by Marta Schenck, MD

Going into my rotation at Snowbird Injury Clinic this winter I was a bit ambivalent. We had already had epic amounts of snowfall which had made getting up Little Cottonwood Canyon to Snowbird Resort for the clinic challenging for some of my co-residents. And on the day prior to starting, the road up Little Cottonwood remained closed the entire day for avalanche mitigation, and through texts with the attending and nurse manager for the clinic we had a tentative plan for getting up the next day which left me very uncertain about how I was actually going to get up the canyon. Add to the logistical mess the fact that I have never felt extremely confident about my sports medicine skills, and I was feeling extremely anxious about the whole rotation.

My first day did end up being quite wild. I first drove to meet the nurse manager at a park and ride, where we left my car. We then drove together to a Walgreen’s parking lot where we met the radiology technician and her husband. The canyon was still closed for avalanche mitigation, but clinic staff have a pass to be the first up the canyon once it opens, so the four of us then drove up to the canyon entrance (blowing by a massive line of parked cars waiting for the canyon to open so they can get up for first tracks at the ski resorts) and the police let us through to drive up without anyone else on the road.

The medicine of that day continued the wild ride. More torn ACLs than I could imagine. A jagged, almost Harry Potter-esque laceration to a forehead that I sewed up. Clavicle fracture. Fibula fracture. With all of the people enjoying the epic powder, we were seeing the epic ski/snowboard injuries to match. By that evening as we were leaving ski clinic for the day, snow falling in the dark, walking down pathways through 8-foot tall snow banks, I reflected on my single day of ski clinic and my ambivalence was gone, instead I was excited for what else ski clinic had to offer.

Not every shift was like the first, but by the end of my four weeks at Snowbird I was thrilled that I had done the rotation. The camaraderie at the clinic was great. Even as a rotating resident, the staff were always welcoming, trusting me to perform my role, and working as a team to help our patients. Between the nurse manager and one of the attendings, I got rides up the canyon every day without having to drive my own car. We all chipped in at the end of the day to clean the clinic, from vacuuming to cleaning the toilets. We even diagnosed (sadly) one of our clinic nurses with a torn ACL that she had done the night before backcountry skiing. And beyond the good team dynamic, I became much more confident in my sports medicine abilities. Doing over five knee exams a day (with half having pathology of some sort – ACL tears, MCL sprains) is an excellent way to become confident in your skills. I learned how to read x-rays better. I practiced hands-on skills such as laceration repair, shoulder reductions. I was able to see more orthopedic pathology in that rotation than any ER or sports medicine rotation prior.

Now, a month or two later, as I reflect on my time up at Snowbird, I find myself becoming a bit nostalgic for the rotation. Doing medicine up in a snowy, magical place was a delightful shake up in the residency grind. I learned a lot from the rotation and had an enjoyable time doing it. Can you really ask for anything more from a rotation?

Marta Schenck grew up in Portland, Oregon. She received her undergraduate degree in biology at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. After a several month detour traveling through South America, she returned to Portland where she worked as a medical scribe and completed her medical degree at Oregon Health & Science University. She chose the University of Utah because of the welcoming faculty & residents and the opportunity to get full-spectrum training to help her reach her goal of practicing in a rural community. Aside from rural medicine, her other medical interests include women’s health, obstetrics, palliative care, and geriatrics. As an outdoor enthusiast, she enjoys hiking, rafting, skiing, & biking, all of which added to the appeal of University of Utah & Salt Lake City. When not at the hospital or in the wilderness, she can be found baking, reading, or puzzling.

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