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Gridley Herald - Gridley, CA
  • Dr. Mike Staszel steps into Parker's 'big shoes'

  • It’s after hours on a Wednesday evening at Dr. Michael Staszel’s Mount Shasta office. As he sits at his desk sipping a Coke and talking with this reporter, an elderly woman wanders in, looking for Dr. Jim Parker.
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  • It’s after hours on a Wednesday evening at Dr. Michael Staszel’s Mount Shasta office. As he sits at his desk sipping a Coke and talking with this reporter, an elderly woman wanders in, looking for Dr. Jim Parker.
    Staszel, dressed in jeans, a shirt and tie, introduces himself simply as Dr. Mike. He explains that Dr. Parker retired a couple of months ago, and he’s taken over the practice.
    “Oh no! Everyone I like retires!” she exclaims. Sizing him up, the woman asks Staszel if he’ll be able to take care of her the way Dr. Parker always has and if he’ll stick around.
    Staszel assures her he will. “I have 20 or 30 good years left in me,” he says with a smile.
    This is a conversation Staszel has had countless times since taking over for Parker on March 1.
    “I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” he says. “I feel terrible that we had to meet under these circumstances... I wish I would have met him earlier, but I intend to take over from where Jim leaves off.”
    Parker stunned the community last summer with the announcement that he has a particularly virulent type of ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He retired from his practice, which he began in Mount Shasta in 1979, after hand-picking Staszel to take over for his hundreds of loyal patients.
    “I’ll be forever grateful for the smooth transition,” said Parker on Friday afternoon. “I’m incredibly lucky to have found him. Without exception, all of my patients have spoken very favorably of him.”
    “He basically interviewed me,” said Staszel, a native of Poland who grew up on the south side of Chicago. He said Parker was a little bemused at first by the fact that he always wears ties while working – a custom he picked up in parochial school – Staszel said he’s not particularly conservative.
    “I listen to Black Sabbath , Metallica and Ozzy Osbourne,” he laughs. To further illustrate his point, Staszel grabs a photo from a shelf near his desk, which is just beginning to be filled with medical journals and other books. The picture shows him in the early 1990s, a med school student with blond shoulder-length hair.
    ‘Sometimes it all fits’
    Staszel came to Mount Shasta from Anderson, where he worked for a decade in a walk-in clinic. Before that, he and his wife, Kat, also a Polish national, ran a family practice in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
    “She handled reception and billing while I was in the back being the doctor and nurse,” he explained. “It was just the two of us... I was on call 24/7.”
    Page 2 of 3 - About 10 years ago, Staszel said he was looking through a medical journal when he came across an advertisement for doctors to work at the Anderson Walk-In Clinic. Two months later, the Staszels moved to northern California and soon welcomed a son, Zack, who’s now seven years old.
    In April 2012, their lives took a turn when Kat was diagnosed with breast cancer. Luckily, it was caught early, in “stage zero,” Staszel said. However, it caused them to reassess their lives and reflect on what is really important.
    While searching for a vacation home where Kat and Zack could stay while skiing at the Mt. Shasta Ski Park, they came across a real estate listing for the old McCloud Hospital.
    They fell in love with the late Victorian, Queen Anne-style building and envisioned it as a bed and breakfast that could also serve as a retreat for women with breast cancer. Staszel said the calming influence of McCloud is perfect for women who are looking to regenerate their spirit so they can be emotionally and spiritually strong to fight the disease.
    In July 2012, the late McCloud correspondent Gene Eagle wrote a story about the Staszels’ endeavor for the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers. It was after Parker read the piece that he contacted Staszel.
    “I was at the clinic... I thought the call was from a new radiologist,” said Staszel.
    Instead it was Parker, who explained he was going to be retiring and wondered if Staszel would be interested in taking over his Mount Shasta practice.
    Staszel said it took him a few weeks to decide to call back, but when he did, he and Parker hit it off.
    To test the waters, Staszel said he began “moonlighting” at Parker’s practice on his days off last fall. Once he saw how smoothly the office was run and how well received Parker’s practice is, he agreed to the move.
    Parker said 20 percent of his patients have conditions that many doctors have selected not to treat, such as those with HIV/AIDS, chronic pain and narcotic addictions. He said Staszel “stepped up to the plate” to get education in these special fields.
    “The last month and a half have been busy,” Staszel said. “I’m learning the system, and these are all new patients.”
    Staszel said his style as a physician has served him well over the past 15 years.
    “I don’t like to preach. I like to listen and find out where (my patients) are coming from.” He said he doesn’t use big words and often translates symptoms into analogies that are easily relatable.
    Page 3 of 3 - As for the direction his life has taken in the past two years, Staszel said none of it would have happened if it wasn’t for Kat’s disease.
    “It was meant to be... You try different things in life, and sometimes it just all fits,” he said.
    He and Kat are now settled in a house on McCloud Avenue. He said they are looking forward to becoming more involved in the Mount Shasta community and feel welcomed so far.
    Kat has successfully finished her treatment, including a mastectomy, a second surgery and radiation.
    The couple is still working to make their dream for the McCloud Hospital a reality; they are having the roof replaced now by Home Depot, who has also offered to provide materials and volunteer labor throughout the renovation process.
    To learn more about their project, email them at theloveandlightfoundation@gmail.com To make an appointment with Dr. Mike, call his office at 530-926-5261.

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