Steamboat surgeon, adventurer moving after 24 years of service |

Steamboat surgeon, adventurer moving after 24 years of service

Dr. Sisk draws people in with good work, caring, relationships

Team members at Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute celebrate the last day on the job of practice co-founding partner Dr. Michael Sisk, center, wearing his trademark cowboy boots. Sisk and his wife are moving to Wyoming for new adventures.
Paige Boucher/Courtesy photo

Longtime Steamboat Springs surgeon Dr. Michael Sisk is an adventurous, full-of-life guy who seems to have already lived multiple lives.

Professional bronc rider, Everest climber, wrangler, competitive freestyle skier, hunting guide, avid big game hunter, airplane pilot and noted orthopedic surgeon, Sisk has done it all. A few times he went directly from riding a bucking horse at Howelsen Rodeo Grounds to the hospital emergency department to evaluate a trauma case for a fellow cowboy.

The physician said he has broken bones or injured almost every part of his body through the years and endured countless surgeries, which is one reason why he cares for and connects with his orthopedic patients so much.

“I’ve had the advantage of being on that side of the fence line, and it’s helped me be a better doctor in all facets,” Sisk said. “We can really change people’s lives permanently, and that always has given me great satisfaction.”

Patients never found Sisk in a white lab coat and name tag, but instead wearing cowboy boots and asking to be called Michael. The physician said he strove his entire life to be humble above all else.

“He’s really got a heart of gold,” said Dr. Andreas Sauerbrey, a friend and colleague for 30 years. “He really, really cares about his patients and deeply, deeply cares about people and how they do and how they feel.”

“He’s just one of those guys who draws people in and does it through good work and caring and relationships,” Sauerbrey added.

Steamboat Springs physicians, from left, David Wilkinson, Scott Sulentich, Andreas Sauerbrey and Michael Sisk spent one vacation in Las Vegas driving 150 mph laps at a race car track.
Andreas Sauerbrey/Courtesy photo

Sisk joined the team at the former Orthopaedics of Steamboat Springs in 1999, and was performing heel surgery in Steamboat the day after graduating from University of Colorado medical school. In 2018, Sisk became one of the co-founding partners of Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute.

After 24 years serving orthopedic patients in Northwest Colorado, southern Wyoming and western Nebraska and working up to 80-hour weeks, the energetic and upbeat 55-year-old surgeon is slowing down – a little. He and his wife, Bryna Sisk, are moving to Alpine, Wyoming, about 40 miles south of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, where his wife works as a ski instructor.

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The couple have new backcountry Wyoming explorations on tap, hunting, skiing, fishing and mountain biking. True to the couple’s adventurous style, their home in Wyoming is an airport hangar with an upstairs condo.

“My world is a lot based on aviation now. It’s exciting to me,” said Sisk, who owns a modern Super Cub and a vintage T-6 warbird, which he hopes to race in the National Championship Air Races in September in Reno.

Rodeo buddies Eric Swanson, left, and Michael Sisk enjoy a 2021 wild turkey hunting trip to Sonoro, Mexico.
Andreas Sauerbrey/Courtesy photo

The physician will continue working and performing surgery six or eight days a month by flying to western Nebraska to serve patients in two rural communities. He also looks forward to volunteering with a Christian medical group in Ukraine, where his brother, an emergency room doctor in Rifle, just spent a month.

After 25 years of competition, Sisk stopped rodeoing at age 49, at a time when he was competing against the children of former rodeo buddies. After a hard ride where he lost both boots and ended up unconscious with his face in the dirt in Steamboat, his wife said it was time to call it quits.

Sisk’s life has been full of injuries that motivated and shaped his career. Observations of injured cowboys and wranglers and his admiration of surgeons who took care of his injuries led him to medical school and into orthopedic surgery.

He broke his back in three places on a misjudged jump on a dirt bike in Sand Wash Basin in northwestern Colorado. His own serious knee injuries and 10 knee surgeries propelled him toward working at the forefront of customized, patient-specific implants for knee joint replacement.

“There are many members of this community who credit him for the fact that they can continue to be active for years beyond what their original joints would have allowed,” Sauerbrey noted.

Sisk grew up competing in football, wrestling and Little Britches rodeos as the son of a doctor in Rifle. On trips to compete in Steamboat, he knew he wanted to live in the Yampa Valley.

He worked as a team physician for the ProRodeo Tour, spent years traveling the world as a physician with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Teams and volunteered for almost a decade for the rodeo board in Steamboat.

“Dr. Sisk has an infectious energy level that carried over to his patients, the office staff and colleagues. He always came into the office with a smile and made everyone around him feel appreciated. He is fiercely passionate about his patients and the community.”

Dr. Patrick Johnston, colleague

Sauerbrey’s esteem for his “all-in all of the time” colleague is apparent.

“Whether I had a really tough case in the operating room, or I needed someone to sit in a fox hole with me, I would call him,” Sauerbrey said. “He’s loyal to the end. That’s just who he is. He is there for his friends, his patients.”

Sisk wants to spend more time with family to whom he is extremely grateful for enduring his very busy life for years. He said working with the “fantastic and supportive” partners at SOSI has been an “unbelievable privilege.”

“I’ve been very fortunate but will pay for that (injuries) as we go forward,” Sisk said. “I wouldn’t take back much of it.”

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