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John E. Gottlieb, M.D.

After 32 years of serving one of the most active sports populations in the country, Dr. Gottlieb retired in 2011 with the goal of beating his personal best golf score of 73 and his 8 handicap. He also enjoys hiking and trekking in the back woods.

You would be hard pressed to find an orthopedic surgeon in sports medicine with more experience in knee injuries than Dr. John Gottlieb. He was the first orthopedic surgeon in Vail and Summit County when he founded  the Vail office of Vail-Summit Orthopaedics in 1979.

His reputation as one of the most active and innovative knee surgeons in the country remains intact. He has performed more ACL reconstructions than most orthopedic surgeons in the world. Nonetheless, Dr. Gottlieb's approach was anything but routine. His practice was guided by the belief that each patient is unique, and would spend ample time reviewing the patient's case history before every exam and procedure.

In addition to being well prepared for his patients, Dr. Gottlieb emphasized the importance of keeping abreast of changing technologies with research and meetings. But if you ask him what makes a good orthopedic doctor, he will put the patient at the top of the list. Nothing is more important to Dr. Gottlieb than understanding the unique circumstances of each patient.

When it comes to surgery, Dr. Gottlieb's philosophy was simple:  do the least amount of surgery necessary to return the patient to their normal level of activity, whatever that happens to be for that particular patient. Of course what Vail and Summit counties call normal, can mean everything from young mothers chasing after toddlers to 65 year old  triathletes preparing for the next race!

Dr. Gottlieb used computer technology to track his patient outcomes. Before computers found their way into exam rooms, Dr. Gottlieb methodically tracked his patient outcomes with pencil and paper, and believes that better than 97% of his surgical patients have had successful outcomes. Now that technology has caught up to his curiosity, he is thrilled that VSO's survey and patient follow-up programs will bring accuracy in tracking long-term patient satisfaction. 

Dr. Gottlieb and his wife Lynn, a local psychologist, raised three children in the Vail Valley. Their daughter just finished nursing school after graduating from CU. Their oldest son is a music critic for the Boston Herald and their youngest son is starting an obstetrical residency in Philadelphia.


  • Temple University, 1974
  • Orthopedic Residency, 1979, Temple University

Board Certification

  • Diplomate: American Board of Orthopedic Surgery, 1981


  • Arthroscopy Association of North America
  • American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Fellow
  • Vail Valley Medical Center, Prior Board Member (8 years)
  • Vail Valley Medical Center, Prior Chief of Surgery (3 years)

On his 80th birthday, friends and family of Fred gathered at the base of Vail Mountain’s Chair 10 to watch him land a jump known as a daffy. He pulled it off beautifully; not a surprise to those who know him.

Fred is often praised for his skiing abilities and it looks like that praise isn’t going to end anytime soon. Now that his knees are back up to the task, the 81-year old skies over 100 days a year and rides his bike up Vail Pass nearly everyday in the summer. Several years ago, his right knee started giving him problems. Fred says it was painful to walk causing a marked limp.

Over time, the pain became severe and started to prevent him from skiing. That’s when he decided to seek treatment. Fred chose Dr. John Gottlieb, whom he has known for the past 30 years. “I knew he was the best for knees,” Fred says of the renowned surgeon who originally founded Vail-Summit Orthopaedics in 1979. Dr. Gottlieb performs more ACL reconstructions than most orthopedic surgeons in the world. 

Arthroscopy is done through small incisions in the knee. During the procedure, Dr. Gottlieb inserted a small camera instrument about the size of a pencil (called the arthroscope) into Fred’s knee joint. The arthroscope sent an image to a television monitor where Dr. Gottlieb could see the structures of the knee in great detail. Then, Dr. Gottlieb inserted tiny instruments through another incision which he used to repair the torn meniscal cartilage.

The surgery lasted less than an hour and Fred was able to go home that same day. Recovery from knee arthroscopy is much faster than recovery from traditional open knee surgery. Still, Dr. Gottlieb says it’s important for patients to follow their post-operative instructions in order to reduce initial swelling and pain and to accelerate the healing process.

Fred followed through with a formal physical therapy program which helped to restore his motion and strengthen the muscles in his leg and knee. Fred says these therapeutic exercises had a lot to do with his successful outcome. “My experience with Dr. Gottlieb couldn’t have been better and the support staff was great,” remembers Fred.