Sunday Profile: Top doc asks, ‘Did I do the best for everybody I saw?’
Post Independent Contributor
They say that those who are truly great at what they do often aren’t aware of it.
Perhaps this explains why orthopaedic surgeon Tito Liotta of Glenwood Orthopaedic Center couldn’t imagine how it was that he was voted the Locals’ Choice Best Doctor in Glenwood Springs two years in a row.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know I was up for this award,” Liotta said during an interview earlier this week. “I didn’t even know how people would be nominated in the first place, let alone win. So this is certainly an honor, an unexpected one.”
A local physician since 1996, Liotta’s presence in the community and experience in his field stretch back for decades. After completing undergraduate studies at the University of California San Diego and finishing medical school at UC San Francisco, Liotta completed a residency at the University of Colorado Denver. He then moved on to serve as an orthopaedic surgeon with the Navy for four years.
“I spent about 14 months in Twentynine Palms, California, but was then transferred to southern Spain,” he said. “After three years in Spain, I decided to move on to a fellowship in Indiana.”
It was during this fellowship that Liotta pursued an interest in the specialized discipline of sports medicine. There he worked with a group that cared for the Indianapolis Colts football team, plus athletes from Purdue University, several smaller colleges and about 40 area high schools.
Post-fellowship, Liotta found himself in the market for a bit more stability, a town to call home — and a great place to raise a family. Glenwood Springs seemed like just the ticket.
“After Indiana I thought that ideally I wanted to work in professional sports, but after a few other offers I heard about a job here, with what was then known as Orthopaedic Associates of Aspen and Glenwood,” he recalled. “It seemed to offer the best of both worlds: taking care of highly athletic individuals in an active community that’s a great place to raise kids. So we moved.”
Liotta has since watched his four children, a daughter and triplet sons, grow up in the Roaring Fork Valley. He has also enjoyed pursuing his passions of biking and telemark skiing here, and has been able to grow a practice of which he is proud. Liotta’s primary specialty involves working with the complexities of the shoulder.
“Over the years I guess you could say that I have developed an affinity for taking care of shoulders, and this has become about 70 to 75 percent of my practice,” he said, adding that this work includes “anything from reconstruction of the joint due to instability, to replacement for arthritis.”
As new developments in the field have occurred over the years, Liotta says it has been an exciting challenge to grow and adapt with state-of-the-art technologies.
“When I began here in Glenwood in 1996, arthroscopic shoulder surgery was really in its infancy. Arthroscopy means using an instrument about the size of a pen to go into a joint to work on the area,” he explained. “It’s been fascinating to learn about and utilize new tools and new ways of caring for shoulder patients over the years. Basically, I’ve developed a skill that works for helping people get back to who they want to be.”
Liotta’s patients range from children to middle-aged adults to seniors: a cross-section of the community who come to him for a variety of reasons.
“It’s everyone from the little kid who falls off the jungle gym, to the athlete on the field, to the construction laborer, to the octogenarian who has worn their shoulder out from a lifetime of use,” he noted.
Although Liotta has spent decades honing his surgical technique and staying abreast of the latest developments in orthopaedic medicine, his personal philosophy of care extends far beyond just what goes on in the operating room — and this has made all the difference, he believes. It seems as though Liotta’s patients also believe that this has made a difference: perhaps even enough of one to spur them to vote for him as best doctor in both 2015 and 2016.
“You might say that I’m a little bit of a ‘motherly’ physician in that I don’t just fix someone’s problem and move on to the next,” he said. “I’ve grown to where I want people to be all the way better before they’re discharged. So they stay with me longer and I see them more often just to make sure they’re doing well and aren’t having any problems, as opposed to just reaching simple milestones and saying goodbye.”
Liotta’s patients will be happy to learn that their favorite doctor plans to continue practicing in Glenwood Springs for years to come.
“Nope, I don’t think I will be retiring anytime too soon,” Liotta said. The doctor then stressed that he is filled with gratitude.
“At the end of the day, I just ask myself, ‘Did I do enough, did I do the best for everybody I saw?’” he mused. “I truly just want to say thank you: to the community, to my team and my patients. I’m only as good as the people I work with, and work on.”
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