protect the community’s interest in this important healthcare institution. The MSHF mission is to improve the health and wellness of Alaskans living in the Mat-Su and the tools it uses include grantmaking, convening of local partners, and policy change. The foundation’s work has resulted in significant improvements in systems that support the health of Mat-Su residents in areas such as behavioral health, child welfare, crisis response, community connections, workforce development, transportation, housing, and senior services. More information is available at