BY SUE ERWIN – There’s a new doctor in the house at the Boca Grande Health Clinic. Lauren Hana, M.D., officially began seeing patients on July 11 at the Boca Grande locale and is now a full-time physician on staff, serving patients along with Dr. Jeff Humbarger and Dr. Tom Ervin.
Lauren grew up in the small town of Kankakee, Illinois, about an hour south of Chicago. Her mother was a math and art teacher, and her father managed a country club.
She attended the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, earning an undergraduate degree in biology. She continued on at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago for her M.D. degree. Then she completed her residency at Northwestern University in Evanston and at Glenbrook Hospital.
After her residency, Lauren moved back to Kankakee and was in private practice in general internal medicine for 15 years. She specialized in the treatment of chronic medical conditions in adults, with emphasis on both men’s and women’s health. She is board-certified in internal medicine.
Lauren moved to Florida five years ago when her daughter, Alexandra, decided she wanted to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville.
“That was our excuse to get out of Illinois and escape those cold winters,” she said.
Soon after arriving in Florida, Lauren began working as a hospitalist doing in-patient work in Gainesville. She worked at the University of Florida as a full-time assistant professor and hospitalist physician for five years before coming to this area.
She explained that working as a hospitalist is very demanding, because it requires working for seven days straight and then getting seven days off. She believes the concept for that position probably started around 10 to 15 years ago. It’s a non-traditional practice in which, unlike a primary care physician who sees patients both in the office and while they are in a hospital, she sees patients strictly while they are in the hospital.
“Sometimes they have very complex health issues. Many of them are transplant patients and require specialty care. And then once they get discharged, they go back to seeing their regular doctor. I think it probably came out of necessity for insurance issues to decrease the length of stay in the hospital,” she said.
Her daughter Alexandra, 23, has since graduated from UF and is attending graduate school at George Washington University in Alexandria, Virginia.
“She is studying forensic psychology and trying to figure out just where she would like to work in the future,” she said.
Lauren recalls the move to Florida as being a bit convoluted, because her son Maxwell was a senior in high school at the time and wanted to finish the school year before moving to Florida.
“So he stayed up there with my husband Rick and completed his senior year. I could understand why he wanted to finish high school with his friends. It was a very busy year, and I was traveling a lot back and forth every few weeks to see them,” she said.
Rick and Maxwell moved to Florida that summer.
“We ended up getting a house in Tampa that was in between where the kids were attending school. I was putting a lot of mileage on my car during those few years.
Maxwell is now 22 and lives in the Tampa area, where he works as a service advisor for a car dealership.
Lauren met Rick when she was 13 years old.
“We were high school sweethearts, and we went to the same school as our kids attended. It’s a very small town. We went our separate ways after high school, and several years later we met again at a small bar on New Year’s Eve and exchanged contact information. We’ve been together ever since.”
Lauren’s parents are snowbirds and split their time between their home in Kankakee and their Florida home near Ocala.
Working the position in Gainesville started to take a toll on Lauren. She would stay at her parents’ home in Ocala and travel to her Tampa home every other week when she wasn’t working.
“I really didn’t have a reason to be there anymore, since my daughter was no longer staying in the area. Plus, it was a very difficult job. I was working 12-hour days and working as much in one week as many people do in two. The patients were very sick and it was extremely complex. And driving an hour each way every day was starting to wear on me. That’s when I realized I needed to look for a change,” she said.
She credits fate for landing her current position in Boca Grande.
“In our profession, we receive regular notices from various organizations that are recruiting doctors to work in different areas. I usually delete a majority of them, but something caught my eye when I saw this opportunity, and I thought it sounded interesting, so I asked for more information,” she said.
She had never heard of Boca Grande before and had never visited the area, so she and Rick came down for a casual day’s visit. They took a tour of the clinic given by Patricia Harm, and explored the island.
“John Sielert briefed us on the history of the clinic and a little about the island. I remember it was a beautiful day in February, and we just fell in love with the place,” she said.
After that casual visit, she came back for another interview with Dr. Humbarger, and they soon decided this was a good match.
Lauren had the opportunity to meet the legendary Dr. Hank Wright when she was here for an interview.
“He even told me a couple of jokes when I met him. I realize I have very big shoes to fill,” she said.
Lauren said moving to Boca Grande has been a bit of a culture shock, but in a very good way.
“Coming from Tampa, where there is a streetlight on almost every corner, to not having one in the whole town has been a nice adjustment,” she said. “And everything is so beautiful here. We are enjoying the quiet summer, and we’ve been very busy unpacking and getting organized.”
Lauren and Rick currently reside in Boca Bay. They recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary there. Both of the kids have been down to visit, and both love the island. Alexandra stayed for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
“She really likes it here and said she can’t wait to come back,” Lauren said.
When she is not working, Lauren enjoys walking and riding her bike. She also enjoys collecting shells at the beach.
“I have jars of shells all over my house, and I usually have one in my pocket every day.”
She loves to read but said she hasn’t had much time to do that lately. She also enjoys scrapbooking and is making plans to complete scrapbooks for her family.
“I have totes and totes of memorabilia from when they were growing up. They were both very active kids. Both were involved in sports – baseball and softball traveling leagues.”
Lauren knew she wanted to become a doctor when she was in 7th grade.
“I really enjoyed science as a kid. I can’t see myself in any other profession. Being able to help make a positive difference in people’s lives is truly an honor.”