Welcome, Dr. Lawlor, New physician settling in, feeling at home

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Dr. Donna Lawlor, pictured above with Linda Monore, registered nurse and clinic manager, is Elkader’s newest physician.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

Don’t waste your breath trying to sell Dr. Donna Lawlor on the pleasures of living in Northeast Iowa: She was sold long before she started practicing medicine here in mid-August.

“I met some people who grew up in Elkader and they talked about it like it was the center of the universe,” Dr. Lawlor said. “So while camping at Backbone (State Park) in 2008, I came here and drove by the hospital and drove around town and thought, ‘This is a great place. I’d loved to finish out my career here.’ So nobody needs to convince me this is a wonderful place to live and practice. I already feel that way.”

Dr. Lawlor bought a house near Elgin in 2010 but waited until her twin 18-year-old daughters were ready for college before making the move to this area. Her daughters started school at the University of Denver this fall.

Dr. Lawlor replaces Elkader physician Ken Zichal, who retired September 30 after nearly 40 decades practicing medicine here. She sees patients at the Medical Associates clinics in Elkader and Monona, and also at Central Community Hospital.

Raised near Chicago, Dr. Lawlor graduated from the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford in 1989. She purposefully chose the school for its rural health program. After completing a residency in family practice in the Chicago area, she practiced medicine for six years in northeast Illinois. When her daughters were 18-months-old, she returned to the Rockford area to be closer to family and also to teach in the residency program where she trained. She spent 13 years there.

Dr. Lawlor’s next stop was an immediate care facility in Illinois. After two-plus years there, she was ready to relocate to Elkader.

Just a few weeks into the job, Dr. Lawlor was introduced to the wider community at a meet-and-greet event at J-N-J Pizza in Elkader. Dozens of people took advantage of the chance to introduce themselves to the town’s newest physician. Dr. Lawlor admits she was overwhelmed by the reception she received.

“I’ve never experienced anything like that welcome,” she said. “People have a lot of pride in Elkader and there’s such a community spirit of helping each other as well as a commitment to keeping the hospital and clinic going.”

The expertise of the hospital staff is equally impressive. Her second day on the job, Dr. Lawlor saw first-hand the teamwork of the paramedics and EMS crew during a medical emergency.

While a rural hospital and clinic doesn’t have all of the resources available at a big city facility, Dr. Lawlor said that’s less of a concern than it was 20 or 25 years ago. Technology provides a connectedness that enables doctors in different locations to discuss diagnoses and treatment options. Offsetting any challenges is the reward of really getting to patients.

Dr. Lawlor acknowledges that she has big shoes to fill but she’s confident she’ll get there.

“I’m in this for the long haul,” she said, referring to her commitment to practice in Elkader. “I was meant to practice in a small town. People have always said that to me, and I’ve known it, as well. This is where I belong.”

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