GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - The apple on Dr. Jerry Steinbrecher's desk isn't intended to keep the doctor away, although he admits it is a purposeful effort to avert the temptation of the snack vending machine down the hall.
In fact, in his 30 years at Valley View Hospital, Dr. Steinbrecher has probably met and consulted with more doctors than just about anyone else.
He and his colleagues in the VVH Lab, Drs. Robert Macaulay and Frank Holmes, are sometimes referred to as the "doctors' doctors," the scientific go-to guys who work to pin down a diagnosis for a patient.
Indeed, the more communication they have with their fellow doctors, the better the care patients will receive in the long run.
"We consult with physicians about all phases of care, but most of our work is done in the lab looking at tissue or blood samples under a microscope," Steinbrecher said, explaining the role of the pathologist in a patient's medical care.
"We examine the samples, issue reports and talk to the physicians about the results with the hope of having a beneficial affect on patient care," he said.
A medical school graduate of the University of Minnesota, Steinbrecher practiced in Grand Junction for three years before coming to Glenwood Springs and Valley View Hospital in 1979 with his wife, Mary Steinbrecher.
"We loved the mountains and thought it would be a great place to live," he said. They raised two children in Glenwood, both now grown and living elsewhere.
Local clinician Dr. Gerard Tomasso of Glenwood Medical Associates has worked with Steinbrecher for 28 of his 30 years at Valley View.
"His career here speaks to the quality of care at Valley View Hospital," Tomasso said of Steinbrecher.
"In addition to being a fine pathologist, he is very thorough and careful," he added. "He has brought the standard of medical care up to a very high degree because of his efforts in the laboratory.
"I would often have a tough patient case, and would sit down across from [Steinbrecher] and look at slides in a microscope," he added. "He would always have good advice on where to go with a problem."
Steinbrecher said great care is taken to make sure a diagnosis is the correct one.
"It is a complicated business," he said. "We try to err on the side of double-checking often to make sure our findings are accurate."
He said he didn't really know he wanted to be a doctor until he was an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota studying physics and math, and went to a lecture by an engineer who was working to develop artificial heart valves.
"The best thing about this is I get to do some relatively sophisticated analyses, and determine how those results are applicable to people who live in our community," Steinbrecher said.
"I believe that's how we make a difference in people's lives," he said.