Dr. Oberheide will retire after more than 30 years
SILVERTHORNE When Dr. Jim Oberheide arrived in Summit County he hadnt planned on delivering babies, but that quickly became part of the wide range of medicine he handled.The year was 1974, and he was one of the four doctors in the area. A full service hospital didnt exist, during the night the emergency room opened based on need and Oberheide traveled to hospitals in Kremmling or Fairplay to deliver babies.I really enjoyed that challenge of not having specialty backup all the time, said the family practitioner who works at High Country Health Care in Silverthorne and will retire June 1.For more than 30 years, Oberheide has been an integral part of the medical community in Summit County. Hes cared for generations of families, all of whom are sad to see him go. In fact, Ian Leonard, an EMT with High Country Health Care, consistently hears patients tell stories about the doctor and impact hes had on their lives. Hes super caring about patients, Leonard said, adding that Oberheide has also impacted his life in just the short time hes worked with him, always being willing to share his knowledge and expertise. Patients have been with him for decades. … Its just heartbreaking to see him go. Hes been part of our families lives forever. Oberheide is originally from Chicago and medicine was a field that interested him. Skiing drew him to Colorado to attend the University of Denver. Following that, he went to the University of Illinois for medical school and returned to Denver for an internship.His first job was with the U.S. Army in 1971. He spent a year in Vietnam where one of his roles was running a drug rehabilitation program for the soldiers. When he returned, he began his residency in family practice at St. Joseph Hospital in Denver, and it was there that he met a man who had worked in Summit County. Being interested in working in the mountains, he was referred to Dr. Bob Swearingen, an orthopedic surgeon who built the original Summit Medical Center in Frisco, Oberheide said. At the time, the population of the county was between 6,000 and 7,000. There were not stop lights and Summit County was rural and isolated from mainstream medicine, he said. During those first couple years, he handled a number of construction accidents that occurred while building the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel (completed in 1973). Throughout the years, he became an expert in altitude and his medical expertise ranged from delivering babies to the hospice care work he did Bristlecone Health Services, and of course, included ski injuries.He even played a major role following what may be the most serious mass accident in the area. In the early 90s, the accident at Keystone Ski Resort was an example of how isolated we can be up here, he said.A ski lift derailed landing about 40 people at the Keystone clinic where Oberheide was working, he said. Some people had fallen between 20 and 25 feet and were seriously injured, he continued.Luckily, about 10 doctors were out skiing that day. There was an orthopedic conference going on and a couple surgeons were up from Denver. They were pulled off the mountain to help. That day, Army helicopters made about 12 runs transferring patients to Denver, he said.And while Oberheide has mixed feelings about the growth in the county, he said it is satisfying to see the expansion of the quality of medicine and specialists. Additionally, throughout the years, he has enjoyed that Summit has become more culturally diverse.Another change within his time here is with ski injuries. In recent years, the number of life-threatening injuries, such as head, neck injuries, has climbed, he said, adding that that may be due to changes in the sport and how fast people ski and ride.Now, as he retires, Oberheide plans to still be involved with medicine on a part-time and volunteer basis, possibly with urgent care.Oberheide and his wife Tina have four boys, Peter, 38, Tom, 34, Andres, 20, and the youngest, Carlos, 18, who will graduate from Summit High School this year. The family has a house in Salida and plans to spend time there as well as Summit. Im looking forward to retirement, but its tough saying good-bye to patients, Oberheide said. Its been great. … Its been a wonderful place to practice.Lory Pounder can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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