Stories About Residents
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Drs. Kimberly Sokol and Anthony Lucero
Two years after saying their vows to each other and leaving the cold Chicago
winters for sunny California, the newly married Drs. Kimberly Sokol and
Anthony Lucero never dreamed they would say yes to practicing medicine
in Visalia. It was a place they had never heard of, been to, or had on
their radar when they finished their respective residencies at UC Irvine
and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
Laguna Beach, where Dr. Lucero had grown up, seemed a more likely place
for the couple to put down roots; Dr. Sokol’s parents had even recently
relocated to Southern California. But when the couple attended a recruitment
event by Vituity, the company that Kaweah Delta contracts with to provide
physician services in its emergency department, the couple could not turn
down an offer to visit Visalia in 2018. When they did, something about
Visalia caught Dr. Sokol’s eye.
“I wasn’t expecting to see this, basically,” said Dr.
Sokol of Kaweah Delta’s simulation center. The state-of-the-art
medical training facility houses patient simulators where residents, nurses,
and staff are trained year-round to bring the highest level of care to
the community. The center was similar to the one in which Dr. Sokol had
trained in at UC Irvine where she completed a medical simulation fellowship.
“I wasn’t thinking a non-university setting would have something
close to what we had. It was impressive that this was here at Kaweah Delta,
a place I didn’t even know about when I applied for residency in
The couple continued its tour of Kaweah Delta and Visalia. “We really
liked the hospital, we really liked the people and we really liked Visalia,
but we weren’t sure,” Dr. Sokol said.
Dr. Kona Seng, Medical Director of Kaweah Delta’s Emergency Department,
was part of the team working to recruit the couple to Visalia. They wanted
the couple to become faculty members of Kaweah Delta’s ED residency
program. “We envisioned them as great additions for our community
but we also knew they had great potential to educate the physicians of
tomorrow,” he said.
The couple returned to Southern California, went on other job interviews,
but could not shake the thought of Visalia and the opportunities it afforded.
The couple would not only be able to practice emergency medicine at Kaweah
Delta with the promise of days off together, but Dr. Sokol could also
become Medical Director of Kaweah Delta’s simulation center –
a highly competitive position in California due to the lack of such centers,
said Dr. Lucero.
“We talked about it for a while, how these jobs would be potentially
great for our careers and how the community was just a really great place
to be overall,” he said. “For me, as an emergency room doctor,
I can practice anywhere, but this job for Kim was huge.”
The recruiting team invited them back to Kaweah Delta for a second visit,
and flew up their parents. During the visit, Dr. Lori Winston, who oversees
Kaweah Delta’s residency programs, made the couple and Dr. Sokol’s
parents breakfast at her home and took them on a walk on Badger Hill.
Dr. Winston said Dr. Sokol’s father expressed relentless concern
over the idea of his daughter moving to Visalia.
But in the end, Anthony’s love for his wife and her happiness, along
with a care package containing a collar for the couple’s dog that
read, “Hugsy loves Kaweah Delta,” sealed the deal. The couple
texted a picture of Hugsy in his new collar that said, “We say yes!”
to Dr. Winston and Dr. Seng.
“We both truly felt like we would be happy in the job and happy
working with the patients that Kaweah Delta serves,” Dr. Lucero
said. “We both fell in love with the job right away within the first
couple of days. We knew we made the right move for so many reasons.”
The couple’s love story with Visalia continues. “We were not
going to buy a house until after 2019 because we wanted to make sure we
were here to stay. We both knew you don’t buy a house and leave,
you buy a house to stay,” said Dr. Lucero, noting the couple closed
escrow on their Visalia home in December 2018. “It just goes to
show you how confident the two of us feel in our decision to stay here.”
Even Dr. Sokol’s father has warmed up to Visalia, Dr. Winston said.
“Since then he has pulled me aside to say he was sorry that he was
so rough,” she said. “He is so happy to see that we are ‘the
real deal’ and there is a sense of family and community here that
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