Dr. Leslie Vidal is the latest breakthrough at The Steadman Clinic
The first female orthopedic surgeon at the world-renowned clinic is settling into her new role
VAIL — Back in the big boardroom at The Steadman Clinic, Dr. Leslie Vidal is explaining what it takes to be a great orthopedic surgeon.
“Historically, orthopedics has been considered a field where you needed a lot of physical strength, and so, 20, 30, 40 years ago, the people who were drawn to this field were generally the strong guys. Sort of the jocks,” she said. “The reality is, you just need to have good knowledge of anatomy and it’s all about finesse and technique as opposed to physical strength. What we’re realizing is that the guys shouldn’t get to have all the fun.”
Vidal is not just the first female orthopedic surgeon to join the world-renowned Vail clinic, which also has locations in Edwards and Frisco. She’s also the first female orthopedic surgeon in the Vail Valley.
For Vidal, a Colorado native who grew up skiing at Vail and then worked on the mountain as a ski instructor in high school, moving to a place she’s long called “her playground” is a dream come true.
Her first day on the job at Steadman was Aug. 1., and her best friend was there to show her around. That would be Vidal’s husband, Dr. Armando Vidal, another accomplished orthopedic surgeon who joined The Steadman Clinic’s staff in May. The couple and their two sons relocated from Denver to Edwards this summer.
“I was a ski instructor here when I was in high school. I was a camp counselor here the summers I was in college,” Vidal said. “My kids have been in the DEVO ski program for the last eight years. So, for us, it’s just incredible to live in our playground and not have to sit on I-70 to get there anymore.”
The first this time
There was a time when Vidal didn’t want to be the first woman through the door. That was when she was deciding on hospitals for her residency after graduating from the Boston University School of Medicine. She completed her undergraduate studies at Brown.
“There were programs that had never had a female orthopedic resident. There were some that sort of told me they were ready to have their first,” she said.
She eventually decided on the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
“It’s a world-renowned orthopedic training facility, and they had a number of females go through the program before,” Vidal said. “Residency is hard enough. I didn’t really think I needed to be the first so I chose to go to the (Hospital for Special Surgery), where there were really incredible role models and mentors and just made the process really awesome.”
One of those role models? Her chief resident, Dr. Peter Millett, who’s now a partner at The Steadman Clinic. It’s also where Vidal first met her husband.
After New York City, the duo decided to serve fellowships at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, tying the knot in the process. They both trained under the supervision of Dr. Marc J. Philippon, who was then the director of sports medicine for hip disorders at the hospital.
“Dr. Leslie Vidal is a gifted surgeon, a thoughtful and meticulous doctor and caretaker who will be a tremendous addition to our orthopedic team here at The Steadman Clinic,” said Philippon, now the managing partner of The Steadman Clinic and co-chair of Steadman Philippon Research Institute, in a release announcing the hire. “Leslie is skilled in all areas of orthopedic surgery and will provide her expertise working on shoulder, knee and hip procedures.”
Vidal hasn’t worked in the same clinic as her husband for the last 14 years, but she said she’s been collaborating with him since they first fell in love.
“Out of eight orthopedic residents, we were two of them. So, we’ve been there before,” she said. “Sometimes our dinner table conversation is, ‘I saw this cool case or I’ve got this challenging case.’ We’ve continued to support each other throughout. In a way, only two orthopedic surgeons can understand each other. We really understand each other’s practice and life and draws and pulls outside of home. I understand if he’s gotta stay late or go to training room or talk to that athlete. I don’t foresee any problem with us working together. It’s going to be a ton of fun.”
Taking care of the locals
At the Steadman Clinic in Vail, the walls are lined with jerseys and pictures signed by some of the world’s greatest athletes. It’s a who’s who for sports junkies — Lindsey Vonn here, Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady there, and too many Broncos to count.
Vidal said she first knew she wanted to work in sports medicine when she was an 11-year-old girl attending a Broncos game with her dad and John Elway got hurt. She told her father she wanted to grow up to be the team doctor. According to Vidal, her dad and everyone else in the south stands at the old Mile High Stadium had a good laugh.
But after moving back to Colorado, Vidal worked for the Denver practice that attended to the Broncos, the Avalanche and the Nuggets. She’s now working at the same clinic where Elway had surgery on his left knee in 1995.
The prestige of The Steadman Clinic attracts A-list athletes from all over the world to Vail, but Vidal said she’s really tailored her work helping recreational athletes, and she’s excited to help locals get back to their healthy, active lifestyles.
“What I find the most rewarding is, in general, in this sub-specialty of sports medicine is, you’re taking care of healthy active people who want to get back to their healthy, active lifestyle. So your goals are aligned when you’re taking care of them,” she said. “It’s really rewarding to take care of someone who is going to follow their PT and be a good patient and the outcomes are excellent. It’s the whole process that I enjoy. Meeting new patients. Everyone’s got a really interesting story.”
As far as her own athletic pursuits, Vidal said she loves to bike, hike and ski — and that she has recently taken up skinning, which she plans to pursue more this winter with the mountains so close.
“We’re really excited to literally walk out our backdoor and hike and bike and fish and just enjoy everything the mountains have to offer,” she said.
And she couldn’t be more thrilled to be the first female orthopedic surgeon on an all-star team of doctors.
“At this point, about 5 to 6 percent of practicing orthopedic surgeons are females. We’re certainly in the minority. That’s why it’s taken so long to have somebody come here to this practice,” she said. “About 15 percent of orthopedic surgeons in their residency are training to become practicing orthopedic surgeons and are females. Hopefully, the trend will continue to be a field that’s not so male-dominated.
“I’m really excited to be the first female at this practice,” she added. “I think there are going to be a lot of fun opportunities up here, and I’m really looking forward to exploring all of them.”
Vail Daily Editor Nate Peterson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.