Dr. Maryann Wall never let a little manure keep her from seeing the best Steamboat had to offer
January 17, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Dr. Maryann Wall still recalls the first patient she saw in her outpatient clinic after arriving in Steamboat Springs back in 1998.
"He showed up about 10 minutes late, apologized profusely, and had manure and straw on his boots," Wall said. "When he left I just had to laugh because I was like, this is going to be great. I'm going to like this place."
That was 20 years ago. As Wall prepares to step back from her practice, and medicine in general, she says it’s the people — people like the rancher who came in the first day she opened her practice — that she is going to miss.
"In Steamboat, there are so many interesting, warm-hearted people, and they all end up in your clinic," Wall said.
The mud, straw and manure on that rancher’s boots, and his apologetic manner, were things that the doctor didn’t always see in her previous position at a large hospital in Virginia.
"I've been exceptionally blessed to practice a specialty that I love, in a magical place that I call home. I found tremendous joy and fulfillment," Wall said.
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For Wall, coming to Steamboat Springs was a gamble, and more than a few people have felt that our small town would never provide the opportunities or challenges that someone with her education, experience and talent would find in a bigger, metropolitan-based hospital. But looking back, she says she is glad to have made the leap.
"I was at a crossroads in my career and realized that I was so busy that I had lived in a house for three years and never furnished it," Wall said. "I told myself this may be the time when I need to make a move, because I could not figure out a way to slow down. I was teaching residents, doing research and rarely home."
Wall had visited Steamboat Springs on vacations, and she used to joke with a friend that if they ever had mid-life crises, they would burn down their homes and move to our mountain town.
"I decided to pull out the legal pad and write the pros and cons of where I was, and how far away that point was from where I wanted to be," Wall said. "I found I could not make the two meet unless I moved and completely changed the way I practiced medicine, and I ended up in Steamboat Springs."
Her boss at the time told her that a small town was not going to afford her the professional opportunities most otolaryngologists (head and neck surgeons) needed to be fulfilled. Not only is she fulfilled, but feels like she met a need that this community was missing when she arrived.
"I have a strong family history of skin cancer," Wall said. "So I have long held a commitment for providing skin cancer services."
When she arrived in Steamboat she was a proponent of skin cancer awareness and education, skin cancer screening and the management of skin cancer including surgeries. She spent her first few years writing informational pieces in the newspaper, speaking in public at places like the Routt County Cattlewomen’s Association and going to job orientations at places like the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. where skin cancer risk is high.
She was driven because many of the cases that she was being referred to were much more extensive than she had been seeing in her former job.
"I was never referred just a small earlobe squamous cell cancer. It was more likely a melanoma of the entire ear, or the entire nose was involved with cancer. I was perplexed that I was not being sent any small- to medium-sized ones," she said. "I started looking into the services that were provided, and there was one dermatologist that came up once a month, and I realized that there was a strong unmet need for skin cancer awareness and skin cancer screening."
She said she was busy from the time she arrived and credited Margaret Sabin, the former CEO of Routt Memorial Hospital as well as doctors Eric Meyer, an anesthesiologist, and Ed Kimm, a general surgeon who practiced in Steamboat Springs for 10 years and is now at Denver Health, for helping her build the foundation of her practice. Now it appears that Wall will be entering a new chapter, but before stepping away she wants to make sure the community is cared for.
On Friday, Asarch Dermatology and Aesthetics will begin seeing patients in her office. Wall said she spent a lot of time, and went through a long process, before selecting the dermatology clinic to come and take over the practice that she built.
"I even mystery-shopped some dermatology practices,” Wall said. “I wanted to find someone who I thought was thorough, compassionate and would provide exceptional care.”
She said Asarch was the best fit for Steamboat Springs, and says she still plans to do some surgeries. But she also says her new focus will be spending more time with her husband, Robert Ames.
"I really wasn't thinking about retirement or stepping back. For so long, my time, focus and passion has been directed toward my patients, my staff and the running of my practice. I have been doing that very willingly, because it has been so rewarding and enjoyable," Wall said. "But Robert, the love of my life, made a very simple request one day when he asked me to consider spending more time together before we are both in assisted living … I recognize that we only have 80 or so turns around the sun, and I am well past 50 of mine.”
But she wants her patients to know that her decision was not easy.
"I take that responsibility seriously for two reasons," she said. "One, our community needs it. There is a perfect storm for skin cancer here. And, secondly, my patients deserve my continuing to work for them in that direction. I feel like I established a bargain with them. They were kind enough to support my practice when they didn't know me, and so I'm committed to helping them with any transitions."
That process will begin Friday when a physician from Asarch starts seeing patients in Steamboat Springs. At first the visits will be monthly, but depending on the needs of the community, Asarch could be full-time by this summer.
"Dr. Asarch has a long-standing practice in the Denver community of more than 35 years," said Leslie Strate, vice president of business development and provider relations. "He has been expanding and growing his practice with a real desire to bring that full-service dermatology to communities outside of this area here in Denver. Certainly, the cosmetic piece is an important part of dermatology as well, but his focus has been on skin cancer and prevention, and we know that our medial world doesn’t reach out as well to rural communities were the instance of skin cancer is so high. He has a real interest in doing that, so he has been reaching out and doing rural health for quite some time."
She said the office saw a need in Steamboat Springs and is hoping to carry the things that Wall started here.
"We look forward to becoming a part of the greater Steamboat Springs community and continuing to offer the services and excellent care provided by Dr. Maryann Wall," Strate said in a news release. "Our physicians are board-certified dermatologists, specializing in both medical and surgical dermatology, and believe in a continuum of care for all of our patients. We value and address each patient's individual needs and concerns for the best and most comprehensive results."
She said those who would like to make an appointment in Steamboat Springs should call the Asarch Center at 970- 515-9955.