When Linda Wrigley ’89 pulled into the driveway of her home on the outskirts of Anchorage and saw a severed moose leg, she had one thought: Where’s the grizzly? But just as dangerous as wild animals in Alaska is the sun—and the lack of it. Summer’s rays hit people all day and into the night while they hike and garden. Winter’s darkness has them overdoing it on tanning beds and on vacations to sunnier locations.

In 2003 a pregnant Wrigley returned from the Bahamas with a sun-caused skin condition called melasma. “I didn’t see anyone treating that in Alaska then, and I wanted to help my patients, too,” said the Anchorage-based obstetrician and gynecologist. Two years later she opened Alaska Body Aesthetics. Its laser technology, medical-grade skin-care products, permanent hair-removal treatment, and weight-loss consulting are now part of her dedication to women’s total health care.

“Being a doctor was always something I wanted to do,” Wrigley said. Her mother was a physical therapist. Her father, a urologist, flew to patients in remote native villages, and on Sundays in Anchorage he took Wrigley with him on hospital rounds.

She chose Colby, she admits, partly for its cross-country skiing. “But also for its great biology and biochemistry program,” said Wrigley. “The professors personally cared about the students.”

After medical school at the University of Arizona, during her general internship in Spokane, Wash.—after attending 33 births in two months—she realized that she wanted to specialize in ob-gyn. “It really makes me happy to deliver babies,” she said. “It’s an amazing event in people’s lives.”

Wrigley took her talents back to Anchorage to be near family and to practice at the women’s clinic in the medical center where her father, now retired, worked. In 2000 she founded Alaska Ob-Gyn Associates, and she covers everything from puberty to pregnancy to post-menopause. “I especially love doing minimally invasive laparoscopic pelvic surgery. I see a lot of women with chronic pelvic pain, and I love being able to look inside and solve the problem,” said Wrigley, who also performs robotic surgery. 

She is also a clinical assistant professor with the University of Washington, teaching medical students who come to Anchorage.

Living in Alaska means many of Wrigley’s patients have to fly to see her, “because there aren’t enough gynecologists out there,” she said. It also means that Wrigley flies off about four times a year seeking warmer or sunnier climes in Hawaii, the Caribbean, Mexico, or the Southwest.

Whether on a beach or a mountain trail in the last frontier of Alaska, she wears proper sunscreen. While hiking or skiing, she also carries bear spray or sometimes even a loaded revolver. Whether it’s sun or bears, she’ll tell you, it’s best to be prepared.

 

—Claire Sykes