Karl Bausler, a clinician who has worked for the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium for nearly 10 years, has been named the Indian Health Service Medical Provider of the Year.
He received the award last month in San Diego, Calif.
The award nomination cited not only Bausler's medical practice but also his involvement with dozens of search and rescue operations and with clients of the Glory Hole homeless shelter and the high school-based teen clinic. The nomination also said he is "credited with saving the lives of several stranded hikers and injured persons in remote areas."
Bausler was modest about the national honor.
"It's been a privilege to work for SEARHC, and a lot of the award is as much SEARHC's as it is mine," he said. "I couldn't have the participation in the community without their support."
"We have a lot of fine physicians and physician's assistants, but he is extraordinary in his outside involvement," said SEARHC medical director Dr. Douglas Smith.
"It would be hard to imagine someone who makes more of this time and resources," Smith wrote in his nomination.
Bruce Bowler, coordinator of the Southeast Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Search, said Bausler "has been pivotal in the survival of a number of people. ... With the women lost on Mount McGinnis (in October 1997), he was on scene when Rhonda Reed went flatline on us, and he and Steve Lewis brought her back."
Choosing medicine as a career grew naturally out of a combination of learning first aid in Boy Scouts, an experience in his youth, and his family's influence, Bausler said.
"My mom was a nurse and my father was in medical school until he got drafted into the Army in the 1950s," he said. "And when I was about 17 I was very much involved in rock climbing and went on a climbing trip with a large group in the Bavarian Alps. One individual fell. I felt a lot of frustration in watching a colleague die and not knowing what to do."
When Bausler hitchhiked to Alaska in 1975, it was love at first sight. "The thing I liked particularly about Southeast Alaska was that my first love was the Bavarian Alps, and in addition to mountains it had the saltwater environment and lots of outdoor activity possibilities year-round."
He worked his way through school as a carpenter, plumber and electrician. An emergency medical training class required five hours in an emergency room.
"I liked it so much that I got a permanent job as an EMT volunteer," Bausler said.
He did part of his training at Stanford, and eventually graduated as both a family nurse practitioner and a physician's assistant. After medical school, he worked in rural health in New Mexico for three years. Then he served an emergency-medicine residency for two years in Los Angeles.
His wife, Katie, is a reporter for Channel 2 during the legislative session. The couple has two children, Kaitlyn, 15, and Kanaan, 13.
SEARHC has clinics in Haines and other Southeast Alaska villages. Its hospital is at Sitka. All the facilities are part of the Alaska-area Indian Health Service, with its headquarters in Anchorage. "If patients need a CAT scan, we send them to Sitka. But if they need bone surgery, they go to Anchorage," Bausler said.
His medical colleagues include four full-time and three-part time physicians, three mid-level practitioners like himself, and dentists. He serves in the urgent care side of the clinic.
Bausler works half a day a week at the Teen Health Center, which he helped found in 1993, and half a day at Wildflower Court, where he manages SEARHC-eligible patients. At the teen health center he does everything from sports physicals to acute care to looking at sore throats.
He tries to run a screening clinic at the Glory Hole once a week. He does trainings one Saturday a month with the Juneau Mountain Rescue Team. He volunteers with the Ski Patrol at Eaglecrest Ski Area from December to April. He coordinates avalanche training for the Ski Patrol, state troopers and others.
How does he fit it all in? "I do a little bit all the time," Bausler said. "I enjoy helping people and working with people to help them help themselves. It makes me feel good about myself."
One of his stress relievers is riding his bicycle to work. "It's a good time to have some light exercise and reflect, to put the day in perspective," he said.
Ann Chandonnet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.