Purdue Profiles: Maureen Panares

April 3, 2012

Maureen Panares, director of the student health center at Purdue Calumet, performs a blood pressure check. (Photo provided)

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Maureen Panares has dedicated her career to helping maintain and improve university students' health despite their often harried, hectic lives. As director of the student health center at Purdue Calumet, Panares is the main nurse practitioner for the facility. It sees between 40 and 60 student patients each week.

How did you become interested in practicing medicine?

I always knew I wanted to be a nurse, and the nurse practitioner role really was evolving as I went to school, so I decided to go that route. I really like the fact that the nurse practitioner profession involves both nursing and medicine. We are nurses and not medical doctors, but we practice in both of the sciences. It makes it a very interesting practice.

In 1999, I graduated from Rush University in Chicago, and then I worked there in internal medicine for a couple of years. After that, I ran the student health center at Valparaiso University until 2006. That's when the Purdue Calumet clinic opened and I became its director.

What are your day-to-day tasks at the clinic?

I am the director of the entire clinic and I'm also a provider who sees patients. My work is very carefully divided between those two roles, but I do prefer patient care to administrative work. I am the main practitioner at the clinic. We have a consulting physician and a faculty nurse practitioner, who joins us twice a week, but I see the majority of the patients.

We tend to see patients of a wide age range -- people from age 18 to 50 to everywhere in between. Since PUC enrolls students from a much broader range of incomes and lifestyles, I believe our university-based clinic is a direct reflection of the community we work in -- perhaps less like what would be a typical college-based practice. I think this enhances the University's wide appeal to potential students.

What sort of services does the clinic provide?

We function as a primary care center, so our work includes treating chronic conditions, screening for conditions and things like that. The way the Calumet campus works, there's a $20 flat fee for patients to be seen and cared for.

The fee covers any minor lab work as well as, for example, a follow-up appointment to see how a prescription might be working out. It's a lot more affordable this way for students, especially when they're looking at whether they want to address an issue such as hypertension.

What's your favorite part about your job?

I particularly enjoy working with Calumet campus students, who tend to be really hard-working people. By that, I mean they tend to work and go to school. Most of our students have family responsibilities, too; most of them are parents. Many of them are a major contributor to the household income. They're highly motivated, usually very intelligent people. It's a pleasure to take care of them because they're so impressive in what they do.

What other professional work do you do?

Because I have a general interest in the medically underserved, I also work a couple of times each week in the Gary Community Health Net, which is a group of clinics in this area that treat and see those in need. Our patients are uninsured or underinsured.

I think the most important thing about a public health practice is that when you see a patient, you need to understand the medical risks and the types of problems they're most likely to encounter living in the arena that they live in. At Purdue Calumet, for example, our students are far more likely to have neglected medical needs. If they don't get preventative care, there's a likelihood that we'll have to see them for a problem later down the road. That's where you get a lot of satisfaction -- helping a medically vulnerable person care for a problem, so that problem doesn't become even larger in the future.