A Doctor Named Shaun

In 1969, Johnny Cash released a rendition of Shel Silverstein’s poem “A Boy Named Sue.” The song is about a boy who grows up angry with his absentee father not for leaving his family, but for naming him “Sue.” Sue eventually finds his father and after a hard won fight, his father provides him some insight as to why he christened him with such a “feminine” name. Sue’s father knew he wouldn’t be there for his son, so he gave him the name as an act of tough love, believing that the ensuing ridicule would force him to “get tough or die.”

While Dr. Shaun Steeby’s case isn’t nearly as extreme as Sue’s, she still jokes about her name.

“My parents were going to name me ‘Shaun’ whether I was a boy or a girl,” Dr. Steeby said with a smile. “I hated my name when I was younger but I actually love it now. I think it’s made me tougher.”

And as an orthopedic trauma surgeon — a field that is predominately made up by males — Dr. Steeby had to be tough.

“Several people have tried to deter me from pursuing a career in surgery, claiming it was not possible to have a meaningful personal life as a surgeon and that I wouldn’t be able to be the mother my child deserved,” said Dr. Steeby. “This argument is seldom presented to men, which speaks to the complex challenges and emotional factors that all working women face at some point.”

In fact, there have been occasions in which a patient hears Dr. Steeby’s name and job title and become confused when she entered the exam room, often saying, “I thought you’d be a man.”

However, she refuses to let these interactions get to her. She simply shrugs them off and moves forward with providing the best care she can. And her “best care” happens to be some of the best care in the region.

Dr. Steeby is one of three fellowship-trained orthopedic trauma surgeons here at Stormont Vail Health. She treats all types of fractures (also known as broken bones). These can be anything from minor ankle and wrist breaks to severe femur and pelvis breaks. Dr. Steeby thrives in stressful situations, possessing a unique skill of bringing order to chaos. A talent that is crucial when it comes to trauma care.

“Trauma surgery is sort of like putting a puzzle back together,” Dr. Steeby explained. “You have to be quick and efficient while also seeing the big picture. But through all the chaos, there’s this calm that happens to a lot of other health care workers that work in trauma. You start to break the situation down into a systematic process. Everyone knows their role and are working toward the same goal of helping the patient recover.”

Perhaps having a more “masculine” name has helped motivate Dr. Steeby in some way. However, that way is miniscule in comparison to the joy she has found from being an inspiration to young girls. Dr. Steeby finds meaning in helping them see a future of endless possibilities.

“I’ve had young patients tell me they didn’t know they could be surgeons because they’d never seen a female surgeon before,” Dr. Steeby said. “In addition, I’ve worked with the Girl Scouts as well as middle schools, teaching girls about orthopedic surgery. They get really excited when they get a hands-on experience with drills and tools they maybe have only seen their dads use!”

Learn more about the amazing work Dr. Shaun Steeby and our orthopedic trauma team is doing by visiting our new Orthopedic Trauma webpage!

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