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Family resemblance

Olsons have taken similar paths in life from athletics to career choices

Just from their experience in Spokane it might seem as if success came easily to Kirsti and Soren Olson.

They had the charmed lives of standout students and athletes at Lewis and Clark High School who went on to play volleyball for the University of Southern California back in the ’90s.

Today they’re both orthopedic surgeons, Kirsti in San Francisco, Soren home in Spokane.

But it was those days as struggling collegiate athletes and aspiring doctors that they discovered the lessons they may not have known they were learning were paying dividends.

“Starting back with Buzzie (Welch) I was taught to persevere,” Kirsti, 36, said of her high school volleyball coach. “You’re sick, you’re exhausted and you’ve been through hours of practice or a tournament, you keep going.

“That’s largely the mentality you have to have as a physician, especially going through your training. You have to keep going, find some inner strength.”

Soren, who was a club volleyball player in high school, said, “I think what I learned (was) how to commit to something and achieve success through dedication and hard work … work ethic and how to interact with people to achieve a goal.”

Kirsti, a 1993 LC grad, was a Greater Spokane League MVP on a state champion volleyball team and all-league basketball player as a senior. Soren, a 1995 grad, was second-team all-league in football and basketball. Despite injury-free, storied high school careers their Trojan careers were a little less smooth.

Knee injuries cut short her first two years at USC and Kirsti wasn’t really healthy until she was a senior.

Soren redshirted his first season playing catchup to the more experienced players and then had a change of coaches. He gave up the sport midway through his redshirt sophomore season so he could concentrate on his double engineering major and graduate in four years.

Both chose medical school, following in the footsteps – but certainly a long way from the anatomy of their father, Lance, a retired ophthalmologist.

Kirsti, who went to medical school at USC and took her residency at the University of Chicago, gave her father’s specialty a look, but her injuries led her to take an orthopedics rotation as well, where she found her calling. Her main focus is foot and ankle.

Soren considered getting into the implant side because of his biomedical engineering background but decided to attend medical school at Washington.

It was during his residency at UW, when he went to visit a classmate doing residency in Denver, that he met his future wife, Lisa, a Boulder native .

When he finished he accepted a fellowship in Taos, N.M., working with U.S. Ski team doctors.

He followed that with a fellowship in orthopedic trauma at Harbor View in Seattle.

Then came a tough decision for the engaged couple, where to live.

“I preferred smaller,” he said, recalling the enjoyable year in Taos. “She wanted bigger,” he said. “We settled on Spokane, it’s populated with the small-town feel.”

Kirsti considered a job in the Northwest – her older sister, Aniki Farmer is an attorney in Seattle, but decided on San Francisco.

Nothing is tying Kirsti down and she admits to missing her family but she’s happy where she’s living.

“The Northwest is who I am,” she said. “I love outdoor activities. It’s surprising how active people in San Francisco are. They are into biking, there is skiing nearby. And I like the city aspect as well. It’s a nice mix.”

Friends have suggested the siblings should practice together but Soren knows this is perfect because Kirsti is an excuse for him to enjoy San Francisco without living there.

“We’re very fortunate to be here,” he said. “It’s not a huge city by population but there is good medicine in Spokane, people get taken care of very well.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve had a lot of fun connecting with friends. It’s refreshing to see how many have come back. Ultimately we’re going to have a family. Everyone knows this is a great place to raise kids.”

The Olsons would be a perfect example.

Dave Trimmer can be reached at