NSHC is currently constructing the addition to house the MRI machine adjacent to the Emergency Department on the first floor of the hospital. An Alaska Native company out of Utqiagvik (Barrow), UIC Construction, is on schedule to have the $6.2 million project completed by the end of this year. Frank Irelan has been working for UIC since May and has contributed to this MRI addition project mainly as a heavy equipment operator.
Now in his mid-thirties, Irelan was born and raised in Nome and began his trade by learning how to carve ivory. By the time he was 19 years old he was doing construction with a local outfit on a family cabin in the area. Eventually Irelan worked his way into one of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation’s construction companies. He remained in the region and continued his work in Nome when he was involved in renovating the roofing of the Recreation Center in town.
Over the course of more than a decade working in construction, Irelan picked up many job titles – carpenter, laborer, heavy equipment operator, and more. But as he puts it, this MRI project with UIC has Irelan using all of those skills in the span of one day.
“Working with the rest of the guys on this crew has taught me a lot too. I’ve learned a lot from all of them,” said Irelan.
One of his fellow crew members and counterparts from Western Alaska is Louis Ozenna of Diomede. After relocating from the island a couple years ago, Ozenna has learned everything he can from his co-workers. That includes employees from Bering Straits Regional Housing Authority, crew members brought in to build the Richard Foster building in Nome, and even fellow construction workers in Diomede. Ozenna got his start in his hometown by helping to renovate the Diomede school with ASRC’s SKW company, ultimately allowing him to give back directly to his community through his work.
On the MRI addition project for NSHC, Ozenna mainly deals with the sheet-rock, making sure it is formed, cut, and measured appropriately. He enjoys working with these types of materials as well as things like the copper being used for the MRI machine room, which will help shield the intense magnetic force coming from the MRI magnet.
Irelan’s and Ozenna’s positive contributions to the team are evident to UIC construction’s project manager Matthew St. Clair. “Both Mr. Irelan and Mr. Ozenna have been outstanding team players by demonstrating good construction skills; and properly and efficiently completing tasks assigned to them with minimal supervision,” stated St. Clair.
Cathy DeAngelis, the manager of Radiology at NSHC, continues to praise the entire UIC construction crew for their diligent work on this project. It is extremely valuable work as DeAngelis says because “the MRI equipment and addition are a gift from the NSHC Board to save the patients’ lives. It gives us the space and technology to provide care in the best possible way.”
As Irelan and Ozenna finish out their time on the MRI addition, they encourage the next generation to give back to their communities in the same way. If you are a young person looking to get into construction or some kind of skilled trade job, Ozenna and Irelan encourage you to “apply yourself and always be willing to learn.”