Health care family affair for three generations at Community Hospital

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Three generations of the O’Dell family have cared for patients at Community Hospital in Grand Junction over the years, from left: Dr. Ryan O’Dell, Cindy Buller, Dr. Vernon O’Dell, Amanda Coltrinari and Dr. Steven O’Dell. Ryan O’Dell recently returned to the Grand Valley to practice with Surgical Associates of the Grand Valley. His father, Steven, and grandfather, Vernon, have retired. Buller works as a registered nurse and Coltrinari a family nurse practitioner. (Photo courtesy Community Hospital)

Growing up the son and grandson of doctors, Ryan O’Dell never doubted he’d one day join in the family business.

Now that he’s returned to the Grand Valley, he’s the third generation of physicians to care for patients at Community Hospital in Grand Junction.

The 34-year-old O’Dell joined Surgical Associates of the Grand Valley. While he practices as a general surgeon, he has a special interest in reflux procedures, complex hernia repairs and colorectal procedures.

His father, 67-year-old Steven O’Dell, also practiced as a general surgeon before retiring. His grandfather, 92-year-old Vernon O’Dell, was a family practitioner and anesthesiologist before his retirement. All three hold degrees as doctors of osteopathic medicine.

Other members of the family also work in medicine and care for patients at Community Hospital. 

Cindy Buller, Vernon O’Dell’s daughter, is a registered nurse whose career has included work in the post-anesthesia care unit. 

Her daughter, Amanda Coltrinari, works as a family nurse practitioner with Western Medical Associates of the Grand Valley.

“Medicine has been very good to this family. Everyone has enjoyed the work,” Vernon O’Dell said. “We all love it.”

Vernon O’Dell came to the Grand Valley in the 1950s, and his practice at that time included house calls.

Coltrinari said the family still jokes about how he’d come home late for dinner, but wasn’t hungry because he’d eaten at the homes where he’d stopped for house calls.

Medicine was a frequent topic of discussion at family gatherings, Coltinari said. “It was always a conversation growing

Buller said she remembers playing with her father’s doctor bag as a child.

Ryan O’Dell said he sometimes joined his father on rounds on weekends.

Of course, health care has changed over the years, members of the family said.

Ryan O’Dell cited technological advances as one of the biggest changes, including diagnostic techniques that have evolved beyond the X-rays and laboratory tests upon which his grandfather relied.

Steve O’Dell was among the first surgeons in the Grand Valley to use laproscopic procedures to access the inside of the abdomen without the need for large incisions.

At the same time, though, an increasingly regulatory environment and changes in billing have made it more challenging for doctors and nurses to focus on patient care.

“In one word, government,” Vernon O’Dell said.

Working in the family business remains both a calling and passion, Ryan O’Dell said — one that enables members of the family to work together. “It brings a fun dynamic to the relationships.”