Steamboat Springs Steamboat residents have access to more than 80 doctors, but for most of the first half of the 20th century, Doc Willett was the go-to physician.
Not that you had to go to his office to see him.
“He put the community first,” said Jim Stanko, Willett’s grandnephew. “He had a real love for this area and the people in it. There wasn’t anybody he didn’t know or who didn’t know him.”
Doc Willett made house calls in a horse-drawn buggy and turned to a sled during the long winters. And he didn’t stop at the city limits — he weathered many a storm to deliver babies at ranches in the area. For 36 years, he was not just the town’s doctor but also the owner of the hospital.
The memory of Doc Willett was celebrated Wednesday during a reception for two men whose combined efforts have lived up to the Willett legacy. Dr. Jim Dudley and Steve Dawes formally were announced Wednesday night as the recipients of the second annual Doc Willett Health Care Heritage Awards. They’ll be recognized in a community celebration Sept. 1.
“The Doc Willett Awards Night gives us a chance to share the amazing stories of Yampa Valley Medical Center’s health care achievements, both present and past,” said Sandy St. Clair, executive director of the Healthcare Foundation for the Yampa Valley. “Our goal was to create a fun night for locals and new friends to celebrate our history and congratulate two outstanding Steamboat civic leaders.”
Dawes will receive the award as the 2010 Health Care Advocate. He is the longtime principal in Steamboat Resorts property management company. After his retirement in 1997, he increased his service as a community advocate, taking a role on the board of Yampa Valley Medical Center. Almost simultaneously with winding up his term on the board, he assumed the role of running the brand new Healthcare Foundation until it stood firmly on its own two feet.
Dawes observed that Doc Willett established the tradition of a hospital in Steamboat that, like YVMC, doesn’t rely on taxpayer funding.
“I think it’s a tremendous legacy,” Dawes said. “All of the boards of directors have never wavered on that. I serve on the board of the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver, and I have a pretty good view of health care delivery in Denver. I haven’t seen the Steamboat model there. I’m sure it exists somewhere, but I haven’t seen it.”
Dudley, a partner and family medicine physician at Steamboat Medical Group, has been practicing medicine here for 30 years, touching a remarkable number of local families. He also reached out to the community as a longtime soccer coach.
How long will he continue looking after the health of the community?
“I’m still having fun, and I’ll keep on as long as I feel that way,” he said this week.
St. Clair said the Sept. 1 awards ceremony also will kick off the Healthcare Foundation’s 2010-11 fund campaign. The ceremony will include food, beverages and entertainment. Tickets are $40 in advance at www.yvmc.org/docwillett.