Vail Health Magazine 2013 - page 58

let her husband choose where they’d end up af-
ter Seattle, and he wanted to come to Colorado.
“I began interviewing throughout the state,
and an opportunity opened up here in Vail,”
Gray said. “The small town of the Vail Valley
was very enticing for me professionally, but it
also was a great place for us to raise a family
and also to enjoy so many of the things people
enjoy here. We love to mountain bike and hike,
and we love to ski and snowshoe, and so we
thought it was going to be a great place for
us to settle for the long-term, and it really has
ended up being that for us.”
Dr. Steinberg thinks there were at least 135
applicants for Vail’s first permanent doctor
position. The Steinbergs came to Vail in January
of 1965 to check the place out, and Vail founder
Pete Siebert sat down with them for at least
an hour to talk about Vail and why they
desperately needed a doctor.
Part of the reason shines some light onto
Vail’s historical connection with many wealthy
Mexican families, a continuously loyal custom-
er base for the ski resort since those early days.
Steinberg remembers Siebert telling him
about a “big group” of Mexican families that
had traveled to Aspen for ski vacations.
“But they wanted to come to Vail — Aspen
was sort of a socialite town and Vail was going
to be a family town, but they wouldn’t bring
their families here unless there was a medical
facility,” Steinberg said.
Murchison chose Dr. Steinberg for the job
after the two met in New York. In the summer
of 1965, Dr. Steinberg found a place for him and
his wife to live and he also found a place for
the medical office at Mill Creek Court, the only
building under construction at the time.
And so the history of the Vail Valley Med-
ical Center began with nothing more than
Steinberg’s personal medical equipment that
he hauled to Vail from the East Coast, and a
$10,000 X-ray machine bought by Murchison.
“We had this sort-of, what I called a dog-house
office for the first two years,” Dr. Steinberg said.
“… It was pretty primitive, to put it mildly.”
‘Frontier medicine’
The only lab work available at Vail’s new medical
clinic was whatever work Dr. Steinberg could do
himself. It wasn’t until later that a service was
available that could pick up the samples and
take them to Denver for more extensive work
and eventually a full lab in the hospital.
Dr. Steinberg remembers the first ambulance
he used in Vail — it was an old Forest Service
ambulance and it was so powerless it wouldn’t
even make it up Vail Pass.
“After the first year, the board bought a
station wagon and we converted it into an
ambulance,” Dr. Steinberg said, adding that they
had to tie the stretcher down inside.
If someone went off the road on Vail Pass,
which was then Highway 6, the doctor on call
—which was Steinberg for the first two years —
would have to personally drive the ambulance.
“It was real frontier medicine, shall we say,”
he said. “You had to make quick decisions and
live with them, and fortunately we saved most
of the people.”
Gray listened intently to the stories of those
early days. She said she learned a lot about the
difficulties Dr. Steinberg must have endured,
and told him how much things have changed.
With so many specialists at Vail Valley Med-
ical Center today — everything from ortho-
paedists to gastroenterologists to pediatri-
cians to cardiologists — the hospital is much
more independent.
“That allows us to accomplish quite a bit
here locally and not have to send as many
people to Denver,” Gray said. “It’s changed a lot
— it’s changing as we speak. We’re undergoing
a master facility planning process to grow the
hospital and make it more efficient … so it’s
changing going forward, as well.”
It’s sometimes hard for Dr. Steinberg to
imagine. The current hospital seems like such
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