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Dr. Eric Hanson, Fresno State Team Volunteer MD

Dec 28, 2018 11:00AM ● By Jordan Venema

Much to Give

January 2019
Story by Jordan Venema
Photos by Monica Fatica

THIS YEAR, the National Philanthropy Day committee awarded Fresno natives Dr. Eric Hanson and Darlene Hanson with the Distinguished Achievement Special Award for Excellence in Fundraising. Given their involvement in communities both locally and overseas, the award probably came as no surprise to those who know the couple, but Dr. Hanson spends much less time talking about his own work than directing attention to the organizations with which he’s been involved.

“The more I raise awareness, hopefully it translates to support, and I’m an asker, I tell you what,” says Dr. Hanson. 

An orthopedic surgeon with Sierra Pacific Orthopedics of Fresno, Dr. Hanson moved to Fresno in his early teens, after growing up in northern Thailand between ages 3 and 13 while his parents were medical missionaries. 

You could say he was somewhat prepared for a life of philanthropy, though it would be many years until he returned to Thailand, as life, family and practice kept him focused on the local community. About 12 years ago, though, the Hansons returned to Asia on a mission trip to Laos, during which Dr. Hanson decided to visit a lifelong friend, Mike Mann, whose own father was an agriculture missionary in Thailand.

“We stopped by Chiang Mai in Thailand and realized the work he does is outstanding,” says Dr. Hanson.

In Chang Mai, Mann was running the Integrated Tribal Development Program, a nonprofit that focuses on sustainable development through agriculture projects, creating clean water, building schools and teaching tribal members how to grow coffee organically instead of opium. Local nonprofit Lanna Coffee Company and Lanna Foundation ultimately grew out of the Integrated Tribal Development Program, and now proceeds from its coffee sales help support the program’s tribal communities. Both Dr. Hanson and his wife serve on the board of the Lanna Foundation, and though Dr. Hanson is a trained surgeon, that hasn’t stopped him from getting his hands dirty.

“We go back every year and mostly do development work, like building buildings and water projects, agriculture work and a little bit of work in the clinic,” he says. “I take about 150 people’s worth of cortisone injections, but most of what I do is simple manual labor.” 

Annually, the Hansons travel with a group of about 12 to 16 people, but here in the states he also volunteers his time as the team physician for the Fresno State Bulldogs. He stepped into that position after the team’s previous physician, Dr. Thomas Thaxter, was diagnosed with
lung cancer. 

“I was asked to take over his practice and at Fresno State and I’ve been doing that ever since 1991,” says Dr. Hanson. “I was an orthopedic surgeon with an interest in sports so it was a natural fit.” 

In addition to covering games, being available 24/7 and hosting clinics every Monday night, Dr. Hanson has opened Sierra Pacific Orthopedics to Fresno State students to observe surgeries onsite.  

“We hooked up microphones and students can come into our conference room upstairs and they can watch surgery and learn from that,” he explains. 

In addition to his volunteer work with students and athletes, Dr. Hanson and his wife are both involved on the Board of Governors, and set up a fully paid scholarship that they fund personally. 

Between his practice and family, serving in Thailand and volunteering with Fresno State, Dr. Hanson is also a founding board member in 2008 of Every Neighborhood Partnership, a network of churches whose members connect individually with students throughout the Fresno area.

  “It’s a wonderful organization,” says Dr. Hanson, who says it was the vision of Artie Padilla, a member of the Well Community Church where they both attend.

“A group got together because one of the problems we have in our schools and our city is that kids don’t have anything to do on the weekends – they have lack of reading skills, they lack mentoring,” he says. “Now there are about 60 churches involved in many schools in Fresno.”

The volunteers serve students food on Saturdays, play sports, mentor, volunteer in classrooms and assist teachers in the classrooms. 

“It’s really evolved into something that is an incredibly important asset to Fresno,” says Dr. Hanson. 

The Hansons’ work has contributed to health and wellbeing of many in Fresno and Thailand, but for all that, Dr. Hanson speaks of it naturally, crediting the inspiration of his parents.

“Definitely my parents,” he emphasizes, “and just the way they lived and conducted their lives to serve others: That is the example I was raised with. It’s rewarding,” he continues. “You receive more than you give.” 

And while that may be true on a personal level, there are countless people that would argue the Hansons have
given much. •

Dr. Eric C. Hanson, M.D. • Sierra Pacific Orthopedics 

1630 E. Herndon Avenue, Fresno • (559) 435-9020