A Tuscarora native arrived in Haiti Wednesday as part of Project Medishare's Earthquake Relief effort to provide medical care to earthquake victims.
Dr. Paul Vanek, who operates a private plastic surgery practice in Mentor, Ohio, has joined the medical response team and is reportedly stationed at a medical facility near the airport, where he is attending to the medical and health care needs of earthquake survivors from Port-au-Prince.
Vanek volunteered for the humanitarian cause in order to lend his skills where the need is greatest. In doing so, he is taking time away from his private practice.
The action didn't surprise family members, who say Vanek is a caring individual.
"He's always been a good, kind person," says his mother, Maureen Coleman Vanek. His father is Paul Vanek, Sr.
Those who've known Vanek for years attest to his devotion to others. In fact, it was a childhood friend Sen. David G. Argall, R-29 who was instrumental in gaining official clearance for Vanek to make the trip without delay.
Vanek had been encountering difficulty in securing clearance. Argall's intervention allowed Vanek to proceed.
Vanek is an Eagle Scout with Tamaqua Troup 76, and Argall noted his lifetime of dedication to those values.
"Dr. Vanek is a friend since the 1970s," noted Argall. "I helped him to become an Eagle Scout, and I was so proud to hear of his willingness to help the injured in Haiti. I immediately contacted one of the officers of the Pennsylvania Red Cross on his behalf, and I'm pleased to see that he is still living up to the 'help other people at all times' part of the Scout oath, three decades later."
Maureen Vanek said the family is grateful to Argall for his assistance.
"He was fantastic. Paul had clearance within an hour and left from Miami."
Vanek was joined on the trip by another physician from Cleveland and two nurses.
"He expects to be there for a week to 10 days," said his mother.
Much preparation was done before the actual trip, she noted.
"Before he left, he want to pharmacies and purchased items he'd need. He also asked the pharmacies for donations of medical supplies. And he contacted his brother Patrick to see if Patrick's company could help, too."
Patrick Vanek is vice president of Otsuka Pharmaceuticals in Frederick, Md.
Paul Vanek is a 1981 graduate of Tamaqua Area High School. There, he served as president of his class, band president and was active with school sports. He participated in wrestling and set a record in cross-country competition.
He earned a four-year Magill-Rhodes scholarship to Haverford College, Philadelphia, and furthered his studies at the University of Rochester. He completed his Fellowship in Plastic Surgery at the University of Michigan.
Vanek is married to the former Kristine Kuziora of Dunkirk, NY.