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Doctors helping doctors

Dear Editor:Please join us in welcoming the following delegation of medical professionals from Bariloche, Argentina, who will be visiting Aspen on March 16-24 to participate in the fourth annual AspenBariloche Medical Exchange Program: Mariano Flores Velasco, M.D.; Tomas Trapani, M.D.; Ernesto J. Barbeito, M.D.; Maria Emilia Saavedra, M.D. ; Lorena Leive, O.T.; Cecilia Campora, P.T.; Gabriela Varone, M.D. ; Karin Balazs, RN; Natalia Kerz, M.D. ; Viviana Brucellaria, M.D. ; Javier Franco, M.D. ; and Norberto C. Delfino, M.D. This program works to improve patient care for the Aspen and Bariloche communities through education, philanthropy and cultural exchanges.The AspenBariloche Medical Exchange Program was formed Nov. 12, 2002, shortly after Bariloche, Argentina, was named one of Aspens Sister Cities and following worst economic disaster in Argentinas history. During this tragedy, the value of the peso declined to less than one quarter of its value, and funding for the only public hospital, Ramn Carillo, in Bariloche, was drastically reduced. At the same time, the Ramn Carillo hospital, outdated and already facing minimal government financial support, was faced with the daunting task of being the only medical provider to more than 120,000 indigent people in the Bariloche community. Luckily, through this new Sister Cities relationship, the medical professionals working at the Ramn Carillo hospital were able to contact Aspen Valley Hospital to make a desperate plea for help.In response to their appeal, doctors Scott Gallagher and Mark Purnell visited Bariloche in early 2003 to explore the possibility of creating a medical exchange program. Once there, they found a government-supported hospital that had not been improved since its creation in 1928; equipped with only the most basic medical equipment and not enough staff for the growing numbers of patients. Fortunately, they also discovered a very dedicated team of medical professionals who were interested in participating in an exchange of ideas and medical technology. Shortly thereafter, Aspen Valley Hospital and the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation teamed up to send the first of several shipments of medical supplies to its Sister City; thus, the Aspen-Bariloche Medical Exchange Program was born.Since its inception, this program has been coordinating exchanges for medical professionals who specialize in orthopaedics, physical and occupational therapy, cardiac rehabilitation, anesthesiology, internal medicine, general surgery, nursing, pediatrics and dentistry. Another milestone was achieved in 2007, with the establishment of the Bariloche-based AspenBariloche Medical Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to facilitating the process of importing desperately-needed medical supplies.Thank you to the many volunteers who are working tirelessly to improve patient care at the Ramn Carillo hospital in Bariloche, Argentina. This program would not be possible without the extremely generous support and dedication of the Buster Foundation, Orthopaedic Associates of Aspen & Glenwood, Aspen Sports Medicine Foundation, Aspen Sister Cities, Aspen Valley Hospital and the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation.Mark Purnell, MDpresident, Aspen Sports Medicine FoundationOrthopaedic Associates of AspenGriff SmithBariloche coordinator, Aspen Sister Cities

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