Monday Medical: Awardees personify Doc Willett spirit

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Next week, the Healthcare Foundation for the Yampa Valley will host the fifth annual Doc Willett Health Care Heritage Awards night. Honorees are Dr. David Wilkinson, Yampa Valley Medical Center Emergency Department director, and Diane Moore, executive director of Advocates Building Peaceful Communities.

Wilkinson will receive the Health Care Professional Award and Moore will be presented with the Health Care Community Advocate Award on Aug. 23. Each has built a 30-year career in Steamboat Springs, representing the ideals and compassionate spirit of Dr. Frederick E. Willett.

Rancher and Steamboat Springs native Jim Stanko will tell you that Doc Willett, his great-great-uncle, played a pivotal role in shaping our little town.

“He put the community first,” Stanko said. “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. Making this community a better place to live was more important to him than material wealth.”

Willett is remembered for operating the town’s hospital for many years. And he made house calls, traveling throughout Routt County to deliver babies, set broken bones, treat the sick and comfort the dying.

In the 1920s, he served as mayor of Steamboat Springs, directing vital civic improvements such as construction of a fire station, Long Lake dam and the Fish Creek water line.

When Willett was approaching retirement age in 1946, the town’s leaders embraced his idea of forming a nonprofit organization to build a new hospital. Sixty-seven years later, this venerable organization continues to operate Yampa Valley Medical Center.

We all owe much to the good doctor and to people like David Wilkinson and Diane Moore. Celebrating the medical services and community commitment we treasure today is a key goal of the Doc Willett Health Care Heritage Awards.

As an emergency physician, Wilkinson is accustomed to meeting people under stressful circumstances. His experience, calm focus and genuine compassion help him to establish a special trust that extends beyond the walls of the emergency department.

Wilkinson has served on the board of Routt Memorial Hospital and Yampa Valley Medical Center and provided services to the Routt County Sheriff’s Department, the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team and various athletic events.

He also has been a physician adviser for the Steamboat Ski Patrol for 30 years. He helped to create and continues to serve as medical director of Steamboat Ski Area’s Advanced Life Support program, which provides critical medical care to patients before they are transported to the hospital.

Moore has helped victims of domestic and sexual violence in Routt County since answering an ad in the newspaper three decades ago.

She has typed grant applications in the middle of the night, shined a light on a community problem that often is kept behind closed doors and built a program to protect victims caught within a web of shame, fear, isolation and societal disconnect.

Her empathetic approach releases victims from burdens of self-blame and humiliation so that they can accept help and gain a voice in their future. One proud accomplishment was securing scholarships to take women victims to an Outward Bound survivor course that transformed their lives.

Wilkinson and Moore will be in the spotlight Aug. 23 at the Strings Music Pavilion. This event always has received rave reviews for its good humor, entertaining surprises and focus on people who make a difference. Emcee Verne Lundquist, a longtime sports announcer and Steamboat Springs booster, will set the tone for what promises to be another unforgettable evening.

Tickets and details are available at www.hfyv.org/DocWillett, or by calling the Healthcare Foundation at 970-871-0700.

Christine McKelvie is a writer/editor for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at christine.mckelvie@yvmc.org.

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