• Former “fisherman’s kid” grows up to help Alaskans get healthy — one doughnut at a time
By Christina Whiting
Determined and driven, Becky Plymire constantly seeks out new challenges and adventures. She describes herself as tenacious.
“I am active and energetic, but what has gotten me where I have wanted to be has been my scrappy attitude,” Plymire said.
It’s an attitude and adventurous spirit she attributes to being a fisherman’s kid.
“We spent an inordinate amount of time living in tents while Dad learned to commercial fish,” she said.
Plymire has worked on boats since age 14, when she fished with her father, for king crab in the Bering Sea, salmon in Prince William Sound and shrimp in Kachemak Bay.
“I dragged for shrimp in Kachemak Bay during my month-long Christmas breaks,” she said. “I remember working hard and being cold and miserable, but fishing helped pay for college.”
She also worked summers at the Putter Inn — now Wasabi’s Restaurant — often juggling two or three jobs in the summers. After graduating from Homer High School, Plymire studied English Literature at Washington State University and then Baylor. Once she got her degree, she backpacked Western Europe.
In 1984, she returned to Homer and married her high school sweetheart, Jim, who had just graduated from Baylor with a degree in finance and wanted to return to Alaska to commercial fish.
“I went from being a fisherman’s kid to being a fisherman’s wife,” she said.
While her husband fished, Plymire found work with Dr. Bill Bell at Homer Medical Clinic. She started in the billing office, then worked in the chart room, did transcriptions and eventually learned phlebotomy. She also worked for Dr. Paul Raymond, South Peninsula Hospital and Dr. Rene Alvarez.
“I was constantly learning new things and really enjoyed the medical field,” she said.
Spreading the word: CPR
Eager to continue to learn, Plymire joined the Homer Volunteer Fire Department, working as an emergency medical technician for 12 years.
She became an instructor and started Emergency Response Educators, a company where she taught OSHA-approved first aid and CPR certification, as well as ETT and EMT courses.
During the first years of her business, Plymire traveled all over Alaska, teaching classes to fishermen and in rural communities. She also worked as an EMT in Naknek, a small community in Bristol Bay, teaching CPR classes.
“Working in Naknek was crazy,” she said. “The community has 300 year-round people, but in the summer, the population explodes to 5,000 to 10,000, mostly fishermen.”
At the end of her first year of business, Plymire had trained more than 1,000 individuals in CPR.
She went on to obtain her Physician Assistant degree at the University of Utah Medical School in 2000. Two years later, she obtained a director of wellness certification from the Cooper Institute in Texas.
“I have always felt it is important for people understand that trying to live a healthy lifestyle can keep them out of medical offices,” she said. “I would love it if health care providers were bored or able to spend our time discussing how to stay well, rather than trying to fix sick.”
In 2005, Becky and Jim couple moved back to Alaska, settling in Anchorage, where Plymire worked small jobs and then took a job as a physician’s assistant on the North Slope. For a year, she ran a health clinic for oil company workers off the Beaufort Sea, six miles from shore on a manmade island called Oooguruk.
She then worked on the slope as a PA for Conoco Phillips at Kuparuk, running the clinic at this camp of 1,500 oilfield workers, teaching the volunteer EMS crew and directing the wellness team.
Plymire also worked with camp chefs to bring in healthy food choice.
“Anyone standing next to a doughnut was afraid of me,” she said.
She also brought in guest speakers and organized health-related activities, including walks, runs and yoga classes.
“I would see much of the younger work force watching what they ate,” she said. “Even after working 15 to 16 hour days, some of them would hit the gym.”
When Plymire started working for Conoco Phillips, the facility’s gym was old and outdated. Just before she left, the wellness team convinced the company to spend almost a million dollars renovating the gym, cardio and weight rooms.
“Like coming home”
Last year, Plymire and her husband moved back to Homer. Jim returned to his passion of commercial fishing and Becky continued working remote sites, from the North Slope and Beluga to rural communities like Whittier, Iliamna, McGrath and Seward.
When an opportunity to work at Homer Medical Center came up, Plymire grabbed it.
“It was like coming home,” she said.
Plymire currently divides her time providing health services for SPH at Homer Medical Center, running remote construction and oil production clinics with Fairweather LLC, and hosting remote regional service unit clinics for Southcentral Foundation.
While she enjoys her work, Plymire said her goal is to take more time with her husband. The couple is eager to seek out adventures and travel, including spending time at their cabin across the Bay, where they rest, relax and fish.
“Homer is the most nurturing part of our life,” she said. “It’s where our friends and family are and when we’re not in Homer, we’re thinking about Homer.”
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