Employee of the Month - Mark Orcholski

March 2016, PCCM

When Mark Orcholski joined the Department of Medicine in August 2011, he says it ended a period of “wandering” without a solid plan in terms of his career and education. But after a 7-month stretch turning down jobs that weren’t appealing to him, Mark was excited by a chance to meet Vinicio de Jesus Perez, MD, and, says Mark, impress him with “my attention to detail and passion to pursue my curiosity.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Mark joined the DOM staff after that meeting and has been impressing colleagues with his attention to detail and passionate curiosity ever since. According to Perez, Mark also contributes “productivity and exceptional scientific knowledge. Mark is an exceptional employee who prides himself for being a team player.” All of these traits are critical for lab managers like Mark.

His day-to-day routine involves running experiments, monitoring the lab and being a resource for fellow researchers, discussing topics and troubleshooting ideas. Mark is also responsible for the lab’s compliance with health and safety regulations, procurement of lab materials and equipment, training of new staff and students, monitoring animal colonies and organization of samples and supplies. On top of that, he has research duties, such as literature reviews, consultation with investigators on experimental design and execution, performance of the experiments themselves, analysis and interpretation of data and, finally, preparing the research for presentation.

Success as a mentor

Mark’s colleagues say he manages all of this not only as a leader but also as a willing helper. Danielle Hendrickson nominated Mark as Employee of the Month because “he comes to work daily with a smile on his face, a can-do attitude and an all-around willingness to help his coworkers understand their research. Mark is a true leader.”

As one who leads and helps, Mark is a mentor to students and researchers who use the lab. Many go on to receive recognition. For example, says Ke Yuan, PhD, “One of the high school students Mark mentored won the finalist in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search competition. An undergraduate he mentored recently published in a high impact journal as a first author.” In addition, she says, “Various projects [he’s been involved with] were published in 10 journals within three years, and data he generated was used in the NIH R01 grant application.”

Staff and students have come to rely on Mark in this way, says Heather Ishak, who works in the neighboring Bollyky Lab. He’s helped them out when their equipment failed, she says, and “I have witnessed Mark help complete projects that other researchers were unable to finish. I feel confident that if I ever needed help in my research that I could count on Mark.” Deepti Sudheendra, who has worked with Mark for nearly four years, agrees. She says, “Mark is a person whom you can reach out to at any given point and he is ready to help you. He doesn’t mind going the extra mile to help others. He is a person everyone goes to.”

Happiness and health

Elya Shamskhou says Mark isn’t only a great leader for the reasons her colleagues mention but also because “his work ethic and enthusiasm for his job constantly benefits everyone in the department and makes him a joy to be around.” The sentiment was echoed in the nomination from Dr. Yuan. She says, “Mark is friendly, helpful and keeps the lab a pleasant working environment for everyone.”

While his coworkers appreciate Mark’s level of enthusiasm, Mark, in turn, values Stanford’s work environment. He says he feels “fortunate to work at a place where employees are recognized for their efforts.” He describes Stanford as a “place where programs like BeWell, overmatching retirement plans and Employee of the Month have become the norm and reinforce employees’ happiness and health.” Mark’s hobbies show that happiness and health really matter to him outside work, as well. He plays competitive soccer, for example, produces music and sings with the Stanford Symphonic Chorus. Passions like these demonstrate the kind of generosity and energy Mark has, and it’s something he brings to the lab.

As Hendrickson remarks in her nomination, Mark is proactive, always pitches in and “comes to the office ready to work in an environment he loves and spirits these practices to others. We’re very fortunate to have Mark on our team.”