Dr. Arthur Lawrence joins Breckenridge High Country Healthcare
September 28, 2013
Dr. Arthur Lawrence is an expert when it comes to the warrior pose. But rather than flying over the Afghanistan desert, these days he plants his feet firmly on his yoga mat.
Lawrence completes his yoga routine every morning by 8. A former Air Force flight surgeon, he joined Breckenridge High Country Healthcare earlier this month.
Lawrence joins a team of three other doctors at the Breckenridge location, which will soon see extended evening hours with his help. He said living in Summit County is certainly different from the tropical island he was living on before.
"I didn't know if it was even possible, but I thought it would be really lucky if I ended up somewhere like this," he said.
In the 1980s, Lawrence lived in Boulder, working at a bike shop and racing as a professional mountain biker. It was only after he went back to school that he realized medicine was his future.
"I was into the workings of the physical body," he said. "I didn't really recognize you could become a doctor — I thought you were just kind of born into it or something."
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After completing medical school in Iowa and his residency in Florida, Lawrence joined the military for the travel opportunities to kick-start his medical career.
As an Air Force flight surgeon, Lawrence served at bases in New Mexico, Alaska and most recently, Japan. He was deployed from Okinawa in 2011 to serve in Afghanistan, where he worked in special operations as part of helicopter rescue teams.
He traveled to Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, among other places, throughout his Air Force career, even serving humanitarian missions in Nicaragua.
"A lot of what I was doing in special ops was training other doctors, from those other countries, how to do emergency casualty evacuations," he said.
Lean, with short brown hair still cropped close to his scalp, Lawrence gestures in small motions close to his body with hands that have operated on countless soldiers and civilians.
Rhonda Koehn, High County Healthcare CEO, said Lawrence was the one to seek out her company and the position.
"He's had such neat experiences and is such a great addition to the community," she said.
His father was in the Navy for a few years, but Lawrence said he doesn't come from a big military family and was happy to return to a civilian life.
"I'm glad I'm not doing the military thing anymore," he said. "I like regular people."
Lawrence said while he never second-guessed becoming a doctor, the military and his time in Afghanistan made it hard.
"The war is not a fun thing," he said.
Lawrence is an osteopathic physician — a doctor who employs traditional family medicine practices with a focus on how an illness or injury in one part of the body can affect another part. That means an examination for back pain might also include a look at other joints, tendons, ligaments or muscles to determine the reason for pain, or find restrictions in motion that signal injury or impaired function.
"I have a hands-on approach," he said. "It's integrative medicine. I use whatever is best for the patient, I might use traditional medicine and acupuncture or something."
Robyn Merrill, the Breckenridge clinic manager, said Lawrence's specific skill set has been a great complement to the team.
"He's a great fit for our group," she said. "I've heard some great comments from patients and they are excited to have him here too."
When he moved from Japan with his wife, stepdaughter and two dogs, Lawrence said packing, transport and getting settled was difficult — his family is still renting a place while they look for a more permanent home. Lawrence and his family flew into Florida to visit his parents, then took a cross-country road trip to get to Colorado.
"Once you see those mountains, and you get out of Kansas, that's when it gets fun," he said.
Dr. C.L. Perrinjaquet, known as "Doc PJ," has been showing Lawrence the ropes — or rather, the trails. The two have been going on mountain bike rides together around Breckenridge and recently bought season ski passes so they could snowboard this winter.
"Every time I run into him, he's excited to be up here in Summit County," Doc PJ said.
For Lawrence, getting back into a Colorado meant the opportunity to take his Jeep off-roading in the mountains. He said not much has changed here, except maybe himself.
"It's kind of awesome," he said. "I feel lucky to be working here."
Lawrence sees children and adults of all ages, offering general checkups and care for chronic conditions.
"We all have special areas of interest that complement each other," Doc PJ said. "He's a fun, enthusiastic, athletic guy who is really excited about being here."