He's an accomplished orthopedic surgeon with decades of experience in changing lives for the better.
Ask Dr. Tom Mirich of KVH Orthopedics why he became a doctor and he answers with a wry laugh. "I was doomed from the start," he insists, flashing a wide grin. "My dad was a doctor. My mom was a nurse."
His father, an orthopedic surgeon in private practice, also worked in a free-standing emergency clinic in West Hollywood back in the 1960s. Patients from all walks of life walked through the door - including celebrities like Lucille Ball.
Mirich was ten when he started "camping out" with his father during some of those long shifts. "To keep from getting bored I helped out where I could, developing x-rays, bringing him stuff, holding patients' hands," says Mirich who also spent time at his father's orthopedic office.
Mirich's dad, a federally licensed gunsmith, had worked his way through medical school using that skill. "So I grew up not only in the ER and in the orthopedic office but also working in the machine shop," Mirich says. "I grew up knowing the tools I would use as an orthopedic surgeon."
He was hooked. "So off to medical school I went," he says. "I loved surgery. When I landed in orthopedics I was like a pig in mud - done deal. Orthopedic surgeons have more tools than anyone on the planet."
Mirich went on to a five-year orthopedic surgery residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, then moved on to private practice in Riverside, California.
Twenty years later the acres of orange groves that had dominated the area when he and his wife Susan, a Registered Nurse, arrived had been decimated by developers and swallowed up in the housing boom. The 5.4 mile commute from home to office took 45 minutes to an hour and a half.
Determined to move, Mirch was looking at multiple offers in the Midwest when Susan got a "cold call" from Glasgow, a remote town in northeastern Montana.
Just 60 miles from the Canadian border, Glasgow was polar opposite to Riverside. A trip to Costco took four and a half hours. The town had just 3,000 people - and an aching need for an orthopedic surgeon.
"Northeastern Montana had nobody," he says. "So being the altruistic people that Susan and I are we went to Montana to fill a desperate need. I was the only orthopedic surgeon for nine or eleven counties, the entire northeast corner of Montana."
Eight years later, he and Susan were ready for change. Their daughters - Mirich laughingly calls them "princesses" - were grown and doing post graduate work, one pursuing a PhD in chemistry in Connecticut, the other an MBA in Arizona. With their family spread, the Miriches wanted easier access to travel and other amenities.
Mirich was researching opportunities when he ran across an opening at KVH. A young physician in Glasgow who had grown up in the Tri Cities assured him he "would love" Ellensburg. A look at the KVH Orthopedics website revealed a familiar name: Dr. Gary Bos who had trained with Mirich at the Mayo Clinic.
The rest is history. Bos arranged a visit. The couple flew in and "fell in love with Ellensburg." The young physician in Glasgow and Bos "were the ones who sold me on Ellensburg," Mirich says.
Two plus years later and now 63, Mirich's passion for orthopedic surgery endures.
"Improving a life - oh yeah. We actually improve people's lives and most of the time the improvement in pain and function is visible," says Mirich whose appreciative patients not only voice gratitude but sometimes invite him to weddings or send birth announcements.
"I hear, 'Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!' I can't go anywhere without meeting someone I've helped," he says. "That's the personal reward. That's what drives orthopedic surgeons to continue learning the latest and greatest techniques."