No matter what the overall state of science education in American high schools might be, Hillsboro residents can be thankful one Kansas high school science class sparked a dream that will bring a new physician for Hillsboro Clinic and Hillsboro Community Hospital.
Shauna Kern, D.O. will become Hillsboro’s newest physician Jan. 16, following completion of her internal medicine residency at the University of Kansas Medical Center-Wichita, and Kern said the goal of becoming a doctor grew out of a class she took at Valley Center High School.
“It was probably in the high school anatomy dissection lab,” Kern said. “The big picture was that I really liked science, and the idea of combining science with people seemed like a good plan for me.”
While the biology class was instrumental in shaping her career goals, Kern credited another science teacher who helped to keep her excited and motivated.
“I had a wonderful chemistry teacher in high school who was a positive influence, and was a great teacher as well,” Kern said.
The plan first took Kern to Friends University, where she was a pre-med biology student with a minor in chemistry, graduating in 2002. She took an emergency medical technician course her senior year and worked in the emergency department at St. Francis Hospital, an experience which shaped her thoughts about a direction for her medical studies.
“I initially went into medical school thinking I wanted to be an ER physician,” Kern said.
Kern was accepted to Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, and upon completion of four years there, landed an emergency medicine residency at St. John’s Medical Center in Tulsa, through the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.
Halfway through her second year at St. John’s, Kern realized she wanted ongoing relationships with patients that emergency medicine did not give her.
“I loved it, it was fun, it was exciting,” Kern said. “But I wanted to know what happened to the patients after they left, so I decided to make a career change and come back to internal medicine.”
The change in direction wasn’t difficult for Kern, as her first year of residency in Tulsa to prepare her for emergency room work was focused on internal medicine. She secured a new residency close to home in internal medicine through KUSM-Wichita.
Kern came to HCH in January for the opportunity to practice her skills and earn some extra money covering the emergency room on weekends.
“I started out moonlighting here in the ER, and I really enjoyed working with the hospital staff a lot,” Kern said.
The feeling was mutual.
“The staff really loved her professionalism, her kind manner toward staff and patients, and their ability to learn and grow professionally from her,” HCH Chief Executive Officer Cheri Barton said.
They liked Kern so well conversations began about Kern becoming a regular member of the Hillsboro medical community.
“There were continued conversations, and through those conversations, understanding more about what was going on, the needs, and some of the things I could help do, I became excited about what I could do, and it became the frontrunner of my options.” Kern said.
“I’m looking forward to working with Cheri Barton. I think she’s very good at what she does, and I think we have a lot of the same ideas about the potential here to help the hospital and clinic grow significantly,” Kern said.
Hillsboro offers the perfect fit for her desired style of practice, Kern said.
“The small town atmosphere, the relationships make it more comfortable with the physician, so that I can provide more individually-oriented health care, treating the whole person, which provides a lot better outcomes in the long run,” Kern said.
Kern said the majority of her practice will concentrate on using what she called “evidence-based, formal medicine,” but in her quest to be responsive to patient needs she is open to including alternative approaches when appropriate.
“I’m a great believer nontraditional sectors of medicine can be beneficial for several things,” Kern said. “Do I practice them specifically? No. Could I recommend them? Yes.”
Women represented roughly half of all medical school graduates in 2009-10, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, but Kern said she has found some people are still getting used to the idea of female doctors.
“I’ve had a lot of people enjoy the fact that I’m a female physician,” Kern said. “It’s about half and half. I’m here to show them a female can be just as great.”
Kern is looking forward to the possibilities her upcoming move to Hillsboro will provide.
“I find it a great challenge and look forward to being a part of the potential rewarding outcome,” Kern said. “I think there are a lot of good things happening to fill the voids and bring a lot of the community back to Hillsboro for their health care. I’m excited to be a part of that.”
“We are very pleased to have Dr Kern joining us,” Barton said. “She’s going to bring a lot of energy and new ideas, which hopefully bring new services to the Hillsboro community.
“We want to have our clinic open and accessible to the public, and make transitions to our clinic as patient-friendly as possible,” Barton said.