Dr. Barry Sorrells was a classmate of mine who had a distinguished career in medicine. He died in 2016. His rebooting story, originally published on this website in 2008, is inspirational on many levels. We are honored to keep it posted in his memory.
Barry was an orthopedic surgeon who helped develop a revolutionary total knee replacement technique that he later taught to other surgeons. After completing his career, he “refocused” and helped establish an institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences where community volunteers teach medical students life skills in non-medical subjects. He not only rebooted himself, he did so with distinction, helping many others, and honoring the medical profession in the process.
Helping the Next Generation of Doctors Avoid Business Pitfalls
Dr. Barry Sorrells proudly proclaims, “I’m not retired; I’m refocused!” His wife Lynda will tell you that her “when-I-relax-I-feel-guilty” husband of 20 years is the busiest he has ever been. But that’s fine because these two share a passion: helping prepare the next generation of doctors to enjoy the benefits of the profession while avoiding the pitfalls.
Barry knows how excruciatingly deep those pitfalls can be. Although his medical record is impeccable, the successful orthopedic surgeon, who helped developed a revolutionary total knee replacement technique, admits personal mistakes cost him dearly.
“During the first half of my medical career, I made my work my God,” he confesses. “I thought I was getting satisfaction from that, but as a result of working too much and making extremely bad choices, my first marriage failed.”
Practicing medicine with a different attitude
Five years later, Barry married Lynda, his present wife. The couple was “off in a similar direction,” until they became totally captivated by the witness of another married couple.
“Their marriage had something we wanted in ours,” he said. “We became friends, and they invited us to church. On November 22, 1985, Lynda and I became Christians in the same church service.”
Everything changed for the couple– the way they lived, the way they loved, and especially the way Barry interacted with his patients.
“For the next 20 years I approached practicing medicine with a different attitude and a greater compassion,” he said. “I began treating people rather than just diseases. I was open about my spirituality and prayed with my patients.”
Barry not only helped develop the knee replacement technique, he taught other surgeons worldwide how to perform it, with more than 30 international trips and scores of domestic lectures and surgical demonstrations.
He didn’t retire, he refocused
In 2000 Barry wanted to extend his Christian outreach, so he and five other men participated in his church’s inaugural “Kingdom Builders” group.
“We used Bob Buford’s book, Halftime, and a rough manuscript copy of Stuck in Halftime as our curriculum. The six of us met once a week for a year, and all of us made major life changes during that time. I was 64 then, and my initial goal was to set a date for my retirement: April 1, 2002.”
To Lynda’s delight, her Type-A husband hit that date. But, as he says, he really didn’t retire, he refocused. Two years before his retirement date he began working toward a new goal.
Teaching life skills beyond medical practice
“I knew I wanted to invest myself in the lives of those young men and women embarking on the same career path as my own,” he said. “Historically doctors are the world’s worst businessmen. They graduate from medical school well trained in medicine, but receive little in the way of education about investments, finance, real estate, and other life skills.”
With the support of Lynda and a team from his church, Barry approached the faculty at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and asked if he could develop a program where community volunteers would teach the medical students life skills in non-medical subjects.
The faculty liked the idea, and soon the program that began as only a couple of days of elective lectures grew to be a week of lectures called the “LifeSkills Institute,” which is now required for graduation from UAMS.
Helping them recognize what they don’t know
“I’m not aware of the existence of anything like this at any other medical school,” says Barry. “We bring in volunteers from the community–all experts in their respected fields and people of deep faith–who give their time and teach the medical students. We don’t make business people out of these doctors in a week, but at least they recognize what they don’t know, and we tell them how to make further connections. They thank us for giving them information they couldn’t get elsewhere.”
These students are now the envy of older doctors in Little Rock. “Every practicing physician says, ‘I wish they had this when I was in med school!’ I wish they had it when I was there too. I’m convinced I wouldn’t have made some of the mistakes I made. It could have made such a huge difference in my life,” Barry says with a deep sigh in his voice.
That realization fuels this surgeon’s passion to help lead these young physicians in a different direction.
“Share your experience and wisdom with someone younger”
“A lot of mentoring opportunities develop from these classes. There are no commercials, but we make it clear that the students are free to call any of these people at any time. We don’t go into the Institute with a religious agenda, but my prayer is these students will see something unique in these leaders, and that is Jesus Christ.”
Barry will tell you that spearheading the LifeSkills Institute has generated as much passion for him as his medical career. He encourages other halftimers to “take the experience and wisdom you’ve gleaned over the years and share it with someone younger. That’s what teaching is, taking the God-given things you have and sharing them with others. That is where you’ll find immense pleasure.”
The preceding rebooter story is adapted from an article that was originally published on the website of the Halftime® organization (www.halftime.org). It is republished here with permission. Halftime is a community of individuals together seeking to support, encourage, learn, and accelerate the attainment of a life that is truly significant.