Written by Brandi Clement
Amy (Ulrich) Meeks graduated from Heartland Community Schools in 1995. After continuing her education, she has spent her working career as a Physician Assistant at Omaha Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.
“I went to PA School thinking I wanted to be in family practice, but I really fell in love with the pace and the high acuity of surgery. Seeing physiology and anatomy come together to make organs run was fascinating, and being able to bring a patient through such a stressful time like cardio thoracic surgery felt very rewarding. I found early I had really good hands in the operating room and developed operating skills easily, so it felt very natural to me,” said Amy. She has been with the Omaha Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery for fifteen years and has operated on a wide range of heart and lung surgeries. In fact, they have also expanded their practice to include innovative procedures such as trans-catheter valve replacements and robotic thoracic cases.
Not only has Amy Meeks spent time in the operating room tending to patients, she also has been teaching the upcoming medical generation. “I take PA students for a 4-week rotation to help expose them to cardiac surgery and educate them on what our work-ups are, what diagnoses we treat, and how to prepare patients for cardio thoracic consultations. I have them scrub alongside me in the OR and develop their surgical skills, especially suturing and handling instruments. I teach dissection skills and assisting skills, as well as anticipation during a case. I also teach how to care for patients post-operatively.” In addition, Amy is a guest lecturer at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the College of St. Mary’s, and has recently contributed to Creighton University’s Physician Assistants Program.
Growing up in Henderson allowed Amy to gain an idea of what being a physician assistant entailed. She was always encouraged to pursue medicine, especially once she became a CNA at the Henderson Nursing Home. “That’s really where my career began. I treat mostly elderly patients and was very comfortable with the patient population because I started there. I received a solid education in Henderson and was surrounded by people with a good work ethic, helping me stay focused.” Amy takes in a lot of patients from small towns, and she’s able to relate to what their lives will look like once they go home. Having been raised in an environment that relies so much on faith has also been one of the great benefits for Amy.
In Amy’s free time, she started a page on Facebook called Working Mommy Fitness. “This page started when I had time to blog, but I wanted to document my own wellness journey. Having a demanding work schedule and raising two young children gave me a little time to work on myself. My husband also travels a good portion of the year for his job at Boys Town, and I didn’t like taking my children from daycare to the gym daycare just so I could workout. I needed to find something I could do at home before work that would be effective, but not take a good portion of time since I need to be at the hospital by 7:00 a.m. in the morning. I started the page after I had so many people ask how I managed my schedule and having that accountability to myself helped me keep it going. It can be hard to always fit in a workout or keep on healthy meal plan, and the community that developed because of it has really been a blessing.”
Out from our little town, Amy has gone on to impact the health of thousands of people through various avenues!
Contact Heartland Beat if you would like to be featured on the Alumni Column or if you would like to know more about a Heartland Community Schools graduate.
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