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Sanford lab tech honored for service

Shari Fankhanel was honored recently for 40 years as a lab technician with MeritCare and Sanford Health.

A lot of things in the medical field have changed since lab technician Shari Fankhanel first began working for MeritCare — now Sanford Health — in Moorhead.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes in 40 years,” says Fankhanel, who has been employed by Sanford’s Detroit Lakes clinic since 2010.

Besides the structural, organizational and name changes in Sanford Health itself, the lab technician field has become “a lot more mechanized,” she says.

For one thing, technicians need to draw a lot less blood from patients to get a viable sample.

“The blood draw is minimal now,” she says. “And the testing itself is a lot easier too.”

For instance, Fankhanel said, when she started, blood sugar tests could only be done by boiling the specimen first.

Safety has become a lot more of a concern too, she added.

“When I started we didn’t wear gloves at all,” Fankhanel said. “Now you have to, all the time — for our protection, and for the patients’ as well.”

But one thing that hasn’t changed, she says, is the people.

“It’s always been a fun group of people to work with here,” added Fankhanel, referring to her colleagues in both Moorhead and Detroit Lakes.

The Henning, Minn., native graduated from high school there before taking the medical lab technician course at Alexandria Technical College.

“Then I worked at St. Mary’s (in Detroit Lakes) for three years, in the hospital lab,” she said.

After marrying Vergas native Peter Fankhanel and moving to Moorhead, she started working for MeritCare in 1973.

“I’ve been with them ever since,” she said.

And despite having been employed in the same field for 40 years now, Fankhanel said, she has no intention of retiring soon.

“I still enjoy it,” she says. “I genuinely enjoy getting up and coming to work in the morning.”

Fankhanel was honored Wednesday by Sanford for 40 years of service. The celebration included cake, the presentation of a special plaque, and of course, flowers — though they were presented in unique fashion, arranged in a collection of colorful test tubes.

“It’s beautiful,” she said of the floral arrangement.

Fankhanel said the biggest part of what makes her job so enjoyable is the people — both her fellow staff members, and the patients.

“And I enjoy helping people find out what’s wrong, what’s going on inside,” she added.

Another reason why she still loves her work, Fankhanel said, is that she doesn’t have to do it full time.

“I’ve been part time for most of the 40 years I’ve been with Sanford,” she said. “I work three days a week. That also helps keep it (the work) fresh.”

And it also leaves plenty of time for her to enjoy outdoor pursuits with her husband, Peter, who retired from his job as a special procedure x-ray technician in MeritCare’s cardio-cath lab six years ago.

“He was there for 33 years,” she said.

When he retired, the couple retired to their house on Loon Lake near Vergas, adding on to the structure to make it their permanent home.

“I commuted to Moorhead for three years, then there was an opening here in Detroit Lakes, so I took it,” she said.

The shorter commute allows Fankhanel even more time to spend with her husband and family, which includes son Josh, his wife Steph and their twin daughters, Avery and Elli, who are now 3½ years old. Though they live in Moorhead, they are frequent visitors to the couple’s Vergas home.

“We enjoy fishing, hunting and gardening,” she said. “We have plenty of time to do that and enjoy the grandkids too.”

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

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