She Traded Her Tennis Racket for a Scalpel | Trinity University

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She Traded Her Tennis Racket for a Scalpel

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

by James Hill ’76

Jana Klepac Cole '87 has traveled some major miles in her lifetime.

Now, residents of Anchorage are grateful that Cole, her husband, and three children call Alaska home. Cole and her associate, Michael Manuel, are two of only eight plastic and reconstructive surgeons in the state. In addition, they deal with all aspects of plastic surgery, including children with congenital deformities, women's breast reconstruction, trauma surgery, and cosmetic surgery.

"I was initially going to do orthopedics," Cole says. "In medical school, I did an elective in plastic surgery. I liked the idea of working on the whole body and people of all ages. Plastic surgery requires both technical expertise and creativity to solve problems. You establish a relationship with some patients for many years."

Cole was born in 1965, in Prague, Czechoslovakia. She and her parents, Karla and the late Miroslav Klepac, left the country shortly after the 1968 Soviet invasion. The young family moved to South Africa and later settled in Canada. It was in Ottawa, Ontario, where Cole developed her tennis skills. She captured the 1981 Canadian National Junior Championships in singles and doubles.

Her tennis prowess caught the eye of legendary Tiger women's coach Emilie Burrer Foster '69, a member of the Trinity Athletic Hall of Fame. Cole went on to attain a dual-match singles record of 85-29, winning nearly 75 percent of her matches. In 1985, Cole teamed up with Elvyn Barrable (Leonard) '87, and reached the NCAA Division I doubles quarterfinals. Both earned All-America honors.

Cole's journey was just beginning when she graduated from Trinity with a degree in biology. She recalls Professor Robert Blystone as an outstanding mentor. She went on to receive a degree in physical therapy from the University of Texas - Southwestern School of Allied Health in Dallas. In 1995, Cole graduated from medical school at the UT Southwestern Medical School. Her surgical training continued at the University of Washington in Seattle where she completed her training in general surgery and then in plastic and reconstructive surgery. Cole became an assistant professor at the University of Washington where she practiced for four years before being drawn to Alaska.

Her husband, John (from San Antonio), is a computer programmer who runs the medical practice. Cole's oldest daughter, Riley (age 18), won the Alaska high school state high jump championship and is an outstanding basketball player. Riley spent her junior year in Austria and is fluent in German. The Coles' younger daughter Michelle (13) is on the soccer Olympic Development Team (goalkeeper), and their son Greg (7) is an avid Nordic skier. The family enjoys all the outdoor opportunities Alaska has to offer - especially fishing (or as they call it in Alaska, "catching").

Cole, a biology and physical education major, was an honor student at Trinity. She was a member of the Dean's List, Blue Key, and Mortar Board, to name a few. In addition, Cole was a proud member of the Spurs sorority and won the annual Turkey Trot race around campus.

"I came to Trinity on a tennis scholarship," Cole says. "I did not realize at the time what a great academic environment Trinity afforded me. I thank everyone who made that possible."

You may contact Cole at jana.cole [at]