Better healthcare for all

August 21, 2019

Aspen Valley Primary Care provides care for the whole family

When everybody in our community has convenient access to high-quality healthcare, our population as a whole benefits. That’s the main tenet of “population health” — and one reason Aspen Valley Hospital is actively recruiting more primary care physicians (PCPs) to the Roaring Fork Valley.

Aspen Valley Primary Care in Basalt is AVH’s new family medicine practice. Having opened July 15 right next to the Midvalley Imaging Center, the new clinic offers comprehensive medical care for adults and children, including wellness services, disease management and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses.

“Primary care is all about what is important to patients and how we can keep them healthy,” said Alyssa Franklin, AVH’s Director of Primary Care. “Besides treating a patient’s immediate medical need, PCPs can screen for cancer, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and more. When caught early, these health issues can be treated or managed before they become more serious problems. And this keeps our community healthier as a whole.”

Meet our dedicated team of PCPs

Leading the new practice are Karen Locke, MD; Kelly Locke, MD; and Michael Plachta, MD (pictured Quick read more or view full article below from left to right). All three are certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and have extensive experience in family medicine. Dr. Edward Wiese, an internist, will join the practice in October.

For Drs. Karen and Kelly Locke, joining Aspen Valley Primary Care was an exciting opportunity. For the past 20 years, both had their own practice in Basalt, Locke Family Medicine. Dr. Kelly Locke said they will now be able to devote more of their time to patient care, while AVH will manage the business side of the medical practice. What’s more, they can offer more resources from AVH, such as psychologists, social workers, diabetes educators, imaging and lab services.

Drs. Karen and Kelly Locke met and married while attending medical school at the University of Kansas. During more than 25 years together, they have focused exclusively on treating families, so they have had many three-generation families and even a few four-generation families as patients.

“Building trust with patients is what family medicine is all about,” Dr. Karen Locke said. “Our style is to be good listeners. Some people may feel rushed when at a doctor’s office. But we will sit down with our patients and listen to their concerns and then address them.”

This extra time with a patient allows PCPs to inquire not only about the patient’s well-being but also about the health of the patient’s family. “Say we are treating a child for an earache,” Dr. Kelly Locke explained. “We can also take care of the parents’ needs, such as checking their blood pressure or giving them a needed immunization shot. We can better manage the family’s health as a whole so they don’t need to keep coming back.”

Dr. Plachta was practicing family medicine in Colorado Springs before joining the AVH team. He was impressed with the facility, the staff and the Hospital’s commitment to primary care. “My goal is to provide medicine in a compassionate, thorough and evidence-based manner,” he said.

A graduate of the University of Illinois Medical School in Chicago, Dr. Plachta focuses on teaching his patients about the importance of good health. “But I also want this to be a collaborative relationship,” he added. “It’s not just about what I feel is the best way to help my patients maintain their health. I am concentrated on their goals, too.”

To schedule an appointment with Aspen Valley Primary Care, please call 970.279.4111. For more information about our new practice, please visit

Aspen Valley Primary Care
1460 East Valley Road, Suite 102
Basalt, CO 81621
Hours: Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Phone: 970.279.4111

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Meet Joseph L. Schuller, MD, FHRS

July 31, 2019
AVH's New Cardiologist & Cardiac Electrophysiologist

The heart is perhaps the body’s most vital organ, pumping oxygen-rich blood and other nutrients to the rest of the body. Helping our residents and visitors maintain a healthy cardiovascular system is an important part of the specialized medical care Aspen Valley Hospital provides. For that reason, AVH is pleased to welcome a new cardiologist – Joseph L. Schuller, MD, FHRS – to our medical staff.

Dr. Schuller is a cardiovascular disease specialist and a cardiac electrophysiologist. A Minnesota native, he graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School, and has over 15 years of diverse experience in cardiology.

Dr. Schuller is seeing patients at Aspen Cardiology, located at the Hospital, as well as seeing patients in Basalt, at the clinic co-located with AVH’s After-Hours Medical Care, at 234 Cody Lane. Appointments can be made by calling 970.544.7388.
A Q&A with Dr. Joseph L. Schuller:

What type of care does a cardiovascular disease specialist/cardiac electrophysiologist provide?
As a cardiologist, I provide the typical cardiovascular care, such Quick read more or view full article as dealing with arteriosclerosis (which occurs when the blood vessels become thick and stiff, restricting blood flow), congestive heart failure and heart valve diseases. As a cardiac electrophysiologist, I focus on heart rhythm disorders. The most commons is atrial fibrillation, an irregular and often rapid heart rate that may increase your risk of stroke and heart failure. I work with patients to manage their disorder through medication or catheter ablation.  I also manage other arrhythmias such as SVT, PVCs and ventricular tachycardia.  I also implant pacemakers and defibrillators.
When would a patient need to see a cardiologist?
Most patients will come to me as a referral from their primary care physician after they have experienced symptoms of a heart problem (shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pains or changes in heart rate) or after a visit to the emergency room because they had an acute heart condition.
What type of specialized training and certification is required to become a cardiologist?
Beyond four years of medical school, you undergo three years of training dedicated to internal medicine and then complete a three- to four-year fellowship in cardiovascular diseases. I also completed another two-year fellowship in heart rhythm disorders and an extensive board certification process.
What brings you to Aspen Valley Hospital and its Network of Care?
While I was working at the University of Colorado, I did an outreach clinic at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs for two days a month for the past seven years. I got to know many of the doctors and patients in the area. When the opportunity arose to move here permanently – considering the wonderful people, facilities and lifestyle – it was an easy decision for my wife and me to make.
What do you hope to bring to our community?
A more consistent presence of an arrhythmia specialist for the community. As a whole, the population here is quite healthy and a little bit older than the national average. But when you combine age, altitude and regular exercise, irregular heartbeat issues are more common. I bring a knowledge base and skill set that is unique to the area. I look forward to developing the practice.
What is your philosophy about providing care to your patients?
I help my patients manage their symptoms by tailoring treatment to their individual needs. I also help evaluate their risks for heart issues. A patient may not feel anything wrong at the moment, but he or she may be at risk for more severe complications. My goal is to prevent something bad from happening.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. What steps would you recommend to reduce the risk for heart disease?
From a lifestyle standpoint, there is plenty you can do. If you smoke, stop. This is perhaps the single best thing you can do for your heart. Also, maintain a healthy weight by exercising regularly and eating a healthy, balanced diet that minimizes the intake of red meats, processed foods, fat and sugar and promotes a higher percentage of fruits and vegetables. It’s also important to know your cholesterol levels and get them under control. If you are diabetic, keep your blood sugar level controlled.
What are some of the new trends in preventing, diagnosing and treating heart disease?
Specifically to irregular or abnormal heartbeats, the idea of ambulatory monitoring has changed significantly. It used to be that you wore devices on your chest and monitors on your belt for weeks at a time. Everything is getting smaller and more mobile, and the data quality is much improved. Our ability to monitor heart rhythms for long periods of time has improved tremendously. Read Less
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AVH’s Swing Bed Program: When a patient is not quite ready to go home

May 30, 2019
Imagine having just emerged from major surgery to repair damage from an accident. The procedure was a success and you already feel better. However, you still need to be closely monitored and receive specialized care before you are fully ready for discharge. The Swing Bed Program at Aspen Valley Hospital (AVH) may allow you to receive skilled nursing and rehabilitative care right here close to your home, family and friends.

“Keeping patients in their home community, near their loved ones, is a big advantage of our Swing Bed Program,” said Margie Slater, RN, Director of Inpatient Services at AVH. “Our patients receive excellent quality of care. And if something goes awry and they need to be acutely readmitted to the hospital, they are already here at AVH.”

What is the Swing Bed Program?

This program is a skilled rehabilitative level of care that is “similar to the care someone would receive in a nursing home on a skilled rehabilitation unit,” said AVH Case Manager Marcella Steward-Knable, RN. “Swing bed patients no longer require 24-hour acute care, but do require medically supervised nursing care or rehabilitative service on Quick read more or view full article a continuous basis while they heal and strengthen before returning home.”

While in the program, patients may receive a range of rehabilitative services such as physical, occupational, speech, recreational and respiratory therapy based on their specific needs. In addition, patients may receive nursing care such as dressing changes, nutritional assessments, psychosocial assessments and medication evaluations.

(AVH Swing Bed Program team left to right: Lisa Pranno, PT, DPT, GCS; Rachel Sollars, RN; Marcella Steward-Knable, BSN, RN; Julie Jenkins, RN; Michael Goralka, MD; and Margie Slater, RN. Not Pictured: Michelle Miscione, Phd; Brad Holmes, MD; Marissa Meinema, MS, OTR/L, CBIS; Jamie Britt, RN and Paige Taylor, RN.)

“A key component of the Swing Bed Program is that patients need to be active in all aspects of their care and recovery to remain in the program,” Steward-Knable said. “This includes resuming daily activities such as getting up, getting dressed and participating in organized activities.”

Who is eligible?
  • While there is no age requirement, the swing bed patient must be eligible for Part A Medicare or have skilled nursing benefits through private insurance.
  • In addition, the patient must have a three-night consecutive inpatient hospital stay within the past 30 days to qualify, and they must exhibit a continued skilled need related to that reason for hospitalization.
"While the Swing Bed Program offers a lot of advantages for many patients, it may not be appropriate for everyone," said AVH Case Manager Julie Jenkins, RN. “We have to look at each patient’s situation individually and make sure we can provide the care needed for the best possible outcomes.”

A multidisciplinary team — including the physician, case managers, therapists and registered dietitians — will review each prospective swing bed patient’s history to see if the program at AVH is the best fit. “For example, AVH may not be right for patients who have certain chronic illnesses or would not do well at Aspen’s higher altitude,” Jenkins said.

How long does a patient stay in the program?

This depends on each patient’s needs and condition. While in the program, patients and families will meet regularly with their multidisciplinary care team to determine the best plan of care for their transition back home.

“Our focus is on helping patients regain their independence and return to where they were before their surgery, accident or illness,” Jenkins said. “Since we started offering this program several years ago, we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both patients and their loved ones.”

To learn more about AVH’s Swing Bed Program, please talk to your physician or call 970.544.1366.
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Changes coming to our oncology program

April 24, 2019

New physician, same great care

Continuity is important in any healthcare situation — especially for cancer patients and their families. That’s why Aspen Valley Hospital (AVH) is working to ensure a smooth transition to our new oncology physician, Stephen Mayer MD, PhD, FACP.
We are extraordinarily grateful to Douglas Rovira, MD, our staff oncologist for many years, as he leaves the Aspen community for another opportunity. His commitment to our patients has been unsurpassed. Dr. Rovira will remain in his current position while Dr. Mayer joins us in late May and begins to establish relationships with our patients.
Dr. Mayer earned his medical degree at Boston University School of Medicine and completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in medical oncology at Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Dr. Mayer is board certified in internal medicine and medical oncology. Since 2015, he has served as a physician at Kaiser Permanente Lone Tree Oncology and as a staff physician at Sky Ridge Medical Center, both in Lone Tree, Colorado.
During the transition, Quick read more or view full article all of AVH’s other highly trained and experienced oncology program staff members will remain in place, helping to ensure that patients experience no disruption in their care.
“As our new oncologist, Dr. Mayer will pick up where Dr. Rovira leaves off, and I’m sure our patients will immediately feel comfortable and confident with him and his medical expertise,” said Nancee Dodge, FNP-C, AOCNP, an oncology-certified nurse practitioner and an AVH employee since 1996. “Our clinic will continue to see patients as usual, and we’ll all work closely to ensure that we don’t miss a beat during the transition.”
Dodge noted that while the staff oncologist is in the hospital one day a week, the clinic is open five days a week — implementing the physician’s orders, treating side effects, managing medications and more. “It takes a team,” she said. “All of us in the AVH oncology program look forward to continuing to serve the Aspen community with high-quality care.” Read Less
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The June Health Fair offers important health screenings at big savings

April 24, 2019

Book your blood draw appointment today!

Mark your calendar, put a reminder on your phone or tie a string to your finger. You don’t want to miss the Aspen Valley Hospital (AVH) June Health Fair—June 6, 8 and 9. In fact, you can schedule your blood draw appointment starting today at
Open to the public, the highly anticipated annual event will offer many of the same services — and all of the same great benefits — as in past years, including blood draws and other screenings at much lower costs than in a traditional clinical setting. (If you have health insurance, check your benefits before participating, as not all plans cover health fair screenings. AVH will not submit to your health insurance.)

Take care of your health

In addition to the popular blood draws, the fair will feature screenings that empower participants to take control of their health. Blood pressure, vision and skin cancer checks are always in demand, along with airflow evaluations and dental/oral cancer screenings. OrthoAspen’s Dr. Stanley Gertzbein will provide back screenings and Dan Green, PA-C, Quick read more or view full article will perform additional orthopedic screenings. And for those who are eager to start on a healthier path forward right away, free information stations will be available from a variety of resources at AVH and from across the community. (See full list below.)
For the first time, blood draws will include a hemoglobin A1c test, a non-fasting screening recommended for anyone who has or is at risk of diabetes. The cost to have this test as part of the health fair is $30.
Other blood draw options include:
  • The Health Fair Profile (fasting is required), which measures 32 metabolic functions, including complete blood count, cholesterol levels and kidney function, as well as checking for infection, anemia and more — $65
  • PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test for men age 50 and older to help determine prostate cancer risk — $35
  • Vitamin D deficiency screening to measure D2 and D3 levels — $45
  • C-reactive protein tests for vascular inflammation, a cardiac risk — $35
  • Take-home colorectal cancer screening kit — $25
Hosting health fairs is a key component of AVH’s commitment to making our community a healthy place to live, work and play, according to Jennifer Slaughter, AVH Director of Community Relations.
“The health fairs are a critical component of AVH’s vision, which is to foster our community as the healthiest in the nation,” Slaughter said. “It is part of our ongoing focus on population health. By promoting prevention and early detection of certain health issues, we can help our community members be more successful in managing their own health; which in the long term, benefits not only health fair participants, but can keep overall healthcare costs down.”


Open to area residents age 18 and older
Thursday, June 6, 8 - 11 a.m.
Blood draw only
Aspen Valley Hospital
0401 Castle Cree Road, Aspen
Saturday, June 8, 8 - 11 a.m.
Blood draw only
El Jebel Community Center
20 Eagle County Road, El Jebel
Sunday, June 9, 8 - 11 a.m.
Blood draw, plus FREE additional screenings and information stations
Aspen Valley Hospital
0401 Castle Cree Road, Aspen
Remember: To book your blood draw appointment today or learn more about the Health Fair, visit Appointments for blood draws are highly encouraged, but walk-ins are always welcome. Please be sure to arrive an hour prior to closing on Sunday, June 9, if you are interested in the free health screenings and information stations listed below. Payments are taken at the event in CASH or CHECK ONLY.
Free Health Screenings
  • Air flow and oximetry
  • Back screenings with Stanley D. Gertzbein, MD, of OrthoAspen
  • Blood pressure
  • Dental and oral cancer screening
  • Height, weight and body mass index
  • Orthopedic screenings with Dan Greene, PA-C, of OrthoAspen
  • Skin cancer checks
  • Vision screening
Information Stations
  • After-Hours Medical Care
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Aspen Strong
  • Diabetes and nutrition education
  • HomeCare & Hospice of the Valley
  • Midvalley Surgery Center
  • Snowmass Medical Care
  • Traumatic Brain Injury Program
  • WE-cycle
  • Wellness programs at AVH
  • Whitcomb Terrace Assisted Living
See you at the fair!
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