Dr. Larry Bookman retires as chief medical officer at Yampa Valley Medical Center
Steamboat Springs — Dr. Larry Bookman, who played a leadership role in ushering modern emergency medicine into the Yampa Valley, retired March 31 as chief medical officer at Yampa Valley Medical Center.
Bookman, one of the original recipients of the Doc Willett Health Care Heritage Award here, retired as director of emergency medicine in 2009. He stayed on as chief medical officer to become more involved in strategic planning and to help the hospital and the local community of healthcare providers navigate the changing landscape of healthcare delivery. Among the changes were those brought about by the Affordable Care Act and the trend toward health insurance companies acquiring hospitals. Bookman understood that those changes, coupled with the escalating costs of medical degrees and liability insurance for physicians, would create a certain amount of turmoil in the field.
“The idea of strategic planning has been revolutionized,” Bookman said in a recent interview. “Hospitals’ strategic plans used to be revised every three to five years. Now things are moving so fast they have to be revised every six months to make sure organizations are adjusting to what’s been going on. The (YVMC) administration, as well as the board, realized that the times are a changing and they needed to be prepared. Different responses are needed in a rural, but sophisticated healthcare delivery system, versus a big city system.”
YVMC CEO Frank May praised Bookman’s service to the community and its visitors in an announcement of his retirement.
“We and the community owe Dr. Bookman a great deal of gratitude for the services he has provided as an emergency physician and medical officer for YVMC,” May was quoted as saying. “I will personally miss the wisdom and knowledge he has brought to the CMO role.”
Longtime partner in their emergency medicine practice, Dr. David Wilkinson said this week that Bookman was a reassuring choice to serve as chief medical officer during a period of transition.
“Larry is a piece of the legacy of what this city has become,” Wilkinson said. “I respect him a lot, and he certainly changed my life.”
Bookman said a bigger story than his retirement is the new services and accolades that have come to YVMC in recent years. The hospital opened the Gloria Gossard Breast Health Center in October 2014. And in July 2012, he had the pleasure of revealing to the staff that Consumer Reports had rated YVMC as the safest hospital in Colorado.
Bookman takes satisfaction from the contribution he made to the hospital’s affiliation with the Mayo Clinic, also formalized in October 2014.
“That was a big part of my focus early on,” he said. “Going through the vetting process took a little over a year.”
The affiliation with the Mayo Clinic allows physicians associated with YVMC to consult electronically with Mayo physicians, among other benefits.
Wilkinson said Bookman helped the Yampa Valley transition from the era when local doctors with varying specialities covered emergency care on a rotating on-call basis to a new era of physicians who specialized in emergency care.
After attending medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and completing an internship in internal medicine in Richmond, Va., Bookman served as a Naval flight surgeon during the Vietnam War. That experience led to an interest in emergency medicine, and he entered one of the few programs in the country at that time, at Denver General Hospital.
Bookman became familiar with Steamboat Springs through handball tournaments at the old Storm Meadows Athletic Club and located his practice here in 1978. He was just in time to lead the medical team responding to a commercial airplane crash in a snowstorm on Buffalo Pass. Twenty of 22 people on board the aircraft survived the crash after the aircraft came down in a remote location on the Continental Divide.
In his 30-plus-year career here, Bookman has demonstrated he had the right stuff for emergency medicine, according to Wilkinson.
“You clearly have to multi-task,” he said, “it’s not like working with one patient at a time. You have to find some challenge and some thrill in knowing that no one’s making appointments. No one knows what’s coming through the door at any given time.”
One of the tough parts of being an emergency department doctor in a tightly knit community is that a significant number of a doctor’s patients are people they know and care about, Wilkinson added.
Bookman said that the roles of chief medical officers, both nationally and at YVMC, are evolving to require that they take on more and more administrative responsibilities. When he first began his role as chief medical officer, the majority of his job involved advising hospital administrators and board members helping them to understand “how physicians think,” he said.
“The job has grown exponentially with all of the recent changes in healthcare,” Bookman said. “The fun part was with strategic planning. Now, it’s a real career path, and the pursuit of administrative stuff is not where my interest lies.”
Whatever lies ahead, Dr. Larry Bookman’s contributions to the community and to local families are incalculable.
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