Former student and teacher at Cowley giving back to hometown
Having spent time at Cowley College as a student and instructor, Tyson Blatchford recently returned to his hometown of Arkansas City to serve as general surgeon at South Central Kansas Regional Medical Center.
Blatchford grew up in Ark City and decided to attend Cowley College after graduating from Arkansas City High School in 1992.
“I wanted to get involved in the science program, but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do,” Blatchford said. “I felt Cowley was a good place to get started and the school offered a better one-on-one experience with the instructors and faculty.”
While at Cowley, Blatchford played the drums and percussion in a band that traveled with the Cowley College Singers. The band also played at several Tiger home basketball games.
He also ran a disk jockey business that worked some of the college’s school dances.
Blatchford has fond memories of former science instructors Don Hastings and Randy Hofford, as well as vocal music director Connie Donatelli.
He earned an Associate of Science degree from Cowley College in 1995 and then went on to earn his four-year degree from Southwestern College in 1997.
After graduating from Southwestern, he returned to Cowley College as an adjunct science instructor. After one semester, he became a full-time instructor teaching anatomy, physiology, biology, and microbiology.
“I was the young guy on the block, straight out of college,” Blatchford said. “Teaching at Cowley was the best thing I could have done, it prepared me for medical school and forced me to learn a ton of information.”
He went on to earn his medical degree at the University of Kansas Medical School, and then spent five years as an intern and resident at the Carilion Clinic in Virginia, working on a trauma team.
“The intern years seemed like they would never end,” Blatchford said.
His internship involved 80-hour workweeks, with textbook reading in between. He also dealt with some difficult cases demanding split-second decisions.
Blatchford has known since a young age that he wanted to be a surgeon, despite not having a physician in the family growing up.
He credits Cowley County doctors David Schmeidler, Aaron Watters, James Winblad, and Norberto Alvarez (deceased) as serving as inspirations for him to get into the medical field.
“The thing I enjoy most about surgery is you not only take care of the patient with medicine, the patient puts their faith in you to put them to sleep, put a knife in them and fix the problem,” Blatchford said.
The opportunity to return to work in Arkansas City was too good for Blatchford and his wife, Tricia to pass up. The couple have a one-year-old daughter, Beth.
“I have always enjoyed living in a small town, plus this is my home town where my family and friends are,” Blatchford said. “The schools are really good here, the pace is slower and it’s a good place to raise children. I felt obligated to bring back all the things I learned to take care of the folks that need me.”
Tricia, who earned a doctorate in psychology, is enjoying staying at home to help raise Beth. However, she plans to practice psychology or become a schoolteacher once Beth enters elementary school.
Blatchford began working at the hospital on July 21 and has done numerous surgeries since his hiring.
He credits his time at Cowley as a student and an instructor in helping him get to where he is today.
“As a student at Cowley, the introduction to basic sciences got things going for me,” Blatchford said. “I could explore my options without being consumed by a large university, and could talk to instructors that could help guide me in the right direction. Also, being an instructor at the school prepared me for medical school.”