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The Vail Daily On Call I f you want information, ask for it, like Alex Girten. Girten did and now he’s headed to University of Rochester as one of 12 medical scholars accepted to the program from a pool of 800 applicants. He’s guaranteed a spot in the University of Rochester medical school if he maintains a B+ average. Girten, a Vail Mountain School graduate, was working a booth with his mother at the Vail Farmers Market when he spotted Dr. Eric Dorf, orthopedic surgeon with Vail Summit Orthopedics. Dorf noticed Girten’s mother was wearing a knee brace, and struck up a conversation about her injury. Girten is interested in sports medicine, so he started peppering Dorf with questions. The lively conversation ended with Dorf inviting Girten into the operating room to observe an operation later that week. “I’m interested in sports medicine because it is a combination of two of my passions: helping people and outdoor sports,” Alec said. Girten just finished a long-term research project with Dorf and Dr. Rick Cunningham, of Vail Summit Orthopedics, and with Dr. Richard Steadman. They’re all pioneering new Alec Girten Vail Mountain School student collaborating with local doctor on new shoulder surgery surgical techniques. With Ross Sappenfield, chair of the upper school science program at VMS, Girten finished an independent study as a part of his science classes to look at a new surgical technique to reconstruct injured AC joints, the joint at the top of the shoulder, that is less invasive than current procedures. Girten now knows more about the AC joint than anyone thought possible. “This type of injury affects people of all ages, from all walks of life. It’s a common injury among football players, cyclists and skiers. Among my peers, this type of injury occurs frequently when someone falls off of a rail in the terrain park, or off a bike,” Girten said. Once in a while, surgeons change their techniques, looking for better patient outcomes, Girten said. If they like it, they stay with it. If they don’t they can go back. “Many of the changes in orthopedics are small. It’s not a lot different from last year, but much different from 10 years ago,” Girten said. There was the doctor who grew up during World War II. He saw femur fractures were a problem and came up with the big nails that go through femurs. “At first his colleagues called him crazy. Then they discovered the patients were doing well,” Girten said. Sir John Charnley developed hip replacements, amid great skepticism from his colleagues. Now it’s one of the most common major surgeries. “There are lots of examples like that.” | Thursday, May 23, 2013 | C1

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