Tim Erpelding, as a University of Colorado medical student, saw gunshot wounds, stabbing victims and accident-induced trauma on a regular basis during his rotations at Denver General Hospital.
Initially, he had expressed an interest in practicing emergency medicine. But once he was in the operating room, he was impressed with how surgeons, anesthesiologists and other members of the surgical team work together to save lives.
“I was amazed by the camaraderie it took to get through the surgery,” Erpelding said. “At that point I decided I wanted to become an anesthesiologist.”
After Erpelding announced his career path, his father, orthopedic surgeon Joseph Erpelding, feigned disappointment, saying that he had hoped his son would become a “real” doctor.
After medical school, Erpelding entered his residency in anesthesiology at the University of North Carolina. There, he became interested in another specialty: pediatric anesthesiology.
“In pediatrics, you do everything that you do when you’re working on adults, but it’s all on a smaller, more challenging scale,” he said. “It’s mentally challenging, and I like the fact that you are taking care of kids. They didn’t smoke or drink or become obese. It’s usually something they were born with or they had a bad wreck.”
The demands on the surgical team are even more intense when the patient is a child, Erpelding said.
“Of course the surgeons are wonderful, but I feel like there’s even more of a team mentality in pediatrics because you really depend on each other. You’re in constant communication, and there’s a real calling to take care of the patient.”
For example, an adult can usually recover even if he loses up to a liter of blood. For a small child, a similar blood loss could be fatal.
“It’s a very dynamic atmosphere, and you get to do some pretty interesting surgeries,” he said.
While Attending Carroll College, Erpelding had considered going into engineering and had even thought about teaching at the college level. But he decided that medicine was a better option.
Studying in North Carolina gave Erpelding an opportunity to see a different part of the country. But he was glad to return to Billings, his hometown, when the opportunity arose at Anesthesia Partners of Montana.
Erpelding said he sometimes complained that there was nothing to do in Billings or that it was too far away from the mountains. Nevertheless, he and his brother, Scott, learned rock climbing and were often seen climbing and rappelling from the Rims. These days, the father of three doesn't do a lot of climbing. Instead, he's more interested in cycling.
“Once I moved away and I didn’t have what Montana offers, I had a greater appreciation for it. Billings is very family friendly and it’s easy to get to the mountains, and you don’t have to worry about traffic,” he said.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in your job? Having to work long hours and nights.
What’s the best business advice you have received? Sit down when talking with your patients.
Who gave you that advice? Dr. Mark Sptz, a neurologist from Denver.
Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I’d like to improve cycling lanes for those who commute to work for better safety and to provide health benefits.
Which living person do you most admire? Ran Zacharius.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? My family.
I’m happiest when I’m…With my family in the mountains.