Medical Matrimony: James and Sarah Hopfenbeck
July 7, 2015
While doctors James and Sarah Hopfenbeck have only lived in Steamboat Springs since August 2013, when Jim, 57, took over as pathologist and lab director at Yampa Valley Medical Center, they've quickly settled into their new home.
Sarah's only memory of Steamboat was coming here to ski at age 6 in a blizzard and "failing miserably" in learning how to ride the Poma.
"Our decision to move here had to be made fairly quickly and was to some extent a leap of faith," she says. "But we're so happy we went for it."
Married for 30 years after growing up in Denver, both left Colorado for college — Jim to Northwestern University and Sarah to Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington — before returning to the Front Range, where career path and courtship converged.
"We met back in Denver after college, when we were working in a pathology research laboratory at the University of Colorado," says Sarah. "A year later we started medical school together at Northwestern University in Chicago and got engaged after our first quarter of med school. We figured if we could stand each other through that, we could stand each other through anything."
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After medical school, they did their residency training at the University of Utah before moving back to Lakewood to start their respective practices — James in pathology and Sarah in internal medicine — and raise a family, including children Jeff, 26, and twins Chris and Eric, 23.
While James heads YVMC's pathology department, Sarah joined Yampa Valley Medical Associates in April 2014, working at YampaCare Family Medicine's Craig and Steamboat offices and as a hospitalist at YVMC.
She adds that their practices here are interesting and challenging and their colleagues have all been welcoming and helpful.
As for juggling two busy medical careers, she says the key is finding balance.
"We try to separate work from personal life and to leave work at work," she says. "But the nice thing about being married to a fellow physician is the ability to 'talk shop' if we need to, with a partner who knows and understands the issue."
As for their new home in the mountains, they've made short work of settling into their new lifestyle.
"We love living in Steamboat," Sarah says. "We've always wanted to live in the mountains, and we love the small, friendly community, more relaxed pace of life and all the outdoor recreation opportunities."
While these include such traditional mountain town pursuits as hiking, skiing, fly fishing, cycling, tennis and golf, the doctor duo also enjoys cooking and gardening together, as well as spending time with their dogs, Rudy and Jack. They're also finding that living here makes it almost easier to see their children.
"Our kids seem to be finding excuses to come visit mom and dad in Steamboat," Sarah says. "We love it here and look forward to years of snowy winters and beautiful summers."
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