Steamboat welcomes back 2nd-generation healer
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Growing up watching her dad mend the broken bones and worn-out joints of the Steamboat Springs community, Dr. Erin Bomberg knew by high school she wanted to go into the medical field.
Before moving to Steamboat in 1993, Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bryan Bomberg served as an assistant team physician for the New England Patriots, an NFL team, and the Boston Bruins, an NHL team. He also worked as chief of sports medicine and team physician for the NCAA Falcon football and hockey teams during his time with the U.S. Air Force.
The family came to Steamboat when Erin was about 4 years old. She graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 2006.
Today, Bryan takes care of many Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skiers and is a traveling physician for the U.S. Ski Team and part of the Steamboat Orthopaedic and Spine Institute.
He also volunteers abroad — one time helping the Operation Walk team do 60 knee and hip replacements during a week spent in Panama.
An athlete and avid outdoorswoman herself, Erin was always drawn to aspects of sports medicine.
But she also knew she wanted to chart a different path than her father.
Erin also is certified yoga instructor and said she has always been community service oriented.
Erin’s interests and skills led her to osteopathic medicine. She returned to Steamboat after completing her residency and internship in New Mexico in June.
In August, she opened the doors to her own practice on Oak Street.
“I knew this is where I wanted to settle down and build a medical practice and raise a family,” Erin said. “Nothing else has ever felt like home.”
She loves the mountains, the seasons and is happy to be close to her parents.
The pathways for Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) — and the types of patients and issues they care for — are very far-reaching and broad, Erin described.
Many work as primary care physicians, she said, and others narrow in on more specific fields.
“It’s such a broad specialty,” she said. “It can take you whatever route you want to go.”
‘The osteopathic philosophy of medicine sees an interrelated unity in all systems of the body, with each working with the other to heal in times of illness,” according to the American Osteopathic Association.
DOs complete four years of medical school, with additional training on the musculoskeletal system.
The idea of looking at the patient as a whole person appeals to her, Erin said. Much of her time is spent communicating with her patients.
One patient with widespread pain, for example, she said, had anxiety issues related to history of domestic abuse.
Erin made sure to schedule appointments when there weren’t many other people around and only use female assistants. Knowing the patient needed to be more active, Erin helped the patient find something she enjoyed doing and could do without having to interact with many other people.
There were many steps, Erin explained, to get that patient into a comfortable and sustainable treatment plan.
Erin takes the approach of not just treating the symptoms, but digging deeper and figuring out what else is going on their life, ideally finding ways to prevent the symptoms, “and then figure out the best treatment plan for that individual and their lifestyle.”
If a patient has knee problems, Erin looks at the bigger picture and works to get all systems into balance.
“The whole is the greater than the sum of its parts,” she said.
That means a collaborative approach to medicine, she said, and often referring patients to the doctors who can best meet their individual needs.
“Medicine should take a cooperative and integrated approach,” Erin said — always focused on what is in the best interest of the patient.
Erin prescribes pharmaceuticals when needed but also utilizes many other tools and prefers to avoid opioids if possible. She uses dry needling, trigger point and joint injections, auricular acupuncture and nerve blockers, among other treatments.
She specializes in Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT), a hands-on method used by DOs “to diagnose illness and injury and encourage your body’s natural tendency toward self-healing,” according to the American Osteopathic Association. “OMT is often used to treat muscle pain, but it can also help provide relief for patients with asthma, sinus disorders, carpal tunnel syndrome and migraines. In many cases OMT can be used to complement, or even replace, drugs or surgery.”
She uses her hands for the “first line” diagnosis and treatment, Erin said.
Treating patients of all ages, she treats both acute and chronic pain conditions. Erin sees a lot of headaches and migraines, concussions, sports injuries and people with rheumatologic issues. She also treats pregnant women and newborns that have misshapen heads, neck positioning issues or trouble suckling.
Giving patients exercises they can do at home, Erin said her goal is to have patients continue the healing process on their own. While some do require regular care for chronic conditions, if at all possible, Erin said, “I don’t want them to be reliant on me.”
While Erin’s practice is just getting off the ground — and facing the unprecedented challenges of starting a new business amid a pandemic — she is focused on giving back to the community she said has always loved and supported her.
And because of the pandemic, and “all the isolation, loneliness and anxiety, I feel that the hands-on modality can be even more therapeutic than before the pandemic started.”
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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