Know Your Neighbor: Dr. Sean Marvil

Taos orthopedic surgeon pursues passion for healing, outdoors


Picture this scene: You are in the waiting room of an orthopedic medical office and you have never met the doctor with whom you have an appointment. Naturally, questions arise. What is his training? What's he going to tell me and do to me? Who is Dr. Sean Marvil anyway?

Marvil answered these questions and more during an interview at a local Taos coffee shop in late September. He smiled often during the visit and sported a red beard to match the hair on his head. His brother, Andrew Marvil, a member of the U.S. military, and Dr. Marvil's neighbor, Mark Elder, also attended the interview.

The Marvil brothers are the sons of the late David Marvil and Patricia Marvil. Dr. Marvil is the second of four children.

Dr. Marvil has three siblings. Andrew, the eldest, was born in Puerto Rico and serves in Washington, D.C., in the Army's Special Forces. Patrick, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, served as a Marine officer before attending the University of Virginia Medical School in Charlottesville. As a fourth-year student, he specializes in family practice. "I'd love for him to do a rotation as a fellow at our institute," Dr. Marvil said of his younger brother. Sister Charlotte Marvil, an oral surgeon in Charlotte, South Carolina, is "the princess … but Mom is definitely the queen," said the two Marvil brothers present at the interview.

The family lived in the Virgin Islands during patriarch David Marvil's years as a professor. When he opened a small security company, matriarch Patricia Marvil worked as the secretary, but eventually became the chief executive officer. "My mom and grandma are very animated," said Dr. Marvil.

After high school, Dr. Marvil earned a bachelor's degree, majoring in biology and minoring in literature at George Washington University. Then, the young college graduate decided to travel and surf around the world. At one point in his life, he worked as a firefighter. He also worked as a snowboarding instructor in Maine and Vail, Colorado. After enjoying much fun, Marvil decided to return to school.

He selected St. George's University in Grenada as his medical school. Residency followed at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in north Philadelphia. The facility included 96 beds in the emergency room. "This was a rough part of town, with much gun-related violence in the surrounding area. It was typical to see 11 gunshots a night and surgery 20 to 24 hours a day. It was definitely a good place to train," said Marvil.

In August 2014, Marvil moved to Taos as a fellow at the Taos Orthopaedic Institute. He became a partner in the organization in 2015. His duties include work on knees, hips and shoulders, using the methods of orthoscopy and arthroplasty (joint preservation). "Taos is not a trauma facility, but sometimes, I cover trauma for injuries, including auto and skiing accidents, etc.," he said.

The Taos Orthopaedic Institute, located at 1210 Gusdorf Road, is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The practice includes three partners, three fellows who receive training every year and 15 staff members.

Prior to scheduling a patient for surgery, Dr. Marvil makes the decision of physical therapy versus surgery - or a combination of both - on a case-by-case basis.

Life as an orthopedic surgeon includes rewards, but what about those more challenging cases? "About 95 percent of my bedside manner comes directly from the patient's own words," Marvil said. "The diagnosis comes soon and presents itself if I listen closely to the patient and the ailments. I ask questions and perform tests, but it's the patient who knows himself or herself better than anyone."

Marvil added, "I work with people of all ages. I especially note that youngsters aren't good at telling how they're feeling. In these instances, I play a game with the child or give him [or her] a sticker. While we're doing this, I see how the hands and arms or some other body parts are working. Sometimes, the parents help, but I let the child speak for his or herself."

The young doctor also enjoys other aspects of his life. The avid traveler has visited Italy, France, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. He reads books, especially historical fiction, many of which he borrows from Elder, his retired English teacher friend and neighbor.

He also likes working with tools - not surprising for a surgeon. "Creating mechanical items requires tools, much as surgery. I use manual dexterity in both my hobbies and my medical work," he said.

To this end, he created a chopper (motor bike) in a place he used to live. "My brother, Andrew, got me into this aspect. Building the motorcycle required the same thoroughness as surgery," he explained.

Even though much of his career work occurs indoors, Marvil celebrates much of his personal time outdoors. The Taos area abounds with places for Marvil's outdoor passions. He rides dirt bikes and mountain bikes. Bow hunting provides him with game meat, which he prefers to barbecue. "I'll cook outside, even in a blizzard," he said. "My freezer is full of venison, elk and pork. I like good meats and healthy foods. The fish result from my passion for fly-fishing."

"I work late sometimes. When this happens, I remind the staff, 'If it were your mother or father, I'd take the same care.' We have an awesome staff, and that makes my work quite pleasant," Marvil said.

He concluded the interview by talking about his patients. "I fell in love with Taos. The diversity of ethnicity, ranchers, musicians, Ph.D.s and many other groups makes practicing here a great joy. My orthopedic work is something I take seriously. People trust me with their care, so I owe it to them to turn over any rock to help them," said Marvil.