Mass: ‘AVH could use my judgment’ | AspenTimes.com

Mass: ‘AVH could use my judgment’

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Dr. Ann Mass has watched Aspen Valley Hospital grow in leaps and bounds during her two decades on the hospital staff – growth the local physician says she has even helped along.

And Mass hopes that, if elected to the AVH board of directors next week, that the hospital will enjoy another expansion of services under a new board’s leadership.

“My main reason for running for the board is to really kind of help ‘maneuver the ship,’ really help the hospital develop a level of service that’s appropriate,” she said. “What I really think I have to offer the board is my judgment, my understanding of the community and my understanding of where medicine is going.”

Mass’ experience in medicine, developed on both coasts as well as in Aspen, is extensive. She left her childhood home in Manhattan to study dance and European history at New York’s Barnard College, but her education took an unexpected turn when the hopeful historian took an interest in medicine.

She was accepted to Harvard University’s prestigious medical school for postgraduate study, then moved on to the University of California at Los Angeles, where she became a chief resident with the institution’s adjoining hospital. When Mass decided to return to Harvard in 1978 to accept a medical fellowship with her alma mater, she and her family took a brief vacation in Aspen before making the cross-country move to Boston.

But once the Mass family tried to leave Aspen, AVH wasn’t ready to let them go.

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“The night we got here they offered [my husband] a job, so we decided to stay for a year – and that was 1978,” she laughed.

Mass’ husband was offered a surgical position with the hospital, while Mass herself opened a small practice and worked with her specialty, internal medicine. It was during her first few years in Aspen that Mass said she began to notice a few services missing from the AVH roster.

“When I got here, AVH was predominately an orthopedically driven hospital,” she said. “It wasn’t just about economics, it was really about the way the town was – very young and very athletic. People utilized the hospital as an orthopedic facility, and internal medicine wasn’t very strong here.”

The hospital’s chemotherapy and cardiology departments were introduced in later years, in part thanks to Mass’ work with hospital officials in developing the programs. She also became involved with the AVH “outreach program,” which brings visiting physicians from the University of Colorado to Aspen to practice different types of specialized medicine.

She’s also become vocal at recent board meetings. Mass protested the board’s decision to suspend a controversial birthing procedure after hearing a report from the medical executive committee that determined VBACs were too dangerous for a smaller hospital to perform.

“I was concerned with the way the present board handled that decision,” Mass said. “I think this is another big part of the reason I want to run for the board – I think it’s the responsibility of a hospital board to really step back from the medical executive committee and the CEO of the hospital, and then to have the judgment to make a decision that takes into account their concerns and the concerns of the community.”

Mass said she hopes to become a member of the board to help the hospital settle one of its biggest problems – how a small-town hospital can accommodate a growing mountain community. The hospital has outgrown its current space, Mass said.

“I’d definitely like to see an expansion of services and a responsible expansion of space at the hospital,” she said. “The ICU has got to be expanded and fixed up – it is a very inadequate space. We also need more operating rooms.”

An expansion of services or space would eventually benefit AVH financially, Mass said. The hospital’s outpatient facility, with its high turnover and constant influx of patients, could help AVH balance its budget, she said.

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