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Many aspire to discover their passion, what truly drives them, and pursue it vigorously. Luanne Freer not only found her passion but also turned it into her life's mission: to care for others meaningfully and merge her love for the outdoors with medical service. She not only accomplished this mission but also established a lasting legacy.

Luanne Freer, a board-certified emergency medicine physician and a distinguished "Hero of Emergency Medicine" as recognized by the American College of Emergency Physicians, founded Everest ER. She co-authored the book "Field Guide to Wilderness Medicine" and served as the first female president of the Wilderness Medical Society from 2004-2006. Luanne has a passion for education and continuous improvement of health care systems.  She has a keen ability to problem solve and the ability to see the forest for the trees”.  She is revered as a role model, inspiring many with her dedication to caring for those in need.

Raised on the East Coast, Luanne always knew she wanted to be a doctor. "It felt right to take care of people," she recalls, a sentiment that guided her from a young age and continued to shape her career. Before completing her residency, a faculty mentor pulled her aside and asked, "Luanne, what is your niche?" At that moment, she didn't have a clear answer. However, it was this question that sparked a cascade of exploration, ultimately defining her career path.

Initially, she struggled to see how she could integrate her love for the outdoors with her medical practice. However, after completing her residency, she secured a position at Yellowstone National Park in 1992. It was here that she honed her skills as a physician in the outdoors devising innovative solutions to unique challenges. She remained at Yellowstone until her retirement in 2021.

During this time, she was invited to speak to the Wilderness Medical Society about her experience caring for bear attacks. It was during this event that she received an invitation to join a medical volunteer mission to Nepal in 1999. Luanne developed a deep sense of connection to the Nepali people and felt a strong desire to provide medical care to those in need. In 2002, she returned to Nepal as a volunteer at the Himalayan Rescue Association clinic in Pheriche.

During a day off, she visited Everest Base Camp and observed the pressing need for a clinic staffed with physicians trained specifically for the environment's challenges. Inspired, she conceived the idea of offering competent medical services to climbers and visitors to Everest Base Camp for a nominal fee, with profits funding low cost or free healthcare for the Sherpa. Presenting her proposal to the Himalayan Rescue Association board, Luanne returned in 2003 equipped with a rented tent and supplies to establish and manage the first clinic at Everest Base Camp with the help of her new friend Wongchhu Sherpa.

Wongchhu and Luanne

At Base Camp, Luanne's compassion and nurturing care were invaluable. Beyond treating physical ailments, she attended to climbers' emotional needs, offering comfort and support with cups of tea and a listening ear. The Everest ER has since served thousands of people and celebrated 20 years of service in 2023. Luanne was joined by her Nepali physician colleague to share medical direction of the clinic in 2023. Her hope is to transition all medical direction very soon to her colleague.

Everest ER

Luanne also played a crucial role in establishing the Wongchhu Sherpa Memorial Hospital in 2022, honoring her late friend's dream of bringing healthcare to his village. Collaborating with the Himalayan Yokpu Foundation, she assisted in planning the project and managing international fundraising efforts. She is excited for the next chapter in the story of Everest ER.

Motivated by her drive to help people and provide meaningful care, Luanne notes that "motivation does not decrease as you get older". She expects to continue caring for others well into retirement. She will also continue her advocacy work as a board member for a newly formed organization promoting female empowerment.  

When asked about the personal qualities contributing to her success, Luanne emphasizes "grit" and "motivation". She notes that her determination sets her apart. Encouraging others to adopt a similar mindset, she emphasizes the importance of dependability and fulfilling commitments. To those who are searching for their niche,” Luanne quotes author and philosopher Howard Thurman who advises, “Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

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