Emergency Department doctor retires after 40 years serving Steamboat

Steve Sehnert, left, and Dr. David Wilkinson pose for a photo at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center’s Steamboat Derby party in 2019.
UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center Foundation/Courtesy photo

After working as an emergency medicine physician in Steamboat Springs for 40 years and treating almost every type of case imaginable, Dr. David Wilkinson served his last shift on Wednesday, Dec. 21, in the Emergency Department at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.

A group from Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue stopped by to wish Wilkinson well over coffee and bagels.

“We just wanted to show our support and tell him we were going to miss him,” Captain Michael Arce said. “We work pretty closely with these guys, and when they retire and are no longer around, it makes an impact on what we do.”

Arce, who has known Wilkinson for 25 years, noted, “his contribution is almost unparalleled.”

“He deserves the admiration and the respect of the EMS community,” Arce said. “The number of years the guy has been doing it, it’s crazy, and he’s done it exceptionally well.”

“When I first moved to Steamboat, the people in the emergency department along with the EMS providers became my first family,” Wilkinson said. “I remember the early days when we had six bays with curtains, and I had a rotary dial phone and only two books on my desk. Now, we’re a leader in emergency care, have an incredible facility, and have nationally recognized patient experience scores.”

Fellow emergency medicine physician Dr. Laura Sehnert said this week of Wilkinson, “emergency medicine in our community is what it is today thanks to the foundation built by some of the first emergency medicine physicians in Steamboat, including Dr. Wilkinson.”

Dr. David Wilkinson, emergency medicine physician at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, stands tall in the center surrounded by members of the Emergency Department team and Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue during his last shift on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. Fire Rescue personnel came by to wish Wilkinson well as he retires after providing emergency care for 40 years.
UCHealth/Courtesy photo

“Countless locals, visitors and even members of our YVMC family have received care from ‘Dr. Dave’ or ‘Wilky,’ as so many fondly call him. The department will feel different without him, but we’re all grateful to have worked alongside him for so many years,” Sehnert said.

Registered Nurse Maureen Connolly, emergency department nurse manager, called Wilkinson “one of a kind, a legend in the ER.”

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“He cares about this community and his colleagues like they are family. The impact he has had on this hospital and the first responders over the past 40 years is felt every day with his kindness, humor and humility,” Connolly said.

It was 40 years ago when Dr. Dave Wilkinson landed in Steamboat Springs. Many thought that he was way too cool to be a doctor, but his charismatic, fun-loving personality combined with his medical skills made him a natural fit for Steamboat and the community that he serves.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Steamboat Pilot & Today profiled the doctor with the larger-than-life personality in June 2018 after 35 years in the Emergency Department. The extensive profile can be found on the Pilot website with the headline: “‘Too cool’ Steamboat emergency doctor with larger-than-life personality celebrates 35 years.”

The adventurous Wilkinson also was named Best of the Boat ER Doc in 2013.

“It’s a great job, but it’s pretty dynamic and always has an element of stress,” Wilkinson said in 2013. “You never know what you’re going to get. It can be mundane one moment and super busy the next.”

It was 40 years ago when Dr. Dave Wilkinson landed in Steamboat Springs and launched a career in emergency care that has stretched four decades. His ‘larger-than-life” personality and his service to the community has made him a role-model for many and a fixture in the Steamboat Springs medical community.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Registered Nurse Katie Costello said this week, “Regardless of the chaos in the department, Dr. Wilkinson is always able to sit down calmly with patients, listen to them and put them at ease. He treats patients as people.”

The charismatic doctor, and father to three children, has served thousands of shifts in the Emergency Department and, by all accounts, has made a huge impression in the community.

“There’s perhaps a certain deep sadness in leaving, and a great joy in remembering,” Wilkinson said. “I am blessed with a sense of how profound and intense and beautiful my career has been in this community at this hospital.”

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