Each month, find out what motivates ORA Orthopedics’ providers to practice and treat patients in the Quad Cities in our “What Moves Me” feature.
In celebration of adventure, meet drag racer, deep sea fisherman, drummer and former Green Beret, Thomas Drabek. Tom is a physician’s assistant for ORA surgeon Dr. Steven Boardman, who specializes in the shoulder, hip and knee.
Meet ORA Orthopedics Physician’s Assistant: Thomas Drabek
When did you start racing cars?
I got into racing in 1977 as a teenager. When I was 19, I drove a ’66 Chevelle and put in a 427 engine. It was Maroon in color. It was the fastest the car in the county!
What kind of cars do you drive and what races do you compete in?
I drive a highly modified Pontiac Solstice for road racing, and a 1934 Ford Roadster for drag racing. I like to wrench on the cars on the weekends.
What is your peak racing moment?
Winning the Overall 2014 Midwest Council of Sports Car Club Championship with 5 first-place wins. These races are done on a road racing course, with straightaways and tight turns. It’s all about about executing tight corners and accelerating out of the turn. You can go fast on a straightaway and then have to break on a dime, downshift and turn into a hairpin. It’s a blast!
Drag racing is different. Drag racing starts from a standing stop and then putting the pedal to the metal, accelerating just as fast you can on a quarter mile course to see who reaches the finish line first!
What’s your dream race to drive or watch?
Formula 1. I drove a Formula car in Grand Prix Racing School for 6 hours. It was a fantastic experience.
You are also a downhill skier.
I competed successfully on USSA Masters Circuit West and Midwest. I also served as Alpine Race Chairman Chicago Ski Council, and ran 3 national events for the USSA. Unfortunately, I can’t ski anymore after my neck fusion.
Tell us about your love for deep sea fishing.
The photo of me (left) catching the 8-foot Marlin that weighed about 150 pounds and was taken in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
It took about 40 minutes to reel it in and it was tiring.
When the fish wants to go… it goes and the line just goes out. You just keep on reeling as fast you can. I was pretty sore from smiling the whole time!
Between car racing, skiing and fishing, do you have a need for speed?! Would you describe yourself as a thrill seeker?
As a former Army Special Forces Green Beret, I do like adventure and the challenges it presents.
You’re a drummer, too?
I love music. Playing the drums is a total stress reliever and a blast.
I played my first gig when I was 12! I now play for a band called “Gray Wolf.” We are a classic rock and roll band that plays gigs in the Quad Cities.
My favorite drummers were Big Band drummers Louis Bellson, who hails from the QC, and Kupra who both played in the 1940s.
How did you come to the practice of medicine?
I heard about it while in the military. There was a new program and my class was one of the first PA programs in the country. I studied at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
Tell us about your role as a PA.
I work for ORA surgeon Dr. Steven Boardman. He is a great person and physician. I am lucky!
I play a supporting role to Dr. Boardman. PA’s are responsible for evaluating the patient, assisting in operations, as well as doing rounds to see how patients are faring in the hospital. PA’s can also prescribe medicine and rehabilitation regimes, as well as confer with physicians about the best course of treatment.
What do you like best about practicing medicine?
You are constantly learning and seeing something new. I started practicing in 1972 and I am still learning amazing things in orthopedics today.
How do ORA patients inspire you?
I love being able to help them get better.
Looking ahead, what new challenges or dreams do you hope to achieve?
At 68, I’m happy to be alive and well! I love my job and hobbies. I am still trying to learn to be a great drag racer as well as maintain my drumming skills. I never stop learning, and I still see and experience new things…and that’s pretty amazing!
What’s your philosophy of life?
Challenge yourself to be better. Treat everyone the same way you would like to be treated.