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Doctors drop the textbooks, head to the OR

Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyDr. Bill Sterett, right, and Dr. Mike Huang begin a total knee arthroplasty procedure recently at Steadman Hawkins.
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VAIL ” Dr. Mike Huang has been a student for 26 years. He went to college, he went to medical school and he completed a residency.

But he wanted one more year of training before he went out on his own as an orthopedic surgeon. For the last year, he’s been in Vail shadowing some of the most respected sports-medicine doctors in the world.

“You can only get so much from a textbook,” he said.



Huang is one of seven young doctors who are completing a one-year sports-medicine fellowship with the Steadman Hawkins Research Foundation.

The fellows also spend a couple of months doing research with the help of the foundation’s massive database of patients’ conditions before and after surgeries.



Each year, about 650 doctors finish residencies in orthopedic surgery. About 140 apply for the Steadman Hawkins fellowship, and seven are selected.

The nonprofit Steadman Hawkins Research Foundation, which raises and spends about $3 million each year, relies on donations from individuals and corporations.

On Monday, Huang was making rounds at the clinic with Dr. Bill Sterett, who is the doctor for the U.S. Women’s Alpine Ski Team.



They checked in on Erin Keating, an Edwards resident who had an anterior-cruciate ligament surgery in March. She hurt her knee while skiing.

Keating’s rehabilitation was going well, but the graft in her knee needed more time to strengthen, Sterett said. The doctors decided to wait a little longer before testing out the knee.

“Let her strengthen a little more over the summer,” Huang said.

“Just before ski season, we’ll have her come back with her tennis shoes and make her huff and puff,” Sterett said.

Keating said her knee is feeling good.

“Like nothing ever happened,” she said.

The clinic has lots of local patients, but also draws patients from around the nation and world. Many professional athletes come to the clinic for surgery.

Colin Looney ” a 33-year-old doctor who is another fellow with the program ” said he’s gotten a few autographs ” though privacy laws don’t allow him to name names.

Looney was at the top of his class at Duke University School of Medicine and has won a bunch of academic honors. He jumped at the chance to work with Dr. Richard Steadman, the clinic’s founder and an innovator in the field, he said.

“He’s one of the most well-known figures in sports medicine,” he said.

The fellows have some time to enjoy the outdoors, here, too.

“My skiing got a lot better,” Looney said. “I fly-fish as much as I can.”

Looney said he skis carefully, which seems understandable considering his research topic at the fellowship is combined ACL-MCL knee blowouts.

Dr. John Feagin, an associate professor emeritus of orthopedic surgery at Duke who retired to Vail, serves as the fellows’ mentors.

The fellowship creates the last bit of sophistication that doctors need ” plus the scientific and research groundwork that will allow them to advance the field of sports medicine ” Feagin said.

“It is the icing on the cake, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.


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