Vail Valley native returns as a surgeon |

Vail Valley native returns as a surgeon

EAGLE COUNTY ” Most people just have surgery and rehab when they blow out a knee. Vail Valley native Eric Dorf used it as a gateway to a new career.

Dorf was recently hired as Vail-Summit Orthopaedics’ newest surgeon, with a specialty in the upper extremities, meaning he focuses on just about everything from the fingertip to the shoulder. He and his family have settled into a home in Breckenridge, and he splits time between the clinic’s Summit and Eagle County offices.

Dorf, an Eagle County native and 1988 Battle Mountain High School graduate, had already graduated from college and was pondering graduate school when he hurt his knee.

Dorf’s doctor, Peter Janes, asked his patient about his plans for the future and suggested medicine.

“He knew I was interested in medicine,” Dorf said. “But I hadn’t had any training.”

A few months later, Dorf was in Boulder taking some pre-med classes, thinking it might lead to a nursing or physicians’-assistant degree. But the more classes he took ” and the more success he had in science and biology ” the more medical school beckoned.

That began a long journey of four years of medical school at Colorado, a five-year internship and residence at the University of Virginia and a year’s fellowship at Wake Forest University.

Already mechanically minded, Dorf was leaning toward surgery, but a patient in Denver sealed the deal.

One of the first patients he saw in medical school was a 65-year-old woman who had fractured her femur (thigh bone), and who, after surgery and rehab, got medical clearance to ski again the next year.

“I saw it as a sign,” Dorf said. “It was so cool she could go skiing again.”

After more than a decade of training and residency, a job offer was waiting from the doctor who’d put Dorf’s knee back together more than a decade before. Dorf leaped at the chance and started with Vail-Summit in September.

Part of the appeal of the local job was simply coming home. Much of Dorf’s family still lives in the Vail Valley, and he still loves the place and the chance for him and his wife, Sue, to raise their two kids in a small mountain town.

“I want them to grow up doing what I did,” he said.

And yes, that means skiing. The Dorfs took their son to his first ski area ” in Virginia ” when he was just 18 months old. Their daughter’s first ski trip came at 20 months, to a hill in North Carolina.

“You have to be dedicated to teach a kid to ski in North Carolina,” he said. “But there aren’t many sports you can do with your family, for your whole life, and be outdoors, exploring nature.”

Another attraction to coming back to the Rockies was the people he’ll work on.

“The patient population here is great,” Dorf said. “Folks here are motivated, healthy and ready for rehab. We actually have more trouble with slowing folks down (in rehab) than speeding them up.

“It’s really fun to be back.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

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