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VanAuker has the HEART to help others

Community Portrait
By: Michael Kirby
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When Laura VanAuker was a young girl she knew that helping people would be her calling. VanAuker still feels as strongly about her choice today as she did over 30 years ago when she entered the medical field as a nurse practitioner. “I don’t know how many people could say that they are still passionate about their career after 30 years, and for me that’s been nursing,” VanAuker said. “What I love about my career is I can use nursing in everything I do.” VanAuker is in private practice with Sutter Medical group in Auburn and also holds a position as a public school nurse, serving area school students. VanAuker likes that she works in the community sector and has always known that to be a rewarding part of her career. VanAuker also finds her medical training valuable in everyday life as a parent and community member available in any emergency to help with care. In 1980 a nurse practitioner was a fairly rare position in most medical practices. “I was one of only three nurse practitioners in Auburn when I started,” VanAuker said. Not many patients knew just exactly what VanAuker’s role was in the doctor’s office. Was she a nurse or a doctor? “I can’t tell you how many times a patient would ask, so when are you going to become doctor?” VanAuker said. “I was always explaining that I was in the position I chose, and was doing what I was trained to do.” As a nurse practitioner, VanAuker can do most of the procedures that doctors traditionally perform in an office setting. “It can be something as simple as someone coming in with a cold, or someone with a tumor needing to know if it’s cancer. I do minor surgeries, cast fractures and write prescriptions,” VanAuker said. “Most anything that your family practitioner doctor does in the office, we do. What I don’t do is surgeries at the hospital and deliver babies.” VanAuker enjoys her work in the community as many of her patients are neighbors and friends, but her work has also benefited patients outside of the United States. VanAuker has served on the board of HEART, Health Education Africa Resource Team, a faith-based non-profit organization as a medical consultant for 10 years. Her job with HEART involves clinics in Africa, but also equipping Kenyans and other Africans with knowledge, educating citizens about AIDS and prevention of other diseases including TB, malaria, typhoid and hepatitis. VanAuker’s work with HEART recently involved production of a promotional film on HEART’s work in Africa. She worked as a film producer, new ground for VanAuker, while in Africa last year. The team included her brother and son, Kyle VanAuker, who shot 22 hours of tape on HEART’s work there. The footage was then edited down to a 20-minute film. VanAuker has also been on the medical team with the Flying Doctors for their work in Mexico, and provided medical support for mission trips to Mexico with her Faith Lutheran Church youth groups. HEART will celebrate its 10th anniversary Saturday night at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn. The evening will feature guest speakers, including founder Vickie Winkler, the showing of their film made last year in Kenya and a silent auction. For information, call (530) 885-9600. VanAuker lives in Meadow Vista with her three children and husband John. They just celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary.