Alumni Relations

Laura Ballou

Laura (Kokoski) BallouEmily Hart
Alaska Center for Natural Medicine
Integrative Nurse Practitioner

A.S. '08 - Nursing
B.G.S. '04 - General Studies

Q: How has your degree been beneficial to you and your career?
A: My initial degree at IPFW was a Bachelor in General Studies. I knew I wanted to go into the medical field, and I was thinking either med school, or a physicians assistant program at the time. My advisor recommended a BGS as this would give me flexibility in my class choices as a chance to "stand out" from everyone else who had degrees in biology or chemistry. I was accepted into a PA program six months before graduation, but due to unexpected life circumstances, I had to stop before I even started. A couple of years later, I had a chance to return to IPFW to pursue a degree in nursing, which I planned to further pursue into a MSN. As I had already earned a BGS, the school I went to for my MSN allowed my to go straight into that program without needed two more years of nursing school, which was great! I had already taken so many diverse classes with the BGS they felt I could jump right into the program.

Q: How did you become interested in the medical field?
A: I had been interested in the medical field my entire life, but never knew exactly what I wanted to do. I had tossed around the idea of going back to school for years, but life and kids happened and the time was never right. After 9/11 happened, I had a moment of awakening and knew the time was then to go back to college, and I haven't stopped learning since. I worked at Parkview as a Unit Assistant, then once in nursing school I was in their student nurse program, and after graduation worked in both the NICU and the ICU while I completed my masters. 

Q: What is the best career advice you were given?
A: Be flexible and don't give up. Just because you are set on a certain path, it doesn't mean it will turn out that way in the end. Roadblocks are there for a reason, and often they have a way of getting you turned around in the right direction that you may not have even considered.

Q: Was there anyone during your time at IPFW who acted as a mentor to you??
A: Prof. Bill Bruening, who worked as my advisor and recommended the BGS program for me and made a huge impact on me in his Medical Ethics course and Prof. Paul Provost, who gave me a love for anthropology and specifically his Medical and Psychological Anthropology that served me so well working with diverse cultures in Unalaska for three years.

Q: What course(s) have you found to be most valuable in your professional life?
A: Professionally, all of my nursing classes were valuable as a foundation for my career. As a balance, anthropology and philosophy were invaluable in teaching me that there are many ways to approach a situation and that every culture thinks their way is "right." Just being aware of that has so many implications and benefits in life no matter what career a person pursues.

Q: What would be your advice to someone who is considering IPFW?
A: IPFW offers so many choices that even if you have no idea what you want to do with your life, there are people there who will help you figure it out- the most important thing for you is to have the motivation to start, and the perseverance to finish even if you don't know where you are going just yet. Life is busy, but you can make time. I worked full-time, had three kids at home, and still managed to go to college full time, including summer, so that I could graduate sooner. It wasn't easy, but looking back, my kids all tell me watching me do that is a huge part of what motivates them in school and college now. They know he easy they have it in comparison as they don't have kids and are not working.

Q: What advice would you give to a current IPFW student?
A: Whether you are an adult learner or just out of high school, it's all about balance. There needs to be a balance between studying and rest, work and play, family and friends, and life in general. There may be times when you can take a full course load, and times when you can't. College isn't easy, but most things that make you a better person aren't easy. If you are struggling, there is always someone there to help, whether a classmate, a tutor, instructor, whatever. Don't be afraid to ask for help and don't give up.

Q: Do you have a favorite and/or funny story about your time at IPFW?
A: My favorite story from IPFW was when I walked outside after taking a stressful exam and found that a temporary building of sorts had been erected in the middle of the lawn- I saw the sign for sky diving simulation and I was immediately excited. They had just opened, and the line was short so I was able to get right in and it was amazing! I never expected to have an adrenaline rush like that in between classes.

Q: What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
A: Personally, my greatest accomplishment is raising three fantastic kids. My oldest is studying Elementary Education, my next oldest starts a Welding program this fall, and my youngest is a sophomore in high school. All three are amazing! Professionally, I am very proud of the medical provider I have become both through my experiences in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, AK where I dealt with everything from normal cough/colds and preventative exams to heart attacks, stroke, automobile accidents, amputations, etc. and now as an Integrative Practitioner when I incorporate the best of modern medicine with supplements, nutrition, and exercise to help my patients feel their best. 

Q: Where do you hope to be in 10 years?
A: In ten years I hope to have established a solid medical practice here in Fairbanks, AK with diverse patients who I have established a two way relationship with. I see my role as someone to help educate people on their choices and approaches to health, and as their partner in becoming and staying healthy.

Q: How would you like to be remembered?
A: As someone who did their best to make a positive difference in the lives of everyone she met.