Heidi Lakanen, MD, director of IU Health Ball Memorial Physicians Internal Medicine Residency Center and adjunct clinical assistant professor of medicine, has been a key mentor to many learners in Muncie for more than a decade.
"Dr. Lakanen is a passionate teacher at all levels of medical education who tailors developmentally appropriate encounters with learners to help them be their best," said Derron Bishop, MD, associate dean and director, IU School of Medicine-Muncie.
A native of Flint, Michigan, Lakanen knew she wanted to be a doctor at an early age. She would volunteer with the Red Cross, local nursing homes and later in hospitals. In 1987, she earned her bachelor's degree from Hope College in Holland, Michigan. In 1991, she received her medical degree from the University of Michigan, and she completed her internal medicine residency in 1994 at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
"On non-medicine rotations, I always found myself more interested in the disease pathophysiology rather than the procedures. I also was more interested in taking care of the entire patient and found general internal medicine as the best way for me to do that," said Lakanen.
She began her career in 1996, practicing full-spectrum adult medicine at the Upland Health and Diagnostic Center in Upland, Indiana. Her time there was transformative, bringing immediate health care to a small town. She began mentoring learners at all levels-- undergraduates, nurse practitioners, medical students and residents during their outpatient rotation.
Lakanen has a passion for educating future providers, specifically teaching evidence-based medicine and high-value care to residents and medical students. She joined IU School of Medicine in 2010 as a volunteer faculty member in Muncie working with the IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital Internal Medicine Residency program. In this position, she teaches learners while collaborating with the Healthy Living Center at Ball State University.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lakanen had the opportunity to expand telehealth services. She was able to teach residents how to adjust to patients' telemedicine needs while still providing excellent care.
In 2020, Lakanen received the Indiana University Trustees' Teaching Award. A resident who nominated Lakanen recalled how well this valuable mentor prepared her learners.
"I was at a conference during residency attending a lecture on how to be an effective teacher in clinic. They were going over tips and tricks and different scenarios, such as teaching an intern versus a third-year resident. In the middle of the presentation, I realized that all of these tips were strategies Dr. Lakanen employed. It was an 'aha' moment when I realized how amazing a teacher Dr. Lakanen is. I always enjoyed when she would staff our clinic and always appreciated her hard work--she would put together the journal club worksheets. She would send little podcasts on various topics in medicine, health care or residency. But it was at that moment I truly appreciated all of her talents as a teacher. Dr. Lakanen is an all-around awesome person who loves teaching residents and has a passion for providing the best primary care. My residency program and I are lucky to have her as a teacher, and we are better doctors because of her," the resident wrote.
In 2019, Lakanen received the Laureate Award from the Indiana Chapter of the American College of Physicians. She is currently completing an American College of Physicians Fellowship (FACP). The FACP is a mark of distinction representing the pinnacle of integrity, professionalism and scholarship for those who pursued a career in internal medicine.
Lakanen shares this advice for medical students and physicians in training:
"Learn to do what you're passionate about, and do it well. Always put the patient first, and realize what a privilege it is to be a physician.”
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
Jordan Lapsley is a Communications Assistant for Indiana University School of Medicine’s Faculty Affairs, Professional Development, and Diversity.