Dr. Karch to leave Mammoth; will continue work with Mammoth Medical Missions

Mammoth Hospital orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mike Karch has made a big impact in Mammoth since he moved to the Eastern Sierra more than a decade ago.


He started the Mammoth Winter Biathlon; he took the reins of a nonprofit medical relief group called Mammoth Medical Missions and gave it an international reach; he has annually trained dozens of local medical providers and emergency responders to handle mass casualty situations, and he is a full-time surgeon who has operated on hundreds of local and non-local knees, elbows, hips, and other assorted broken or shattered appendages.


Soon, however, others will have to carry the torch—or at least most of it.


Karch said he is stepping down as the leader of both Mammoth Medical Missions and the Mammoth Winter Biathlon in order to move his family to Virginia next summer, where he just bought an 1850s farmhouse on 172 acres—although he will return to Mammoth 8 to 10 days a month to do surgeries.


He and his family will move next summer, once their children are out of school.


“I’m 46, my parents are alive and 75, both of Kim’s (Dr. Kim Escudero, Mammoth Hospital pediatrician, and Karch’s wife) parents are alive and 75, and we have three kids. We understand, more than most, what the next 10 years will hold for our parents. We tried to get them to move here, but they are dyed-in-the-wool Easterners.”


“It’s no reflection on Mammoth, which we love, or Mammoth Hospital which has been great, but we have two families. To which do we give our allegiance?” he said.


“So we arrived at what we think is a good balance, where I can continue to do total joints and other surgeries during my time here, work with Mammoth Medical Missions during missions, but live in Virginia close to our parents.”


He said he’s also looking forward to living another dream: to, once again, be a farmer.


“I grew up on a farm and I know the value of that life, what it taught me. I love getting my hands dirty, and I want my children to know it, too,” he said.


He plans to raise bison on the Virginia ranch.


“Bison is a great product. They make sense as a meat source, they are easy on the environment,” he said.


One of the first and only doctors to be at the scene at Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001, for the first three days, Karch plans to continue the work he is increasingly known for, not just locally, but nationally and internationally—doing mass casualty event preparedness training of civilian medical and emergency response professionals using techniques and strategies formerly only used by the military.


This week, Karch is in the middle of a three-day session to do just that. 


It is his third annual training session in Mammoth on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. 


He said he will return to Mammoth each year to do and expand the training and he noted this year, the course is accredited through the University of Nevada School of Medicine.


“One advantage to living in Virginia is how close it is to D.C., which is the heart of mass casualty training,” he said. 


“Mass casualty medical training is at the front of medical training now. It’s becoming clear how important it is across the world.”

He intends to continue teaching civilian medical professionals as a consultant, he said.


“It’s the difference between learning to fish and teaching someone to fish,” he said.


Mammoth Medical Missions will begin a search for a new CEO soon, he said, and will look at both local and non-local applicants.


“I’m not cut out to be a CEO for an organization that needs to do a lot of fundraising,” he said with a laugh. “It’s just not a good fit for that part.”


The Mammoth Winter Biathlon will continue to run under the Eastern Sierra Nordic Ski Association, which is currently working on finding a permanent venue for the event.