Monday Medical: Thank a doctor today to show that you care |

Monday Medical: Thank a doctor today to show that you care

— They are there on day one to bring us into the world. In our most vulnerable moments, they are who we turn to for care. They are our physicians. Today is National Doctor’s Day, a little-known observation for a profession relevant to us all.

Ninety-five years ago, Steamboat Springs opened a community hospital in what is now the Old Town Pub. Dr. Frederick E. Willett was there to care for patients, although he did a fair share of house calls, too. In fact, he did his fair share of everything as the region’s beloved “country doctor.”

The idea of a day of recognition for doctors arose in another small town, Winder, Ga., from the wife of a physician. The first observance was March 30, 1933, in recognition of the first administration of anesthesia on the same date in 1842. It was declared a national observance in 1991.

In many small towns and rural areas, there often was one doctor who did it all. Even today, many smaller communities can support only a small fleet of family practitioners and seldom any specialists.

With more than 70 physicians representing nearly 30 specialties, Steamboat Springs defies the expectation that a small town means small-town health care. Visitors from big cities often are shocked to find a trip to Yampa Valley Medical Center’s emergency room takes a fraction of the time they expected. And that it involves a more extensive range of care than they could have imagined.

Even some local residents may not realize how lucky we are. Like our good weather and bountiful amenities, we often take the extent and quality of our health care choices for granted.

“We are lucky to have world-class doctors on every level,” YVMC Coordinator of Medical Staff Services Heather Skinner said. “Almost all of them are board-certified, and most physicians have done fellowships, as well.”

Skinner works closely with Steamboat Springs physicians. Doctors are not employed by the hospital, but they must apply for privileges to see patients at YVMC.

She manages the credentialing, arranges continuing medical education programs and also serves as the electronic medical records technical adviser for physicians.

The Yampa Valley’s spectrum of medical care has come a long way since Dr. Willett’s day. Compared to even the 1990s, our medical staff in Steamboat Springs has expanded its specialties to include cardiology, ear/nose/throat, gastroenterology, occupational medicine, oral/maxillofacial, orthopaedic, pain management, plastic surgery and urology. There also has been significant growth in family medicine, pediatrics and emergency medicine.

“Some small rural communities have doctors taking turns on call in emergency clinics,” Skinner said. “Here, we have seven board-certified emergency medicine doctors, plus specialists on call for traumas.”

Skinner also said most of our physicians expand their horizons beyond Steamboat Springs by continuing their education, attending conferences and keeping up skills.

Many of our physicians travel once or twice a week to surrounding communities. Some volunteer to ski with a radio in case they can assist Steamboat’s Ski Patrol with a trauma. They volunteer at the rodeo in the summer and travel internationally with the U.S. Ski Team. A number of physicians have journeyed to remote villages and poverty-stricken regions of the world to provide care.

They also collaborate as a team, to better serve patients locally.

“Not only is the quality and diversity of our medical staff excellent,” YVMC Chief of Staff Jeanne Fitzsimmons, M.D., said. “We also have the unique ability to work together to provide exceptional care, with patient satisfaction as our ultimate goal.”

Teamwork, commitment to quality and individualized care yield low infection rates and low return rates to the emergency or operating room. It is why our physicians and staff have received national recognition for patient satisfaction.

Steamboat’s physicians also maintain solid relationships with specialists on the Front Range when patients are flown out or referred for services they cannot receive here.

Although we have grown, our community still is small enough that our physicians stand next to us on the sidelines at soccer games, ski races or swim meets.

We can easily get on the same chairlift or flight with someone who treated us. In these moments, we are on a first-name basis.

The next time you run into one of our doctors, be sure to let him or her know that you appreciate what they do, and thank them for being here.

Riley Polumbus is communications specialist at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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