Longtime local returns to Summit County to treat worn-out knees and hips
If the newest member of the Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery team strikes you as familiar, you’re not alone.
Dr. Henry Yu, VSON’s adult reconstruction specialist, had a long and diverse history in Summit County before returning to school to become an orthopaedic surgeon … and then landing his new job, which starts in mid-September.
“Our total joints program has seen incredible growth,” says Dr. Nathan Cafferky, VSON’s adult reconstruction and total joint surgeon. “To continue providing our patients with world-class total joint care, it became time to invite another fellowship-trained total joint surgery to join our practice.”
Yu says that he hopes his longtime local connections will help establish him as a trusted specialist when people’s active mountain lifestyles lead them to consider arthritic hip or knee replacement.
“My goal is taking care of the community, and as an active person I understand people’s motivations and goals in reconstructive surgery,” he says. “The key is building great relationships and good outcomes.”
Yu grew up in the Parker area in Southeast Metro Denver and attended CU after high school, graduating with a degree in chemical engineering. Though he quickly found professional success, Yu says he didn’t particularly enjoy the field, so he moved to Breckenridge in 2000 to become what some might recognize as a consummate mountain-town local.
“I started as a ski instructor and then stayed on as a ski patroller through 2012,” he says. “In the summers, I worked every possible typethe ad of job imaginable. I was an EMT instructor, I was a tennis pro at the Rec Center, I was a stonemason, I worked in restaurants, I was a land surveyor for Range West, and I worked for an engineering firm in Alma. I even worked on the rivers.”
Yu says his experiences at Breckenridge, seeing a lot of orthopaedic trauma, and his work in EMT training got him more interested in pursuing medicine and becoming a doctor. In 2011, he started applying to medical schools.
“I got accepted into Loyola in Chicago in 2012 and I was lucky enough to get an orthopaedics residency back in Denver at the University of Colorado, and I spent five years there, specializing in hip and knee surgery. I also did a fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, in downtown Philadelphia.” The 43-year-old Yu’s role at VSON, focusing on orthopaedic replacement work, will put the surgeon in an equally familiar company as many of his patients will be in his actively athletic age group.
“It’s a little serendipitous – I left for 10 years, and now a lot of my local friends in their mid-40s and early 50s need knee replacements. This is a community where people wear out their joints at a much earlier age. That’s what I’m here for. Suppose arthritic pain impacts your life or you can no longer do the activities that brought you to Summit or Eagle County. In that case, total joint surgery is essential for maintaining your lifestyle.”
Unlike most total joint specialists who mostly focus on seniors, Yu says his sub-specialty is also providing revision work for younger patients who’ve had knee or hip work and need a slight upgrade as they age.
“All orthopaedic surgeons need to know how to do both knees and hips, but my specialized training is my ability to re-do and revise earlier work. Multiple friends of mine have gone through the surgery and are happy with the results. Some have even gone back to skiing or working on the ski patrol.”
Despite being an active athlete, Yu says some adult reconstruction patients are starting to outpace him when he’s out on the trail.
“I was a pretty decent mountain bike racer, but my friends are blowing me away,” he says.
Yu says his wife, Sarah, has equally deep roots in Breckenridge, skiing here as a child. She works with Breckenridge ski patrol and had a long-standing timer job with Jeff Westcott of Maverick Sports Productions. The couple and their kids, aged 5 and 7, are excited to be back in the community full-time.
“Dr. Yu is highly trained, and he was hand-picked to join our team,” Cafferky says. “With his history in the Colorado Mountains and his education, training, and philosophies in patient care, I know Dr. Yu will continue to provide the highest level of care to our communities.”
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