Get to Know Your Vail Doc: Dr. Erik Dorf |

Get to Know Your Vail Doc: Dr. Erik Dorf

Daily staff report
VAIL CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyDr. Erik Dorf joined Vail-Summit Orthopaedics in 2008 after completing 10 years of training, which culminated with a fellowship at Wake Forest University.

Vail native Dr. Erik Dorf is a physician with Vail-Summit Orthopaedics. He specializes in hand, elbow and shoulder injuries.

“Much of my work at Vail Summit Orthopaedics is elective in nature, dealing with the wear and tear on joints that comes with our active, sports-minded population,” Dorf said. “My orthopaedic training has also prepared me to take general orthopaedic call, which means I enjoy caring for everything from femur fractures to finger amputations.”

Dorf joined Vail-Summit Orthopaedics in 2008 after completing 10 years of training, which culminated with a fellowship at Wake Forest University.

1. VD: How/why did you get into your chosen field?

ED: As a medical student at the University of Colorado, I had the opportunity to do a rotation on the orthopaedic service in the fall of my junior year. The first patient I saw was a 70-year-old woman who had fallen in the spring and fractured her femur while skiing in Vail. Only six months later, we were clearing her to go skiing again the following winter. I thought that was so amazing. There are very few fields of medicine that offer us the opportunity to make that kind of impact on a person’s life.

2. VD: How are you different from the other orthopaedic surgeons out there?

ED: I think growing up here in the Vail Valley gives me a unique perspective of the lifestyle of my patients. I continue to ski and bike race competitively, and I place a very high priority in my life on staying active and healthy. I try to carry this over to the care of my patients. I feel strongly that many of the healthy people I take care of can often times heal themselves, given the right treatment plan. I reserve surgical management for patients who truly need an operation to achieve the best outcome.

3. VD: What are you excited about in the world of medicine right now?

ED: Orthopaedics is always changing. I enjoy watching the evolution of how we manage orthopaedic injures both from a mechanical and biologic perspective. For example how we stabilize a bone (plate, screws, suture etc.) has an effect on how it heals. The body’s own healing potential also has a huge effect on outcome. These two factors cannot be separated, and I like that interplay.

4. Tell us a little about your background, education and experience.

ED: Most importantly, I went to Battle Mountain High School. I subsequently received my undergraduate degree at Middlebury College. Following Middlebury, I spent some formative years founding and working with a not-for-profit organization. During this time I built three schoolhouses, one each in Brazil, Malawi, and Nepal. I spent the season of 1994-’95 in Val d’Isere France. In the spring of that season I blew up my knee, and had an ACL reconstruction by Dr. Peter Janes. During this process, Dr. Janes convinced me to go back to medical school. I went to the University of Colorado medical school in Denver and applied for residency in orthopaedic surgery. Although I was sad to leave Colorado, I was honored to be offered a residency position at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville. I spent five years in Charlottesville, before doing a one year fellowship in Hand and Upper Extremity Surgery at Wake Forest University.

5. VD: What philosophy do you follow in dealing with your patients?

ED: While many of the injuries I deal with are quite complicated, I prefer to take a straight forward approach to dealing with most problems. We have a very educated population here, and most people are able to understand their injury, treatment options, and expectations. I like to take the time to explain all of these details to my patients. Hopefully we can then all arrive at a treatment strategy that makes sense. People do best when they are proactively invested in their own recovery. I try to foster that spirit.

6. VD: What’s the No. 1 thing people should do to be healthy?

ED: Ride your bike in the summer, ski in the winter. Actually I am not that narrow minded, the goal is to stay active and make healthy choices all year round, whichever activities you choose. I love taking care of all the athletes in the valley, regardless of their chosen hobbies.

Visit for more information about Vail-Summit Orthopaedics.

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