Dr. Jack Eck
It happened four decades ago. But Dr. Jack Eck’s story still feels fresh—and fitting. His can-do innovation back then represents medicine in the Vail Valley today.
In 1974, Jack was a staff doc at “the clinic,” the precursor to Vail Health. He also served as the Vail Ski Patrol’s volunteer medical director. A perfect fit since he’d just returned from Vietnam as a flight surgeon.
Jack’s ’Nam duty impacted him deeply. But it also honed his skills in triage and battlefield medicine: skills he realized could save lives on ski slopes, too.
He put those skills to work one day when two tourists died on the mountain from heart attacks. Jack and the Ski Patrol responded by creating a cardiac kit—vials of heart drugs and a hulking defibrillator crammed into a Samsonite suitcase.
The cold and snow complicated using the kit. “We lost five or six people in a row,” Jack recalls. Then came the turning point. “A guy dropped, clutching his chest.
“I skied down, and by the time I got there, my guys were already running strips. I said ‘shock him.’ So they did. His eyes flew open and the guys jumped back and yelled, ‘Holy shit!’” Jack laughs. “That night, we celebrated hard at Donovan’s Bar.”
Next, the Ski Patrol asked Jack to train “his guys” in medical emergencies, CPR and other lifesaving procedures. Ski patrols around the world followed Vail’s lead. And when Jack started his own medical practice in 1980, he helped create an ICU at Vail’s growing medical center. He later helped build a cancer-treatment center. And later still, “Jack’s Place,” a homey residence for cancer patients and their families.
Jack Eck first came to the mountains to recover from his own wounds. In the process, he found ways—still finds ways, as do those who follow in his tracks—to heal countless others.