Dr. David Snyder honored for his service to the community and country
Those with the good fortune to hear Dr. David Snyder relate a story or philosophize about life will come away with a sense of his charisma, wisdom, and passion. The animation in his voice and the endless knowledge he eagerly shares is captivating to the listener. Doc, as he is affectionately called, is a man of many words but more importantly, a man of words that matter. “I like selling life,” he says, and we should all buy a piece of what he’s selling.
Almost everyone in Fauquier County who has broken a bone in the last four decades likely knows Doc Snyder. One of the co-founders of Blue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine and an enthusiastic community leader, he also founded the nonprofit organization Verdun Adventure Bound in Rixeyville whose mission is to support and promote youth and adult personal growth through experiential learning and to teach stewardship of the land.
His story begins in Pittsburgh where he was born, and then traversed to many other places as part of his adventures of life with a father in the military. His parents always made sure to enroll him in parochial schools because they believed he would receive an education built on faith, good character, and discipline. After graduating from Georgetown University, and then University of Maryland Medical School, Doc enlisted in the Navy. It was here that “I really learned a lot,” he emphasizes, relaying his work of putting arms and legs back together for soldiers who had been injured and would have to live with an amputation otherwise. This time as an orthopaedic trauma surgeon in Vietnam would shape the rest of his career. He even received a Legion of Merit award for removing and disposing of a live grenade from a comrade’s shoulder.
Doc could have excelled at so many specialties, like cardiac or neurosurgery, but his desire for a family was foremost in his mind. More years of school and a career that would take up most of his time wasn’t appealing to him. His choice for specialty ultimately came down to a nursery rhyme, he says. “‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the King’s horsemen and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.’ But I could!” he says with his trademark smile that shows dimples on both sides.
Although he built hospice centers, helped people in traumatic situations in Emergency Rooms, and completed residencies at high level hospitals among so many other roles, his contribution to the field of medicine may be most evident in the Warrenton practice he co-founded and ran until his retirement in 2011.
Since 1978 — more than 40 years — Blue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center has been, and continues to be, the place to go for orthopaedic care. He is well known in the community as well, probably due to his unique philosophy of how to run a business. His desire was to create a practice reminiscent of the television series M*A*S*H* — 90 percent work and 10 percent good times.
Doc recalls an incident when Blue Ridge Orthopaedic had only been open for two months. A child suffered a near amputation of his leg, with only about two nerves remaining connected. Eight hours later, Doc and his colleagues had repaired and reconnected the leg. These are the types of cases that Doc is inspired by because he can use his trauma training from years past to help those in harrowing situations.
“I don’t retire,” says Doc about his after-retirement ventures. Those who know him best know that he is always on the move. “If they say Snyder’s crazy, they are right on target,” he says. Back in 1975 when he moved to Virginia to pursue opening the orthopaedic practice, Snyder purchased a home with 100 acres of farm that hadn’t been worked for about ten years. The idea for using this land for something good was at first simply to reduce the taxes he would have to pay for the land. One day, Snyder decided to ask a friend to teach him how to take care of trees and mentor him as he planted 30,000 trees on the property, creating an arboretum.
Ten years later, Snyder began getting calls from groups asking if they could camp on the beautiful property and teachers requesting to bring students to study the trees. It was a lightbulb moment. Snyder realized he could continue to have a positive impact on the lives of children through a completely different avenue. So he began creating Verdun Adventure Bound.
As much as we could all benefit from Snyder’s medical knowledge, his life’s principles should be shared far and wide. Reciting his father’s philosophy “I don’t care what you do as long as you are a man of character,” Snyder explains that the facility created on his property is a place for kids and families to be in nature and to enhance and grow their relationships with others. Snyder’s father believed we first come from our families, then we learn, and then we return to our families. According to him, creating character comes from a three-tiered approach: First, your philosophy — are you a giver or a taker? Second, your values — anything you say about others is about you, not them. And third, your relationships — if you can find someone to share your life with who is loving, kind, and selfless, you’re lucky. “Someone like this is a trophy: put ‘em in the boat,” he says, laughing.
Verdun Adventure Bound began small with a few programs but has grown and thrived through the years. The first major building and picnic gazebo was added and then a two-stage Shakespeare-inspired theatre. For every program that is added to Verdun’s repertoire, Snyder finds the best expert possible and then steps down and lets him or her run it. “If this were a movie, I would only be the producer,” he says.
His daughter Katie says, “My father always wanted all children in our community to be able to experience the Outward Bound Model (founder Kurt Hahn) where they learned self-awareness, self-resilience (grit), group dynamics, and service through outdoor experiential learning. He never wanted financial means to prevent these opportunities for the children.”
At Verdun, every child is recognized, listened to, and valued, which is often contrary to how they feel they are treated in school. Youth and adult retreats, youth groups, sports teams, schools, camping groups, and others can take advantage of all that Verdun has to offer, including over 55 acres of natural habitat. Facilities include The Anne Marie Sheridan Amphitheater for the Performing Arts, the Apiary where bees and honey are produced, The Art & Spirit Barn Studio, campsites, a challenge course, cross country 5k course, Ducks Unlimited Wetland Mitigation Site, Eagles Nest Conference Center, games, a greenhouse, kayaks and canoes, a pavilion, and so much more! Check out the website to see all that Verdun Adventure Bound has to offer the community and families.
“It’s a crazy life but it’s a good one,” says Snyder, affectionately relaying that the best part of his life is his wife — an amazing lady — and wonderful children.