As an Emergency Services pediatrician at Akron Children’s, Thomas Wolski Jr., DO (known as T.J. to his family and colleagues) knows on any given day he needs to be ready for the unexpected or urgent needs of infants, children and teens. And, thanks to his dad’s good advice of ‘having the right tool for the job,’ Dr. Wolski is always prepared. From a stethoscope to active listening or a dose of humor – Dr. Wolski is able to calm fears and care for kids who need it most.
Q: When you curl up on the couch to watch a movie, are you most likely to have a bowl of popcorn, chocolate or box of tissues?
A: Popcorn has always been a major weakness for me, stemming back to my childhood in Fairlawn, OH. I blame my parents, actually. At home, everyone used to get their own giant bowl of popcorn, which was then sprinkled with way too much cheese salt. When we went to the movies as a family, we got a giant tub of popcorn that would get passed back and forth until it was time for my dad to get it refilled – at least once. Popcorn is a life vice for sure.
Q: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
A: I’m somewhat ashamed to admit it, but I usually do some combination of hitting the snooze button (a few too many times), grabbing my phone to read something related to Cleveland sports (even the Browns) and checking my email. I guess I’m not all that ashamed, except for the Browns part.
Q: What song do you know all the words to by heart?
A: MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This. I spent days on end memorizing all the words when I was 7 years old, and it’s never left me. I still have the cassette tape sitting around somewhere. I can’t believe it didn’t break after all of the rewinding.
Q: What piece of advice did someone give you when you were young that still resonates with you today?
A: My dad has given me many pieces of advice, but there are probably 2 that I still use regularly today. The first is, “Do the whole job.” When I was young, it applied to making sure the entire yard was picked up or scooped up (from the dog). Today, it’s more about being dependable and seeing every task through to the end so someone else doesn’t have to come in behind me to clean up my mess. The other piece of advice is, “There’s nothing quite like having the right tool to get the job done.” For a DIY project at home, sometimes just a hammer and duct tape is all that’s needed. More often, though, I need to spend time before the work starts to figure out exactly what it’s going to take to do the job right, which usually leads to less headaches.
Q: Do you dunk your Oreos in milk, lick off the icing, eat them as they are or avoid them altogether?
A: There’s a fine balance here and it’s an important life skill. Sometimes I go for the milk, but you can’t let them sit too long. It’s a high-risk, high-reward scenario. Just licking the icing was cool when I was a kid but now, if there isn’t milk, I go for the whole thing. Avoiding them altogether isn’t (and shouldn’t) be an option, especially the seasonal flavors. There is too much happiness to be had!
Q: Who makes up your family, including pets?
A: My immediate family is my wife, Michelle, our oldest son, Grant (2), our little man, Holden (6 months), the ever-energetic Vizsla, Griffin (3), and the grumpy old man, Winston (6), who’s a Pomapoo but thinks he’s a Doberman.
Q: What did you want to be (profession) when you were little?
A: I was pretty set on being a race car driver in the Indianapolis 500 until about age 12. Michael Andretti was my idol. My dad worked in racing for Goodyear and most Sundays were spent eating boiled hot dogs while watching cars go 200 miles per hour (or watching the Browns lose). Sometime after age 12, I settled for just racing go-karts as fast as possible and began thinking about medicine instead.
Q: What was your first concert?
A: There was a concert in the 90s called End Fest that was put on by a local rock station (107.9 The End for those Northeast Ohio people who remember). In 8th grade my buddy and I went and had our first experience with mosh pits, crowd surfing and losing our voices singing to Smashing Pumpkins and Marcy’s Playground. Somehow we made it through and lived to tell about it. Although, I don’t remember telling my parents all those details back then!
Q: What was your first paying job?
A: I worked residential construction in Broadview Heights the summer after I got my driver’s license. It was exhausting work for which I was definitely under paid, but I learned how to drive a stick shift, use fire hoses to wash down streets and, overall, got a tough-love lesson on the value of a hard day’s work.
Q: Why did you choose to come to Akron Children’s?
A: Children’s has always felt like home to me and no other place, other than here, can offer me that connection. Before I went to medical school, I worked for 3 years in the hospital’s laboratory as a medical technologist. Many of the wonderful people I worked with there are still here today. Those people really raised me and taught me what it means to be a professional. My mom, Diane Wolski, BSN, who works in the Rebecca D. Considine Research Institute, and I started working at Akron Children’s at about the same time and our paths still cross often. I’m proud to be from Akron; proud of this hospital; and, proud of what Akron Children’s stands for. I hope to do my part to further enrich the hospital’s culture.