Letter: Aspen doctors give back
Aspen doctors give back
The Aspen Bariloche Medical Exchange Program works to improve patient care for the Sister Cities of Aspen and Bariloche through education, philanthropy and cultural exchanges. We are proud to be one of the few medical exchange programs organized through the International Sister Cities Program.
This exchange program was formed shortly after San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, was named one of Aspen’s sister cities on Nov. 1, 2002, and following one of Argentina’s worst economic disasters. During this economic tragedy, the value of the Argentine peso declined to less than one-quarter of its value and funding for the only public hospital in Bariloche, Hospital Zonal Ramón Carrillo, outdated and already facing minimal government financial support, was faced with the daunting task of being the only public medical provider to more than 500,000 indigent people in the Bariloche community and surrounding region. Luckily, through this new Sister Cities relationship, the medical professionals at the Ramón Carrillo Hospital were able to contact Aspen Valley Hospital to make a desperate plea for help. From that request, the Aspen Bariloche Medical Exchange Program was born.
In early 2003, Dr. Mark Purnell of Aspen Orthopaedic Associates and the Aspen Sports Medicine Foundation visited Bariloche to explore the possibility of creating a medical exchange program. At the Hospital Zonal Ramón Carrill, he found a government-supported hospital that has had very little improvement since its creation in 1938, equipped with only the minimal medical equipment and not enough staff for the growing number of patients. Fortunately, he also discovered a very dedicated and well-trained team of medical professionals who were interested in participating in an exchange of ideas and medical technology. Shortly thereafter, Aspen Valley Hospital, Aspen Valley Medical Foundation (Aspen Valley Foundation) and Aspen Sister Cities teamed up to send the first of several shipments of medical supplies to the Hospital Zonal Ramón Carrillo.
This spring another delegation of medical professionals will be participating in the Aspen Bariloche Medical Exchange Program. Departing Saturday, May 4 and returning on Tuesday, May 14, we have a strong group of individuals who will be volunteering their time and traveling to Bariloche, Argentina.
Drs. Mark Purnell, Tito Liotta, Leelee von Stade, Chris George and Dan Lee, orthopaedic surgeons with Aspen Orthopaedic Associates and the Aspen Sports Medicine Foundation, will be conducting surgery, presenting at scientific conferences, donating orthopaedic equipment and supplies, and teaching.
Dr. Robert Christensen, a dentist who practices in Aspen, will be treating patients, teaching, donating equipment and supplies, and promoting dental health, including meeting with city officials about endorsing water fluoridation, in hopes to positively affect the most people possible.
Krista Fox, an occupational therapist with Aspen Valley Hospital, will be treating patients, donating equipment and supplies, educating caregivers of dementia and older adults to improve cognitive function. Amanda Boxtel, a wheelchair and accessibility expert, will be joining Krista Fox in leading educational seminars on exercise and leisure activities for patients with spinal cord injuries, and home accessibility for patients with mobility impairment. Patricia Martinet will be assisting Ms. Boxtel in her work.
This exchange has been organized and will be lead by Griff Smith of Aspen Sister Cities and Laura Morris Pritchard of the Aspen Sports Medicine Foundation.
While in Bariloche, the Aspen Bariloche Medical Exchange Program will be donating more than 200 wheelchairs on behalf of Robin Heller Moss and The Buster Foundation, in loving memory of Mort Heller, a long-time Aspen resident who passed away on Nov. 24, 2010. These wheelchairs will be distributed through the public hospital to needy patients in the Rio Negro Region who do not have access to any form of mobility. We hope this donation will provide hope, mobility, and independence to patients who do not have access, offering a renewed outlook on life.
We are also working with the Rotary Club of Aspen, the Rotary Club Nahuel Huapi in Bariloche, and the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International to assist and fund Fundación Nutrir Patagonia, founded by Felipe de Rosas, MD. This organization is a group of volunteers: nutritionists, educators, doctors, technicians, businessmen, architects and social agents, who are committed to collaborating with the most vulnerable sectors of society. Through the implementation of programs we aim to promote integral solutions to issues like malnutrition, school desertion and grade repetition, poor housing, violence, and family disintegration.
So many medical volunteers, generous community members, and organizations contribute to the Aspen Bariloche Medical Exchange Program. This program would not be possible without the dedication of The Buster Foundation, Reese & Wava Henry, Aspen & Bariloche Sister Cities, Aspen Orthopaedic Associates, Aspen Sports Medicine Foundation, Aspen Valley Hospital, Smith & Nephew, DePuy Synthes, Arthrex, Acumed, and Millennium Pack & Ship with the help of FedEx who recently helped us ship Automated External Defibrillators to Bariloche.
Griff Smith, Aspen Sister Cities
Mark Purnell, Aspen Orthopaedic Associates
Laura Pritchard, Aspen Sports Medicine Foundation
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