by Holly Battista-Resignolo
They say she always has a smile on her face.
Living in the mountains you hear a lot about broken body parts and along with that, you hear even more about the doctors providing patient care, as people are always looking for references. I personally have been fortunate enough to not need a reference but, over the years I kept hearing indirectly about the care some of my friends had received from a remarkable Crested Butte Orthopaedist, Dr. Gloria Beim M.D. The Head Freeride Coach of the Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team, William Dujardin, said: “Dr. Beim is super Pro and recognizes how you want to get back in action ASAP.” He and many of his athletes and friends have experienced first hand (or leg or arm) her incredible care and hold her in their highest regard.
I thought she might be a good fit for our Women Who Rock the Rockies issue and it wasn’t until I actually sat down and had a conversation with her that I realized how fitting it was that we include her. Here is what I learned from Dr. Gloria Beim of Alpine Orthopaedics in Gunnison and Crested Butte.
“I was a shy, scared and introverted kid that loved medicine and wanted to be a veterinarian. I had no friends and I was severely bullied in school. At age
14 I had had enough of it and thought “I am going to follow my dream and get out of here”. I went to the school’s Board of Education to petition them to allow me to start college early and was approved. As soon as I went to college I made friends, came out of my shell, and I wasn’t a scared, bullied kid anymore. I was pretty happy.
While I was at college I had a really bad knee injury. My whole focus changed from my vision of being a vet to human medicine. I was 16 and decided I just had to be an Orthopaedist. When I told my own Orthopaedist he told me, well, “women just don’t go into Ortho, they are not physically strong enough” but that wasn’t going to stop me. I joined a gym and became a bodybuilder, and got REALLY strong. I was just not going to let that perception stop me.
I got into medical school at UC San Diego, my dream school, and when I was preparing for the residency trail for Orthopaedics, which is one of the most competitive residencies you can get into, I was pretty much the only woman in the interviews. It was all guys and me. During those interviews I heard it again; the same question came up over and over again, “women aren’t strong enough to do this work, how are you going to do this?” I thought I am strong enough for this and I have worked hard and it is my passion, so I will not be deterred. In the last interview I went to, the guy conducting the interview reiterated the same limiting belief, that a woman could not be strong enough, and I told him “I am so tired of hearing that, I‘ll tell you what, I will arm wrestle you right now. If I lose I will leave right away and if I win you will treat me like every other guy in here”…and beat him. If he was Arnold Schwarzenegger I would have won, my adrenaline…you have heard of moms picking cars up off their kids, I could have lifted a car. I was that pumped and there was no way I could have lost, and I didn’t, I won.
He offered me a spot right there. I ended up going to the New York Orthopaedic Hospital at Columbia where it was me and 35 guys. During that time there was one woman who was just finishing up her residency and another woman who was in the program for a couple of years, so I wasn’t completely alone. I just tried to fit in, I went to the gym with the guys and asked them to treat me the same and for the most part, they did. I had some bumps here and there but I never let it get to me, I just held my own, I was always happy.
I am always smiling, you can ask anyone. My colleagues and students would always ask me why am I always smiling and always so happy and they still do. One of the secrets of my happiness is because my parents are both Holocaust survivors. They were my inspiration to dream big, they taught me you can do anything, you can survive anything. I mean, if they can survive that, I can survive anything and that was my secret to grasping a dream and never quitting until I got it. I remember in med- school people were dropping like flies and complaining how the program was like torture, and I thought what do they know of torture? We grow up free, in a free country. We can practice our religion, we can go to school and become anything we want, there are no limitations in this life for us versus what my parents went through and I have worked hard in school and here at my practice. I never saw it as torture; I saw it as a privilege and honor that I can get to do this. This is my philosophy in life and it is my driving force.
I take advantage of everything that life has to offer. I have two kids, 8 and 14, they are amazing and I love them so much. Some people ask how can you be so busy in your practice and take care of kids? Do you just dump them at daycare? No, I built a clinic with an extra big office where I could bring my babies to work. A week after I had them they were there with me. I got my Bjorn Bag and my babies would be with me for most of my clinics or I would put them down for naps while attending to my patients.
I would bring them with me when I had surgeries with a babysitter who would watch them until I was done so I could go nurse them.
I just balanced it, it wasn’t really that hard. As they got older they would come to the office and ER with me.
By the time my daughter was three she could diagnose an X-ray. Instead of teaching them the regular names of body parts I taught them the correct terminology, they knew a knee was a patella and an elbow was an olecranon. One time I was in the ER with a 16 year old girl who had broken her leg, we walked over to the X-ray monitor, pulled up her X-rays and she said “oh yes, she has a tibia fracture.” My kids have been by my side every step of their lives. My daughter wants to be an Orthopaedist too. She studies very hard. Today she helps in the office during the summer rooming patients, taking vital signs and helping put casts on. She is not shy like I was at that age. Again, my secret was my parents. I owe everything to them, especially my father.
“I cannot imagine any other profession that gives you such gratification. I live to help another human being out, to help them get back to their sport, their work or their life. I love my work so much. I could not imagine getting up and not have this profession to help others. Taking care of all people, young and old is my passion.”
What Inspiration. Dr. Gloria Beim is Board Certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery in Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine. She is also fellowship trained in shoulder surgery, knee surgery, arthroscopy and sports medicine. Her Orthopaedic credentials were earned at the New York Orthopaedic Hospital at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. She then completed her sports medicine, knee, shoulder and arthroscopy fellowship training at the University of Pittsburgh, Center for Sports Medicine in 1996.
Dr. Beim has been practicing in the Gunnison Country since 1996 and founded Alpine Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Clinic, located on the Western Slope of the Colorado Rockies in 1999 and holds clinics at three different locations: Gunnison, Crested Butte, and Telluride.
In April of 2006 Alpine Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Cilnic opened its doors to a new 11,000 sq.ft., state-of-the-art facility, including Alpine Surgery Center, Gunnison County’s first ambulatory surgery center. More remarkable is the fact that she has been chosen to assist our Olympic and International athlete’s 9 times and as a Chief Medical Officer 7 times.
Dr. Beim was Venue Medical Director at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England.
Dr. Beim was honored to be the Chief Medical Officer for Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
In 2015, she was selected to be the Chief Medical Officer for the Parapan Games in Toronto.
Dr. Beim was chosen to be the Chief Medical Officer for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio De Janeiro.
Dr. Beim was tapped again to represent Team USA as a Chief Medical Officer in the 2018 Paralympics in Korea.
And, most recently, Dr. Beim has become the first female surgeon for Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery after acquiring her Gunnison County-based organization, Alpine Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, with locations in Gunnison, Crested Butte, and Telluride, CO.
Dr. Beim is trusted worldwide to provide the best care to the pinnacle of the world’s athletes! She is one doctor who I would travel miles to see and be cared for. Preparing this story has been a pleasure and put a huge smile on my face. I know you’re smiling too…
I think it is infectious.
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