The Slider: Kimber Gabryszak
As a child growing up in Alaska, the only way to and from home for young Kimber Gabryszak was to take a cold ferry crossing followed by a long snowshoe trek. Her family’s backcountry cabin lacked many modern conveniences, including electricity. Refrigeration came from blocks of ice she and her father cut from a local lake and then stored under piles of sawdust in a rustic icehouse.
Gabryszak boldly left home when she was 15, spending time in London and China, where she interned as a river guide on the Yangtze River. She returned to the States when she was 21, earning a master’s degree in city and metropolitan planning from the University of Utah. She currently works as an urban planner for Summit County.
Though Gabryszak was once a downhill mountain bike racer, her husband was convinced that at 5-foot-7 and 157 pounds, she had an athletic build ideal for sliding a sled 85 mph face-first down an icy track on nothing more than a sophisticated lunch tray with no brakes. Gabryszak tried skeleton at Park City’s then–Olympic Sports Park and was hooked.
Since then she has placed as high as seventh in a race on the World Cup circuit, and this year, her women’s skeleton team won the World Championship. Gabryszak believes they have a good chance of medaling at the Olympic Winter Games in 2014. “Up until this season, I just wanted to make it to the Olympics,” she explains. “I won’t be satisfied with that anymore, because now I have a shot at an Olympic medal.”
If you are still wondering why anyone commits to an obscure sport like skeleton racing, Gabryszak offers this: “When you are sliding at St. Moritz, which has the only natural ice track in the world, you feel weightless. There is no noise, no vibration. It’s the closest to flying you’ll ever get.” Just where does the ice for the track come from? “Oh, someone chops blocks of ice from the lake, just like in Alaska.”
Doctor with Heart: Nassir Marrouche, MD
Speaking in a graceful, Middle Eastern accent, charismatic heart expert Dr. Nassir Marrouche recounts his exceptional life in a vibrant story. A family relocation from Kuwait to Lebanon when he was 6 years old shaped young Marrouche’s view of humanity and himself. Devastated by a brutal civil war that lasted 15 years, he encountered his new home country as a laboratory for survival. “My experiences there taught me that life is so valuable, and I learned as a human being to never give up,” he says.
Marrouche was just 17 when he decided to leave Lebanon. He applied for his first visa primarily because he loved German soccer. Marrouche earned his medical degree from the University of Heidelberg. Much of what he read while studying came from the United States. Inspired, he came west and completed internships at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation (infectious disease, pulmonary medicine, vascular surgery), Harvard Medical School (cardiac surgery), and the University of Washington Medical Center (general cardiology and electrophysiology).
Now, as executive director of the University of Utah’s Comprehensive Arrhythmia Research & Management Center (CARMA) in Salt Lake City, Marrouche has a keen interest in new imaging modalities for treatment of atrial and ventricular arrhythmias and changing how heart rhythm disorders are treated. Atrial fibrillation (Afib), a leading cause of stroke and heart deterioration, is a chaotic contraction in the heart’s upper chamber. The condition is often treated using a process called radiofrequency (RF) ablation. Marrouche is pioneering the use of MRIs as a real-time imaging tool to view the damaged heart during an RF ablation and then tracking its recovery. “Technology has opened a new world,” he says.
Reaching for his smartphone, Marrouche says, “What if we could monitor our hearts with a cell phone app, like this one?” He points to a physicians’ prototype revealing the rhythm of his own beating heart. “If we could use available technology to predict arrhythmia, we could prevent heart attacks and save the medical system billions of dollars. Health reform isn’t doing enough. I want medicine to keep improving.”
Noble goals aside, it’s Marrouche’s day-to-day existence that makes him happiest. His perfect Park City day? “Starting procedures at 8 a.m., conducting meetings, and then driving back up Parley’s Canyon into the beautiful air and spending time with my wife and our newborn baby. If I were anywhere else, I wouldn’t be able to do this.”
Weekday Warrior: Jill Layfield
Flashing an engaging smile, Jill Layfield uses laudatory adjectives like “amazing” and “outstanding” to describe her dream job as chief executive officer of Backcountry.com.
Headquartered in Park City, Backcountry.com is a rapid-paced, online specialty retailer, striving to provide the best in high-end outdoor gear.
According to Layfield, “Corporate revenues have increased 14 times since 2004,” when she moved to Park City and joined the company to work in online marketing. In fewer than seven years, she has ascended the corporate ladder to its highest rung.
But marketing technical outdoor gear and action sports equipment is just part of her dream. When she accepted her current position as CEO, she recognized a responsibility to help change leadership opportunities for women in a competitive industry dominated by men. “The statistics indicate how few women there are in executive positions,” she says, “and it’s shocking.” Layfield committed to fund a program to mentor women for leadership roles in the outdoor industry. “Park City is an attractive recruiting tool,” she says. “I can leverage the company’s envious location to hire and develop great talent.”
Her boundless enthusiasm isn’t reserved for professional challenges, either, as she stresses how she fully intends to get back into rock climbing, as soon as she finishes teaching her two toddlers how to ski.
In a 2011 Park City TedX presentation, Layfield extolled the virtues of doing everything and doing it well. Her leadership mantras were topped off with this infectious message: “The most important thing,” she says, is to “love what you do, do what you love, and give it to the world!”