When Corey Pacek accepted a position with Tri Rivers Surgical Associates in Saxonburg, it was a homecoming of sorts.
Dr. Pacek returned to his hometown to serve as a doctor, while he also volunteers with the Knoch High School football team, a team he played on when he was a student at the school.
He said being a Saxonburg native will allow him to be a better doctor.
"I know the people. I know the town and understand them," he said.
"I think that allows me to have a unique bond with my patients."
As a volunteer doctor with the football team, Dr. Pacek attends all of the games and does medical assessments of players who may be injured.
"My job is to keep the kids safe. They may need to hear it from me that they need to stay out of a game or go to the hospital, or have me say, 'You're OK, you can go back into the game,' " he said.
It's fitting the orthopedic hand specialist serves the football team, because it was a hand injury he received while playing football that set him on the path toward his career.
Dr. Pacek injured his hand as a junior at Knoch and said he continued playing until the end of the season when he then had surgery.
"I had torn a ligament in my hand, and it sounds cliché, but you don't realize what you had until you lose it.
I couldn't believe how difficult it was to do the simplest things without the use of my hand," he said.
After surgery and healing, Dr. Pacek said his hand was as good as new and he continued playing football and throwing the discus, shot put and javelin in track. Fortunately for him, he has no lasting effects from his injury.
It also sparked his interest in understanding how the hand works.
"I knew I wanted to be a doctor, but I didn't know what kind. The hand was so fascinating to me, like a puzzle with all sorts of intricate pieces," he said.
His mother, a nurse, also fanned his interest in medicine.
"She would come home and tell me all sorts of stories that I just thought were so interesting," he said.
And of course, his favorite TV show when he was growing up was M• A• S• H reruns.
"I just loved Hawkeye Pierce and wanted to be just like him," he said.
While he was in high school, Dr. Pacek worked at the Saxonburg Pharmacy and became more sold on a career in medicine.
"I was very curious about the medications and how everything worked," he said.
After graduating from nearby Grove City College with a degree in molecular biology, Dr. Pacek married his high school sweetheart, and with his new wife, Athena, he moved to Philadelphia where he attended Jefferson Medical College.
"We knew we wanted to come back to the Pittsburgh area -- our families are here and once we started having children, we wanted to return," he said.
Fortunately for the young couple, their plans worked out and Dr. Pacek completed his orthopedic surgery residency at UPMC and fellowships through UPMC and the Hand & UpperEx Center in Pine.
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org