Diane Bueker, pediatric cardiac sonographer, wanted 2 things as a teenager: to work in the medical field and volunteer with the Peace Corps. At age 16, Diane achieved her first goal when she began working for a private practice surgeon. But being part of a service opportunity that changed lives took a lot longer to accomplish.
“My mom said no to the Peace Corps, so off to The University of Akron I went,” Diane said. “Not only was I the first one in my family to graduate from college, but I attended UA at a thrilling time. Our football team went to the Pioneer Bowl in 1976, finishing as the national runner-up. I was a UA cheerleader during the excitement.”
Diane’s career at Akron Children’s was a series of serendipitous events. She started at a private pediatric practice in Barberton, which later became Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics (ACHP) Barberton. Eventually, Diane moved to Children’s heart center where she had multiple opportunities to travel to Haiti and care for Haitian pediatric heart patients, accomplishing her teenage dream to provide support to people in need.
After 25 years at Children’s, Diane retires on July 1. She plans to travel extensively with her husband, who is retiring on the same day, attend concerts and cruises to see her favorite band, Train, and enjoy her family and friends. Someday, she may even volunteer again as a cuddler rocking babies in Children’s NICU.
Have you always worked in the same department and role?
I worked as a medical assistant at the Barberton ACHP for 4 years before joining pediatric cardiology in the same role. Eighteen months later, the department director suggested I become a cardiac sonographer, or echocardiographer as we’re sometimes called. I liked the idea. My echo co-workers taught me the art of ultrasound to help our cardiologists diagnose heart problems in patients. I’ve loved every moment of this job because I’m constantly learning!
What have your biggest contributions been while here?
My life came full circle when I traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on a cardiac mission trip after the 2010 earthquake. I was doing something I’d always wanted to do. We worked with Father Rick Frechette, founder of St. Damien Pediatric Hospital, seeing patients who had traveled for hours with their families. I saw heart defects there I’ve never seen before.
I feel fortunate to have been able to make a difference to Haitian children, as well as my patients at Children’s. It’s very humbling.
How has Children’s changed since you started here?
I joined pediatric cardiology during its growth period. We had 3 cardiologists at Children’s, who were then joined by a surgical team that helped to start the hospital’s heart center in 2001. Numerous programs and services were also established, such as fetal cardiology and an adult congenital heart service. Congenital heart defects are the most common birth defects and the heart center has helped hundreds of children and adults live healthier, fuller lives.
The technology we use, an echocardiogram, has also improved dramatically, allowing us to see clearer pictures than we could 20 years ago.
What gave you the most satisfaction at work?
Being part of Children’s many team-building activities and meeting other employees. It’s allowed me to participate in community events, including the Pro Football Hall of Fame Grand Parade in Canton, the Greater Akron Heart Walk and zoo night. At work, I organized events to coincide with cardiovascular professionals week, which included fun games to support comradery.
What are your most memorable or happiest moments?
When I ultrasound younger kids and sense they’re scared, I always try to reassure them. I let them touch the gel and hold the device we use. Or I play with them a little and let them pick out a movie to watch until they trust me to start the exam. With older kids after I finish their echo, I tell them, “Well, it’s official. You’ve been slimed!” I first heard that from a 10-year-old girl, who told me the gel felt like slime. I asked her how she knew. She said she was on Nickelodeon once and “got slimed”! I’ve used the slime line ever since!
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Any day that I’m at the beach.
Do you have any advice for people just starting at Children’s?
Begin each day with a grateful heart. It will show in your work and to the patients and their families you help.
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