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Will Cook: Gratitude for an amazing team

will cook

As Eagle County begins the “blue phase” of the public health orders, I can’t help but reflect on the tireless work and sacrifices made by our local health care workers over the past two months. 

Since the beginning of March, our community has been forced to showcase agility and adaptability in the face of an ever-changing pandemic. No one has shown this more than the nearly 1,300 team members across Vail Health and Colorado Mountain Medical. We didn’t have to ask them to adjust their operations to meet the patient and community needs, they proactively found ways to do it — stepping into new roles, implementing new processes, and creating necessary change.

Our response has helped create a model for other counties in the state and I’d put our efforts up against any hospital in the United States. Our staff’s passion and commitment to serve this community is noble, and I would like to recognize a few departments in particular. 

Our nursing staff has been incredible. So incredible, in fact, that five nurses from our intensive care unit traveled to Denver to help after our numbers had dropped to nearly zero COVID-19 patients locally. They didn’t have to, but they wanted to.

Early on, our emergency department worked with our facilities team to quickly establish a free-standing trailer outside the ER to keep potential COVID-19 patients separate from our other patients. Our facilities team also worked with Colorado Mountain Medical to convert or build three COVID-19 clinics and the drive-up testing facility in Gypsum, the first of its kind in Colorado.

Employees from Howard Head Sports Medicine and marketing learned new skills as they partnered to make 17,000 masks and gowns for their co-workers, including 9,300 given to local businesses and community members. They were joined by teammates from the Vail Health Foundation, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, administration, and other departments. Howard Head staff also worked with Colorado Mountain Medical to quickly convert the Silverthorne therapy location into a drive-through COVID-19 testing facility in a matter of days. 

Cancer didn’t stop just because COVID-19 was here, and the Shaw Cancer Center team adapted their operations to provide a safe, clean environment for patients to continue their much-needed cancer treatment. We even added a breast surgeon, Dr. Julie Barone, and won the prestigious Outstanding Achievement Award from the Commission on Cancer in the past few months, the only cancer center in Colorado to receive the honor. 

Thanks to the relentless pursuit of the Vail Health Laboratory, we now have rapid diagnostic testing capability. This gave us the ability to quickly test every resident and worker at Castle Peak Senior Center twice over. Our internal lab is able to provide near real-time testing of emergency room patients, inpatients and pre-surgical patients. 

Vail Health Foundation employees helped coordinate meals for our frontline staff and served as the liaison to the hundreds of generous community members who wanted to show their gratitude and appreciation of our staff by sending food, flowers and gifts. Eagle Valley Behavioral Health recognized the impact that physical distancing would have on our community and began offering additional resources online, including the new Community Stream ( platform that centralizes all free community events and opportunities focused on the physical, mental and emotional health of our community.

I am beyond grateful for our partnership with Colorado Mountain Medical, which began last July. Being in the same family has enabled us to provide seamless care, allowed for additional resources and ensured lines of communication were always open, including meeting three times per day, every day, during the initial two-month COVID-19 response. Together, we’ve been able to lead the nation in testing, which is beyond remarkable. The entire CMM staff has been a tremendous asset, and Dr. Brooks Bock’s leadership and experience has been vital. 

Even during a pandemic, there were many moments of joy and hope, as our Family Birth Center helped welcome 70 babies into the valley from the beginning of March until now. The birth center staff provided a warm and safe environment for the parents and baby to celebrate the start of a new adventure, equipped with the adorable “I’m a Vail Baby” stocking cap. 

I could go on and on about the amazing efforts of our team of teams. There are many more departments and individuals who have worked behind-the-scenes to bring our community to this next phase, and I want to thank them and everyone within our organization for their effort, hard work, and positive attitudes. You are the reason we are where we are today, and I am proud and humbled to serve as your president and CEO. Thank you.

Will Cook is the president and CEO of Vail Health.