Community mourns loss of Dr. Vanek, honors his service
Atwater residents and members of the local health care community are mourning the loss of Dr. Edward Vanek.
Dr. Vanek — who came to Merced County as a much-needed orthopedic surgeon and later became a medical adviser to the City of Atwater during the pandemic of 2020 — passed away on Oct. 12 after an eight-week battle with the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus. He was 63.
With decades of experience in the medical field, Vanek operated a private practice in Atwater known asAdvanced Orthopedics. He was also affiliated with Mercy Medical Center Merced.
Family members say there has been an outpouring of emotions and kind words from community members who have visited Vanek’s medical offices in recent days.
“His patients loved him,” said Deborah Vanek, Dr. Vanek’s sister. “Men were crying. Doctors were crying. He is surrounded by a lot of love because he impacted a lot of lives.”
Atwater Mayor Paul Creighton said he was devastated over the loss of a good friend and a community volunteer who supported law enforcement and advocated for improved mental health services.
“He was just a wonderful man who helped thousands and thousands of people,” Mayor Creighton told the Times. “He rebuilt a couple of our police officers who were involved in car wrecks. He put them back together, and got them back on the police force. His whole passion was to help others, and he inspired you to do better.”
Creighton noted that Dr. Vanek was the father of young son living with autism. “His dream was to expand his local mission and build an autism center to provide families with skilled advocates and effective treatments.” Deborah Vanek confirmed this, and added that her brother was in the process of continuing his education and doing research on stem cell therapies.
The mayor said Dr. Vanek’s concern for others continued even after he was admitted to the hospital with health complications from the coronavirus.
According to family members, Dr. Vanek became ill on or around Aug. 16 and was admitted to a local hospital. In late September, he was flown by helicopter to Santa Maria where he passed away a few weeks later.
Before his medical career, Vanek worked in engineering and as a contractor, with service as a CP for the U.S. Navy in New York. He graduated from Michigan State University / College of Osteopathic Medicine medical school in 2001, and started out at the Peninsula Hospital Center in Queens, New York.
In 2006, he arrived in Merced County to set up shop and serve local residents at a time when there was a great need for medical specialists in the area. He had his Atwater location completely built up from scratch, and went on to hire more than 25 employees for his family-oriented community health care operation.
Vanek believed in a whole-body care approach through his work at Advanced Orthopedics, and he worked in partnership with patients to achieve wellness by focusing on health education, injury prevention and disease prevention.
On March 9, 2020, Atwater became the first city in Merced County to declare a state of emergency in preparation for the COVID-19 pandemic. There were no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the region at the time. Atwater’s resolution named Dr. Vanek as a “voluntary medical adviser” to the city who would serve as a liaison between the medical community, leaders and residents. Vanek would speak at the Atwater City Council numerous times regarding the ongoing pandemic and volunteer his time in the city’s efforts to prevent the virus spread. He also supported the safe reopening of local businesses to prevent sustained economic distress caused by state mandated closures.
Some of Vanek’s siblings are also working in the medical field, and they say they plan to continue the business in Atwater with the help of a few of Vanek’s colleagues from New York.
“My brother was a beautiful person, a great man with visions to help change the world with innovation, dedication, patience and love,” Deborah Vanek said.
A Mass will be held for Dr. Vanek at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Merced on Friday, Oct. 29, starting at 10 a.m. Burial will follow at Winton Cemetery with military honors.