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Fighting breast cancer is a year-round mission

September 30, 2019
For most people, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual reminder of one of the most common diseases affecting women. But for Nurse Navigator Heather Milne, RN; Mammography Technologist Debbie Demeulenaere, RTM; and the Breast Center team at Aspen Valley Hospital, breast cancer is a reality that touches women in our community every day.

The Breast Center offers comprehensive screenings, diagnoses, treatment options and educational and support services close to home.

“We’ve spent this past year focused on educating existing patients about what to expect from a biopsy procedure, and what new patients can expect when getting their first mammogram screening," Milne says. “We educate and help support the patient diagnosed with breast cancer. And we also offer a free screening for women any time during their 40th birthday year.”


Unrivaled Breast Screening Technology

A key advantage to the Breast Center is that it offers the latest in cancer screening using state-of-the-art technology, including 3D mammogram screenings (since 2012) and dense breast ultrasound screening. 

A large percentage of women in the Roaring Fork Valley have breasts with Quick read more or view full article dense fibrous tissues that can mask tumors during a regular mammogram. This leading-edge equipment can get clearer, all-around images of the breast that allow the radiologist to better detect growths that may be cancerous.

“With all of this imaging technology and a team of dedicated breast radiologists studying the images, we can do all the screenings for the diagnoses locally,” Demeulenaere said.

Another important technology in the Breast Center is the Faxitron machine, which provides instant confirmation of a successful stereotactic biopsy procedure. It also helps to minimize procedure time and patient stress. Now, patients are able to have their biopsies close to home, using the latest medical technology, and with staff members they know and trust. “We are fortunate to have one of four upright stereotactic biopsy machines in the state of Colorado,” says Mammography Technician and Lead Stereotactic Biopsy Technician Kelly Fain, MRCT. “This stereotactic biopsy machine reduces the risk of complications and improves recovery time due to the upright position of the patient during the procedure.”


Friendly Faces, Never-ending Support

The Breast Center offers an intimate, spa-like environment — complete with herbal tea, soothing music and calming, inspirational artwork — that helps ease fear and anxiety as the nurse navigator, Milne, meets with breast cancer patients following diagnosis and helps them with all aspects of the treatment process: meeting with physicians and preparation for surgery.

Demeulenaere adds that it is critical to put a patient at ease before undergoing the mammogram, as they are likely to experience a lot of anxiety. “My goal is to have a great rapport with all patients,” said Demeulenaere, who has been with AVH for 41 years. “I treat everyone like my best friend. No patient is ever alone.”

Milne echoes that assurance, reminding patients that the Breast Center staff is always here for them — even after a patient has completed her screening or treatment. “If she has a question or needs help, she can always come and talk to us, without making an appointment,” Milne said. “We consider every patient part of our family.”

Other services such as nutrition counseling, lymphedema rehabilitation, reconstructive surgery and psychosocial support (as well as genetic counseling coming soon!) help patients regain strength and confidence to move forward and live well. For more information about the Breast Center at Aspen Valley Hospital, please call 970.544.1420 or visit aspenvalleyhospital.org/Breast-Center.


When should you be screened for breast cancer?

Annual screening mammography is recommended for women starting at age 40. For some women with elevated risk, such as a family history of breast cancer, screening should begin earlier, according to Milne and Demeulenaere. Please talk with your physician about your breast cancer risk. Remember, Aspen Valley Hospital offers a free mammogram for patients in their 40th birthday year.


Relieve Stress with Free Pink Yoga

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer or had a friend or family member touched by this disease, you are invited to a free Pink Yoga session every Sunday afternoon in Basalt throughout the month of October. Held in conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the sessions offer restorative stretch yoga, meditation and support. We have invited many talented healers including yogis bringing gongs and Tibetan singing bowls for meditation and healing, acupuncturists and musicians. Each class will have something unique and different.

“The purpose is to release stress and anxiety in a supportive environment with other women,” Demeulenaere said. “These sessions can guide them both physically and emotionally to a much more positive direction of healing.”

No need to register. Just bring a yoga mat and be prepared to de-stress!

What:  Pink Yoga 
Where:  The Vimana House, 23300 Two Rivers Road in Basalt
When:  Every Sunday in October, 4 to 5:30 p.m.
Cost: Free, no RSVP required

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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 aspenvalleyhospital.org/aspen-valley-primary-care.

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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