A Legacy of Health
August 2019 Issue
by Cynthia Robinson
Photography by Mike Force Photography
For St. Simons Island nurse practitioner Lauren Koncul, her path to a healthcare career began in childhood. “I grew up in a family where a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating were important. Nothing we ate came out of a box. We ate fresh whole food and sat down to eat as a family,” said Lauren, who was born in Atlanta but moved to Savannah with her family as a child. “My brother, Brendan, and I learned to cook at a very early age and helped our mom with the catering business she ran. We were also physically active.”
This conscious healthy lifestyle, combined with having a father who was a perfusionist —the professional who runs the heart/lung machine during open heart surgery—moved Lauren to know, as a child, she would choose a career in healthcare. “I always wanted to take care of people. When I was a teenager, my father would take me along to observe surgery. I loved it.”
She chose nursing because of the diversity it offers. “There are so many things you can do in nursing, and I knew it could provide a great future.”
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the Medical College of Georgia, Lauren went to work in the operating room at Candler Hospital in Savannah. “I worked there two years before I was recruited to work in an outpatient surgery center in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. That’s when I found my niche. I was able to really get to know our patients and went through the whole process with them, from consultation through recovery to discharge.”
After working another 10 years as an RN, Lauren and her family moved to St. Simons for her husband David’s job as a consultant for a medical device company. The move gave Lauren the chance to return to school and become a nurse practitioner.
“I really like the role of nurse practitioner, because we have a little more autonomy and get to work so closely with our patients and physicians. We are part of the decision-making team. It’s also a field with a lot of stability, especially with the shortage of physicians.”
Lauren is part of the medical team at the Golden Isles Center for Plastic Surgery (Dr. Diane Bowen) and its sister company, Centered on Wellness. At the plastic surgery practice, Lauren administers Botox and other fillers, as well as Sclerotherapy (a procedure to eliminate varicose and spider veins), and other non-surgical rejuvenation treatments. “Botox remains very popular, and Fractora is a popular micro needling treatment for everything from acne, to fine lines, scaring, to deeper wrinkles.”
In her role at Centered on Wellness, she offers wellness services, including weight management and bio-identical hormone replacement therapy. “I love working with patients to help achieve their goals,” said Lauren. “Treatments are tailored specifically for a patient’s needs and what they want to achieve. We want to prevent disease and help patients feel good. With bio-identical hormone balancing, we use plant-based sources based on each patient’s lab values. It is a more natural approach to achieve symptom relief and optimum wellness.
“IV nutrient therapy is a new trend, especially in this area. Our patients are excited about it. Based on a thorough evaluation, we look at diet, lifestyle and do blood work to see if a patient has any nutritional deficiencies. Many people have gut issues that prevent the absorption of nutrients. This therapy bypasses the GI tract, getting nutrients directly into the bloodstream. It can be used by anybody for general health, for athletes to optimize performance and people with chronic illnesses to boost their immune system.”
“Working in both roles allows me to take my interests in treating the body on the inside and outside and meld them together to give patients a feeling of overall well-being. Everyone wants to get to a healthy weight, have increased energy, glowing skin and shiny hair.”
Another thing she loves about her job is the flexibility it gives her. “Working part-time gives me the opportunity to work and be the mom I want to be. When I worked in surgery, that was hard. Thank goodness I had and still have an amazing support system, my family. David is so supportive, and my parents in Bluffton, S.C., and in-laws in Savannah are also very helpful. It’s a team effort.”
That team effort includes involving their children, Natalie, Luke and Clair, in meal planning and preparation and staying active together. “We cook as a family pretty much every day. The kids help me make dinner all the time. It makes it fun and sparks their interest in food. I’m lucky they love everything from vegetables and fruit to, yes, some junk food,” she laughed. “They love taco nights and making pizza together. My son has always cooked and is an avid pancake maker. My little one always asks for spaghetti and meatballs. My oldest daughter is obsessed with making smoothies and likes to go on Pinterest for recipes, usually desserts. They had a bake-off the other day. Now that was fun!”
Other family fun includes “getting outside in this beautiful area we live in as often as possible. We really love going to East Beach, the pool, and hanging out around the Pier Village. We ride bikes and take walks together as a family.” Lauren is also a devoted runner. And although she enjoys taking long solo runs to unwind, she’s passing that love onto her children. “My oldest two sometimes join me on runs around the neighborhood, and we do the annual Dolphin Day Race together.”
Lauren said a healthy lifestyle is so important for everyone. “As a society, I think we’ve been so busy, we’ve put ourselves on the back burner and been overcome with stress. More people are realizing they need to take care of themselves and pay attention to what their bodies need, like regular exercise and a healthy diet. We need to work more on preventing disease instead of treating problems. Hopefully, prevention is the wave of the future.”
Family: David and Lauren have been married 14 years. Daughter Natalie is 10; Luke is 8; and Clair, 4; also, parents William and Denise Sweeney; and older brother, Brendan.
Professional Memberships: Sigma Theta Tau (nursing honor society), the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and the Georgia Board of Nursing.
School Mom: “Outside of work, I’m just a mom,” she laughed. Lauren frequently volunteers at her children’s school. “Our little one will be starting pre-K. It is a little bittersweet.”
Happy Surprise: “We were so excited when we moved here and joined St. William Catholic Church to discover Monsignor (John) Kenneally was pastor. He was the priest at the school David went to in Savannah. He also married us and christened all three of our children. He’s like family.