The following story by Jim LeMonds of WriteTek Northwest was published in the Daily News on June 30, 2010. Photo by Roger Werth.
When Michele Peterson, nurse manager at Pacific Surgical Institute, hired former Mark Morris hoopster Tyler Sokol to work at PSI through the summer, she was faced with a dilemma.
How to locate a pair of scrubs that would fit her 6-foot-10 employee.
“I got online and found a company that makes custom scrubs,” Peterson said. “Tyler needed a 38-inch inseam, and they were even able to come pretty close with a color match.”
Both the scrubs and the position at PSI have proven to be a good fit for Sokol, whose job description includes cleaning operating rooms between surgeries, doing laundry and stocking shelves.
“I feel blessed to have this opportunity,” he said. “I’ve learned so much in a very short time.”
A 2009 MM graduate, Sokol averaged 11 points and five rebounds a game his senior year with the Monarchs and earned all-league recognition. He is attending Dominican University of California in San Rafael on a basketball/academic scholarship and majoring in biology. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he plans to attend medical school and become a surgeon.
“I’ve been interested in the medical field since I was a kid,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do something that would help people.”
The job at PSI has allowed Sokol to observe a number of procedures, including knee and shoulder arthroscopy, Achilles tendon repair and carpal tunnel surgery. He’s also had the opportunity to receive advice from several physicians who operate at PSI in Longview.
“They’ve told me that when you’re going to medical school, the road is tough,” Sokol said. “They said the main thing is to stick with it and not get down.”
Sokol’s first year at Dominican University was a wake-up call.
“Both in the classroom and on the basketball court, it’s a lot different than high school,” he said. “The work level is much more demanding.”
He finished the year with a 3.3 grade point average, and a new respect for what it takes to balance basketball and academics.
“Basketball at the college level is like a job,” Sokol said. “With that and studying, there wasn’t much time for a social life. I was overwhelmed at first. You definitely have to learn how to manage your time.”
Sokol came off the bench for a young team that finished fifth in its league. He averaged four points and two rebounds in 18-20 minutes of playing time per game until a hip injury during the second half of the season limited his minutes. He is working out regularly and looking forward to making a bigger contribution his sophomore year.
During his high school years, Sokol worked for Dr. Richard Kirkpatrick at the Kirkpatrick Family Clinic in Longview. His duties included janitorial work, stocking shelves and making deliveries.
“I liked the family practice experience I got with Dr. Kirkpatrick, but it also helped me realized that I wanted something more hands-on for a career,” he said.
When Sokol spoke with Kirkpatrick earlier this year, Kirkpatrick suggested that he contact Pacific Surgical Institute about summer work. He was interviewed by Peterson and landed the job. He started work in mid-May and will continue through August.
“We’ve enjoyed having Tyler here,” Peterson said. “He’s done a good job. The most difficult thing for him has been handling the multi-tasking because he has to be able to switch his focus quickly from one job to another. I told him to think of it like basketball – you don’t just concentrate on one action at a time, they all have to fit together.”
Sokol said the job has been more challenging – and more rewarding – than he anticipated.
“The expectations at Pacific Surgical are very high,” he said. “When a procedure is scheduled, the room has to be spotless and it has to be ready on time. People depend on you, and keeping up with everything can get pretty hectic.
“It’s nice to be earning money for college, but what I really like is the chance to learn,” he added. “The nurses and surgeons work hard and are very professional. I still have a long ways to go, but this job has given me a real good start.”