Katie Rosauer lives her life by a simple maxim:
“How do you know if you like something if you don’t try it?”
She can apply the adage to three gratifying years as a medical scribe—a physician’s personal assistant—at Enloe Medical Center as a biology major fresh out of Chico High School. It equally goes for switching her major to mechanical engineering while at Butte College.
The mantra held true when she earned a prestigious internship at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in summer 2016, designing nuclear and conventional weapons, and when she worked on a collaboration project with the US Air Force that tested nuclear material at the Nevada National Security Site.
Yet, Rosauer didn’t feel she had found her calling.
“It wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she said. “I really wanted to make a difference helping people.”
Rosauer transferred to Chico State in spring 2017, enrolling as a mechanical engineering major. But after watching a 60 Minutes segment in which Duke University researchers were injecting the polio virus inside brain tumors as a way to fight them, a return to the medical field beckoned.
“I thought, ‘I want to do that,’” she said. “I wanted to research and figure things out and help people, even if it’s behind the scenes.”
Buoyed by a friend’s suggestion, she switched majors to exercise physiology. Rosauer dove right in, joining Chico State’s Pre-Medical Association and, like always, performed extremely well in her classes. Kinesiology professor Jack Azevedo right away noticed she had a special spark.
“She’s a superior student, and I could see the passion,” he said. “When she told me about her internship at Livermore, I thought, ‘Holy Toledo.’ I knew then she’d come to us with some horsepower, intelligence, and work ethic.”
For Rosauer, studying courses for the exercise physiology major “was the reality to a dream, a major that incorporated human-based core sciences, psychology, biomechanics, activity courses, and the physiology behind why exercise is so important to overall health and longevity.”
From her first class forward, she knew she was in her element.
“That course captured my heart,” she said. “I knew I was in the right place, studying the right material, for the right reasons.”
Rosauer returned to scribing at Feather River Hospital’s emergency room in spring 2018 and fit right in with its close-knit work culture and sense of community. Then, just as she felt ready to grow roots, the Camp Fire exploded. The hospital was evacuated, significantly damaged, and temporarily closed.
Fueled by her drive to help others, Rosauer and a few coworkers volunteered at the East Avenue Church evacuation shelter. Eighteen-hour work days began piling up as she triaged fire evacuees, provided basic health care, helped displaced residents find clothes, and checked websites to see if homes were still standing.
When the evacuation shelter closed, she and her Feather River coworkers knew there was still important work to be done.
“There were still all of these people with nowhere to go that needed health care,” Rosauer said.
To create that access, she and her colleagues created Medspire, a mobile clinic that would provide free healthcare to alleviate the ongoing medical need in the surrounding area affected by the Camp Fire.
With its home base and a mobile clinic parked in Magalia, Medspire travels to Camp Fire residents who request healthcare through social media, email, or its website, and hosts pop-up clinics. Care has ranged from basic wound changes and wellness checks to treating conjunctivitis and cancer patients.
Rosauer credits Feather River Hospital’s family feel for bringing Medspire together so quickly. Originally funded through a GoFundMe campaign that earned more than $31,000, Medspire now relies solely on grants. MaryLisa Wood, who works in Student Financial Services, volunteers as the lead grant writer, applying for a number of grants, including through the international disaster relief organization Direct Relief, which was an early community supporter after the Camp Fire.
Medspire recently secured its first financial sponsor through the Golden Valley Bank Community Foundation, a $25,000 donation if they reach a goal of $44,000.
Additionally, visitors to the Medspire website can also donate.
Azevedo has also been supportive of the endeavor, having visited Medspire’s first open free clinic in March, and continues to advocate for Rosauer and her tireless, selfless work.
“I think it is important that students see that their instructors care,” he said. “What Katie and her team did is truly impressive. I wanted to see the fruits of her labors.”
Rosauer has been gratified by the outpouring of support from her fellow students, faculty, and the University. Because she was among the hundreds who lost their jobs at Feather River Hospital as a result of the fire, she was eligible to receive financial assistance via the Wildcats Rise Fire Recovery Fund.
She used the grant funds to support her basic needs so that, instead of immediately looking for new employment, she could continue tackling fire victims’ access to health care through Medspire.
“I would not have been able to put my best foot forward to help our community without the support of Chico State,” Rosauer said.
Her ever-present smile and upbeat personality complement the silver-lining outlook she brings to any situation. Later this month, she will become the first in her family to graduate from college, as she earns her bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology.
“To me, being a first-generation student means setting the bar,” Rosauer said. “I am so honored to be the first in my family to graduate from college and truly attending college because I chose to. It’s been a long road, but I wouldn’t change any of it.”
As she wraps up the last few weeks of her undergraduate career, she continues to promote Medspire both as its director of public relations and managing its social media, while also scribing in Oroville Hospital’s dermatology department. Looking to her future, Rosauer is applying to Physician Assistant programs, with hopes to one day become a physician’s assistant, while also pushing Medspire to grow into a template of how organizations can provide disaster relief.
Azevedo has no doubt she’ll succeed wherever she lands, for all of the reasons she’s flourished at Chico State.
“She has the intellect, the drive, and compassion,” Azevedo said. “She’s the complete package.”