by Derrick Vander Waal
SIOUX CENTER, IOWA – Roleen Walgenbach has a passion for reaching out to the medically underserved in a community health setting.
She has dedicated her career to it.
Walgenbach has cared for patients for over three decades on the Leech Lake Reservation in rural northern Minnesota – first as a public health nurse and later as a nurse practitioner. During that time, she has served for Leech Lake Reservation Health Division and Cass Lake Indian Hospital. She has experience in both in the clinical and administrative settings.
So, Walgenbach will fit right in as she begins her service at Promise Community Health Center in Sioux Center as a part-time nurse practitioner. She will fill in when Promise’s other providers are on vacation and other times that she is available as she divides her time between living in Iowa and Minnesota. In addition to seeing regular patients, Walgenbach will conduct Department of Transportation physicals for commercial motor vehicle operators.
Serving at Promise will be a homecoming of sorts for her.
Walgenbach also served previously at Promise as a part-time provider from April 2010 to July 2012 while helping her family care for her mother, who was a lifelong resident of Hospers, in the final years of her life.
“Promise is offering such a needed service to the community, and I am thrilled to be able to participate in its mission,” she said.
Nancy Dykstra, executive director for Promise, is ecstatic to have Walgenbach return to Promise to serve as a provider on the locum basis.
“She’s great. This is a gal who’s one of the finest public health practitioners you’re going to find,” Dykstra said, noting Walgenbach’s years of Indian Health Services experience in public health hospital and primary care settings. “She has a heart of compassion to serve the medically underserved. She fits so well at Promise because her heart is to care for the people who need our services the most. And she does a fine job of that.”
Fulfilling the mission of reaching out to the underserved has been Walgenbach’s dream ever since she was a child. Back then, she envisioned being a missionary in a developing country. She read and reread Tom Dooley’s books that described his work as a physician in Laos and Vietnam many times.
“I think that influenced my choice of becoming a nurse,” she said.
Walgenbach earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1971. She then worked as a nurse at various location in Wisconsin for many years, sandwiched around earning a master’s degree in liturgical studies from Notre Dame University of South Bend, IN, in 1977.
Her foray into a community, public health setting began in 1984 when she assumed the senior nurse officer role for Leech Lake Reservation Health Division. Her experience in that capacity ran the gamut from providing home visits for personal care to grant writing as a means to enlarge the general health services of the community, but she found personal care “more invigorating.”
After 10 years working as a public health nurse, she decided to take that personal care a step further by becoming a nurse practitioner.
Walgenbach, who previously received a second master’s degree in public health from the University of Minnesota of Minneapolis in 1991, went on to earn post-master’s degrees from Winona State University of Rochester, MN, as an adult nurse practitioner in 1995 and family nurse practitioner in 1997. She then put those to use by serving as a provider in various capacities on the Leech Lake Reservation.
She now looks forward to caring for patients at Promise. Her first day will be Friday, May 19.
“Promise is an example of really good health care in the medical home model,” Walgenbach said. “It provides a one-stop center focus, offering dental, mental health, vision and auditory health care as well. It is truly an oasis. It is an honor to work here.”
She also is pleased with how effectively Promise is reaching the community’s increasingly diverse ethnic composition.
“Promise is a microcosm of the celebration of diversity,” she said. “It is a community health center and so serves the community, making sure that health-care needs are provided in both English and Spanish.”
Walgenbach loves caring for people throughout their entire lifespan.
“At this time in my life, I really like making connections with people and working as a partner with the patient in restoring and maintaining health,” she said.
Promise Community Health Center of Sioux Center is the only Federally Qualified Health Center serving the far northwest corner of Iowa. Promise provides medical, prenatal, dental, vision and behavioral health services. To learn more, visit www.promisechc.org and watch this video.
MORE ABOUT ROLEEN:
Promise Community Health Center will begin offering Department of Transportation physicals for commercial motor vehicle operators as a new service.
Nurse Practitioner Roleen Walgenbach, who is a certified medical examiner for CMV drivers, will provide the DOT physicals 8 a.m.-5 p.m. the first and third Fridays of every month. In addition, she will offer the service any other times she is seeing patients at Promise on a part-time basis.
To make an appointment, call 712-722-1700.