Orthopedist honors his CU Boulder advisor with undergrad biology scholarship
One visit to a hospital operating room was all it took for Alex Meininger to choose a career path.
Perhaps surprisingly—given the fact that the Denver native had been skiing since age 4, racing mountain bikes since age 13 and playing on the lacrosse team at Regis Jesuit High School—he was not there because he’d shattered a bone. Rather, he’d scrubbed up and put on a gown to watch a pediatric orthopedic surgeon on career day.
“As a high-school student seeing a spine fusion, that was all the seed I needed. From that day, I knew I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon at a ski resort,” says Meininger (MCDBio ’97), president and CEO of Steamboat Orthopedic Associates in Steamboat Springs.
He made the first steps along the road to achieving his dream by majoring in molecular, cellular and developmental biology at the University of Colorado Boulder. A member of the Kittredge Honors Program, he says he benefited both from the resources of a large university and a small-group experience.
“I was doing microtubular assays and staining antibodies using fluorescent microscopes as a freshman and sophomore in (Professor Mike) Klymkowsky’s lab,” Meininger says. “I had Tom Cech as my organic chemistry professor—a Nobel Prize winner teaching an undergraduate class.”
And when the going got rough, he knew he could depend on Professor Nancy Guild, who taught his freshman biology course and became his academic advisor.
“As the trenches got deeper with organic chemistry and other challenges, I relied on her pretty heavily,” he says. “She also helped guide me on scholarships and financial aid.”
Which is why Meininger decided to honor his former adviser with the establishment of the Nancy Guild, PhD, Endowed Scholarship Fund for undergraduate molecular, cellular and developmental biology students.
“I have a notable debt of gratitude to CU, and one of my career goals all along was to re-establish my connections and contribute back. … Nancy Guild is an advocate for students, especially the financially needy, and it was instrumental that I crossed paths with her,” he says.
Like Meininger, she benefited from financial aid and scholarships during her education.
“This scholarship means so much to me because I was one of those students who could not have gone to college without the assistance of scholarships, loans and a work-study job,” says Guild, director of introductory undergraduate molecular, cellular and developmental biology education.
“I know on a very personal level how important it is to have an opportunity like this—that financial assistance made all the difference in my life. And now Alex is going to make a difference in other students’ lives and allowing me to be a part of that. It does not get any better than that.”
Meininger met his wife, emergency physician Angela Alexander (Bus ’96), when they were members of CU’s freestyle ski team. Both went on to study medicine in Chicago.
“She was living at her folks’ place in Winter Park by the time I had started medical school” at Rush University, Meininger says. “My enrollment inspired her, so she took the MCAT and also got accepted at a school in Chicago.”
Avid outdoor athletes, neither was thrilled by the idea of leaving the Rocky Mountains for a big Midwestern city. But, in the end, Chicago provided a broader array of opportunities for medical training and experience than most cities. Meininger was a resident at the University of Illinois Medical Center and was a fellow at the University of Chicago. He also was team physician for the Chicago Fire professional soccer team and Chicago Sky Women’s National Basketball Association team.
Despite graduating in the midst of a serious economic downturn, the couple landed jobs at a new hospital in Moab, Utah—a pretty good landing for a couple of outdoor enthusiasts. While in Moab, Meininger was a physician for the Canyonlands Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Rodeo.
Then, in 2013, the senior partner in the Steamboat Springs practice called to offer him a job.
“We said, ‘Let’s give it 12 months,’” Meininger recalls. “We are now approaching our sixth anniversary.”
Meininger is also a physician for the US Ski Team and Grand County High School’s athletic programs and a consulting physician with Velo News, the competitive-cycling journal. He and Alexander continue to enjoy mountain biking, skiing and hiking.
“In sports medicine, staying active in the community is not only good for business, but good for us,” he says. “We are very lucky to have what we have out our back door. That’s one reason we left Chicago: You can’t wake up there and go Nordic skiing or mountain biking.”