Photography by Kim Johansen of Live In This Truth Photography

Dr. Joseph Kupets, DO
Emergency Medical Director
Colorado Canyons Hospital and Medical Center

Dr. Joseph Kupets is currently the Emergency Department Medical Director at Colorado Canyons Hospital & Medical Center. It’s obvious that his good humor, love of variety, and ability to handle difficult circumstances have been the keys to his success in emergency medicine.

Dr. Kupets is the first physician in his family. Although he always planned to seek a career as a doctor, he did not pursue his degree or attend medical school right away. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from St. Joseph’s University and dabbled for a short time as a respiratory therapist working nights where he received on-the-job training—training that would later prove incredibly valuable when he moved to Colorado. But his career path quickly pivoted and he ended up in education accepting long-term substitute teaching positions. His last full-time assignment as a teacher included educating 7th and 8th graders who were Socially Maladjusted or Seriously Emotionally Disturbed (SED). Many of the youth he taught were in and out of foster homes or frequented youth correctional facilities.  Dr. Kupets reflected, “It was very challenging work. I didn’t know if they were coming or going half the time. The guy before me had a nervous breakdown.” Despite the daily challenges, Joe taught for 4 years before making a change and heading to Colorado.

After making the move to Colorado, he was able to apply his earlier experience in therapy when he landed his first real medical job in Canyon City, Colorado—“Yep, Canyon City,” he restated while chuckling. “I didn’t know anything about Canyon City. I’m from southern New Jersey.  It turns out there are four state prisons and one federal penitentiary nearby, but I got a great job there as a respiratory therapist.”  Through that work, he decided it was time to pursue his medical degree.

Dr. Kupets applied and was accepted to a foreign medical school in the West Indies known as the American University of the Caribbean located on the island of Montserrat. He enjoyed his time abroad but for the earthquake. “Imagine being on a tiny island in the Caribbean and the whole thing is shaking. That was something else,” Dr. Kupets recalled. “The earthquake was not the reason I returned to the United States, but shortly after, I came back and completed a degree at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri.”


Like his personal journey into medicine—full of variety, endurance in hardship, and good humor, Dr. Kupets’ current service in the Emergency Department is an exercise in agility: “Work in the emergency room is full of variety and variety suits me.”

 At the time of Dr. Kupets’ attendance at Kirksville, there were only 9 schools in the United States offering degrees in osteopathy. “Osteopathy began in 1892. Its first class was taught by an MD in search of ways to provoke the body’s ability to heal itself. For a long time, DOs were not recognized with full medical licensure, but slowly our practices became more widely accepted and aligned more and we are now fully licensed,” states Dr. Kupets. Then he stopped and chuckled: “I guess I love teaching, medicine, and history too.”

Dr. Kupets’ good humor brings laughter and levity, but his ability to grit out difficult circumstances reveals a character trait of endurance. After finishing his residency at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver, he lived on 40-acres in the valley of the sun known as Sacramento Gulch at 11,300 feet in elevation and served as Park County’s only doctor. “I remember riding in the ambulance transporting a guy from my office to the top of Kenosha Pass to meet the helicopter from Denver,” states Dr. Kupets. “I look upon that time very fondly, but you’re it. You’re the only doctor. I’m not sure I would do it again, but looking back it was the perfect training grounds for my work in emergency medicine. I mean I was unofficially the county’s emergency doc.” Although Dr. Kupets was trained in family medicine, he began practicing emergency medicine at Community Hospital in 1996.

In 2011, he joined the team at Colorado Canyons Hospital and Medical Center—a Critical Access Hospital— as the E.D. staff physician, and in 2013 he accepted the role he currently holds now as the Emergency Department Medical Director. Dr. Kupets played an instrumental role in assisting Colorado Canyons Hospital and Medical Center with the Level 4 Trauma Designation they achieved the following year. This designation affords Colorado Canyons the ability to treat more serious trauma and emergencies. Level 4 Trauma Centers work closely with Level 2 facilities like St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center and Level 1 facilities in urban centers because a transfer can easily be facilitated to ensure life-saving measures are taken for the severely injured patient if more serious support is needed.

Colorado Canyons Hospital serves the people of the lower valley from Fruita to the Utah border along with the Lower Valley Fire Department and their Emergency Medical Technicians. Dr. Kupets noted that the largest volume of trauma comes from falls, outdoor recreation accidents such as bicyclists and ATV crashes in the desert, and motor vehicle accidents. “However, we see our share of farm accidents, work-related accidents, and the occasional gunshot wound. You have to be prepared for anything to walk in the door,” reflects Dr. Kupets.

Like his personal journey into medicine—full of variety, endurance in hardship, and good humor, Dr. Kupets’ current service in the Emergency Department is an exercise in agility: “Work in the emergency room is full of variety and variety suits me.”