Steep skier returns to Squaw to practice psychiatry
You may remember him from such ski films as “Breathe,” “1999,” “Ski Movie,” and “High Society.” If not, the people of Tahoe might know him for his book “Squallywood,” a guide of Squaw Valley’s most exposed lines.
After a hiatus from the valley and years of medical school and residency training, steep skier Dr. Robb Gaffney has returned to Squaw to practice psychiatry.
“My wife and I deliberated about where to go. I always wanted to come back here,” Gaffney said.
In the early ’90s Gaffney and his brother Scott made “Walls of Freedom.” At 24, Gaffney gave up his position in medical school to get one last full winter in Tahoe.
Soon after, he went to medical school at the University of Colorado, where he still found some time to ski. Occasionally, he returned to Tahoe to help his brother make films.
After medical school, Gaffney moved to Sacramento, where he was chief resident at the University of California at Davis.
In 2002 Gaffney wrote “Squallywood,” which he calls “a light-hearted look at skiing’s media Mecca.” The book includes contributions from ski legends Scot Schmidt and Shane McConkey and photos by Hank DeVre.
Return to Squaw
It was the “About the Author” section of “Squallywood” that brought Gaffney back to Tahoe. Squaw psychiatrist Dr. Fred Ilfeld bought the book for his son for Christmas and gave Gaffney a call after reading the bio.
Ilfeld, who was nearing retirement, asked Gaffney to come to Squaw and take over his practice.
“When he called, it was almost too good to be true,” Gaffney said.
Gaffney said the local medical community has been welcoming, especially because of a “recent draught of psychiatric services in the region.” After Ilfeld’s retirement last year, Dr. Mai Nguyen was the only practicing psychiatrist in the area.
Although the demand for psychiatrists is strong, Gaffney said he has to build his client base from scratch.
“It’s interesting trying to market yourself,” he said. “You really have to get yourself out there.”
Gaffney completed his residency with specialty areas – like medication management, psychotherapy and social disorders – but his practice will be fairly generalized, considering there aren’t many psychiatrists in the area. He will also see adolescents on a special needs basis.
He will partner with Ilfeld’s wife, Barbara Squire Ilfeld, RN, who is the president of the Northern California Group Psychotherapy Association.
In his return to Squaw, Gaffney said he looks forward to practicing in an area he knows so well.
“It will be interesting to work with people who I kind of know their lifestyle and get to know them.”
To contact Dr. Robb Gaffney, call 583-4233. His practice is located on 1604 Christy Hill Road in Olympic Valley, across the street from the post office.