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Marquette University Alumni Association

College of Health Sciences Award Recipients

Professional Achievement Award


H SCI '03
Las Vegas

Karen sums up Marquette’s clinical lab science program in one word: hard.

But she credits the challenging nature of her studies at Marquette for giving her a solid foundation for anything she faces in her professional life. Even doing laboratory medicine in Afghanistan as a member of the U.S. Air Force.

As chief of laboratory operations for the Mike O’Callaghan Federal Medical Center at Nellis Air Force Base outside Las Vegas, Karen directs operations of the busiest clinical laboratory in the U.S. Air Force.

“As an airman, I am able to provide medical care to the greatest patients in the world, U.S. military members and their families,” she says. “Additionally, I have the privilege to lead and work with the highest-quality enlisted force the United States military has ever produced.”

Karen is a distinguished honor graduate of the U.S. Army Blood Bank fellowship program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Her previous assignments include serving as chief of blood services in the medical center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. In 2010, she deployed to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and sent a flag to Marquette that had flown over her base.

Her service is inspired by the journey of her parents, both of whom immigrated to the U.S. from Germany after World War II.

“They came to this country with nothing but eventually were able to live out the American dream,” she says. “I never forget where my family came from and what their faith, hard work and dedication were able to do.”

Get to Know: Capt. Karen Klingenberg Buikema

Hometown:  Des Plaines, Ill

Favorite quote: “Let nothing perturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything.”  Mother Teresa

Someone past or present she’d like to have dinner with: Abraham Lincoln or C. S. Lewis

The Marquette faculty or staff member who had a great impact on her:  The entire Clinical Laboratory Science department as well as Marquette’s Intervarsity Christian Fellowship Chapter.

In grade school Karen wanted to be a marine biologist, she wanted to work at Sea World and swim with dolphins all day.