Tag Archives: Leadville Healthcare

Latest News – September 22

Mountain Medicine: Practicing Meaningful Medicine

This is the third and final installment in Leadville Today’s series: Mountain Medicine. Part One introduced readers to Dr. Lisa Zwerdlinger, Leadville’s first female physician. Part Two reported about Rocky Mountain Family Practice (RMFP) and the healthcare services they provide in Lake County. Today, LT readers are given Part Three, which offers some insight into the future of healthcare in North America’s Highest City:Leadville.

Snuggled at the base of the Mosquito Pass Mountain Range, Leadville and Lake County offer a healthy outdoor lifestyle in every season! Photo: Grand West Village Resort

Snuggled at the base of the Mosquito Pass Mountain Range, Leadville and Lake County offer a healthy outdoor lifestyle in every season! Photo: Grand West Village Resort

by Brennan Ruegg, Leadville Today Contributor

Many seek the mountains for healing, whether physical or spiritual. Through nature, isolation, or a purposeful role in a small community, the high country offers an improved life – in more than silver and gold – for those who go looking for it. 

Healthcare has changed through the last century, from survival to meaningful medicine. While mining and mountaineering continue today with their usual dangers, a 21st-century mountain town, vaccinated and kept mostly warm through the winter, survives to a different standard. Clean air, water, and a wholesome lifestyle, along with mental health, freedom from addictions, and a better, more organic diet are now the peak priorities. While it’s easy to fall into persistent cure-seeking, most of the above-mentioned ailments are best battled with a strong will, and an equally willful support system.

Dr. Lisa Zwerdlinger

Dr. Lisa Zwerdlinger

Dr. Lisa Zwerdlinger has been that support system for many in Leadville, who uses her growing relationships to make a round-table of service providers available to the people in her community. This year, RMFP celebrated ten years in business. And once built, it didn’t take long for it to blossom, and attract the other services that have gathered in and grown around it. 

Aside from the practitioners at RMFP, both Cloud City Medical, providing medical equipment and supplies, and counselor Dr. Teresa Haynes are housed in The Leadville Professional Building which is anchored by RMFP. Solvista Health is located across the way on Highway 24 South. Continuing to develop a medical hub in the heart of Lake County that expands every year, is exactly what’s in store moving into the next decade. Click to connect to a list of all providers at RMFP.

Paralleling the life of her business, Dr. Lisa also starts a new chapter, personally. Like many successful professionals, her twenties were focused on her education. In her thirties, she worked to acquire wealth and adventure. In her forties she became a mother and learned about what it takes to raise a family. Now, at fifty, her focus shifts to peace and simplicity, heralded by a recalled memory.

In her formative years of practice, Dr. Lisa received some valuable insight:

“Patients were turned off, sometimes,” she explains, “I always thought, by my enthusiasm, but it was really about my aggression.”

She could have easily shrugged off the feedback and found success burning-and-turning patients in Aspen or Vail, but instead, it motivated her to change. Many of those years in her twenties she spent with an American Indian healer in her hometown of Conifer. Dr. Lisa recalls the task of long hours sitting by a stream, waiting for it to tell her something. As with any tenacious pupil, it took a long stretch of skepticism before she learned anything from the obscure lesson.Spac_50

Rocky Mountain Family Practice is conveniently located at 735 Highway 24 South. Photo: Leadville Today

Rocky Mountain Family Practice is conveniently located at 735 Highway 24 South. Photo: Leadville Today

Spac_50In fact, it was in 2015 when a long-time friend, reached out to Dr. Lisa after seeing her name pop up in the papers. The friend had a gift for her, something her son had made. It was a sculpture called The Healer. When Dr. Lisa saw it, she recalled what she had seen by that stream many years ago. It was an old woman with graying hair and a wrinkled face, who had already finished her education, raised a family, and tasted the clout of successful determination, but who continued her work for others, as a healer.

Today, Dr. Lisa still works every day at RMFP, but she also takes time to explore the world with her family. They have been to Nepal and Africa, learning about the way others in the world choose – or are forced – to live.

rmfp_sign_graphic_story_part-3But, there’s no question where her home is.

“I have a purpose in Leadville, and my purpose is to heal my community.”

Looking to the future, what does Dr. Lisa think the most pressing health issue is facing Leadville and Lake County?

“High cost,” she says promptly. And no one has battled that as fiercely as Dr. Lisa. Offering highly discounted rates for uninsured and under-served patients is what she’s known for. That, along with telling it like it is, and spending all the time that it takes to tackle a problem, to make that lasting connection with a patient.

And in a remote, mountain town like Leadville, where the quality of interdependence is magnified, practicing meaningful medicine is worth more than gold! 

Rocky Mountain Family Practice is located at 735 Hwy 24 South. Reach them by phone at (719)486-0500, or by visiting their Facebook page or website.

Brennan Ruegg is from Akron, OH, birthplace of poet Rita Dove and NBA Champion LeBron James.





Latest News – September 1

Mountain Medicine: Healthcare in Leadville

Colorado history buffs may have heard the name Doc Susie, an American doctor who tended to thousands of early settlers in and around the Fraser, Colo. area.

Doc Susie Anderson, MD

Doc Susie Anderson, MD

Known as one of the foremost female Pioneer physicians, Susan Anderson, M.D. (1870-1960) practiced medicine in the rugged mountains, treating families, ranchers, loggers, railroad workers, and even an occasional horse or cow, which was not uncommon at the time.

Often paid in firewood, food, services and other items that could be bartered, Doc Susie never became “rich” practicing her skills, but she was beloved by her community who was grateful to have a doctor on hand in such remote, harsh environments, with danger lurking around every mountain pass.

Today, injuries and ailments incurred in small rural communities like Leadville might range from altitude sickness and mining accidents to gunshot wounds and car crashes. And while new highways of communication allow rural doctors access to pertinent medical information, miles of physical barriers still stand between Leadville, and the state-of-the-art medical equipment and expansive staffs that facilities with bigger bank accounts can offer. Therefore, when winter conditions close mountain passes, limiting road and air traffic, even today’s Doc Susie must be adept, adaptable, and available.

Dr. Lisa Zwerdlinger

Dr. Lisa Zwerdlinger

For nearly two decades, Dr. Lisa Zwerdlinger has been that doctor in Leadville. In fact when she arrived in 1998, she was Leadville’s first female physician. So in the spirit of Pioneer physicians, Leadville Today is bringing readers this three-part series about Dr. Lisa, as she is affectionately known by the thousands of patients she has served throughout her 18 years of practicing medicine in Lake County.

Leadville’s First Female Physician: Breaking Down Barriers

by Brennan Ruegg, Leadville Today Contributor

Lisa Zwerdlinger was raised in the small town of Conifer located in Jefferson County just off Highway 285 if you take the “back way” down into the city. Her father was a career military man of the United States Air Force who retired when his daughter was born, and died only twelve years later. Zwerdlinger’s mother carried no formal education and supported her three children working as a receptionist.

Providing medical care and services to Lake County and surrounding areas for nearly two decades.

Dr. Lisa has been providing medical care and services to Lake County and surrounding areas for nearly two decades.

Zwerdlinger left for the city to attend the University of Colorado for eleven years, but she always knew she’d return to a small town in the mountains. She completed her four years of undergraduate studies in Boulder, graduate school and respective residencies in Denver.

In 1998, having graduated from medical school and ready to enter the workforce, Dr. Lisa was offered jobs in all of Colorado’s most affluent cities and mountain towns. But after attending a rural health fair and finding the greatest need for high-standard evidence-based care in Leadville and Lake County, Zwerdlinger decided to return to a place much like Conifer, much like home. Arriving in 1998 she became Leadville’s first female physician.

Dr. Lisa’s goal was to provide the same standard of care for the people of Lake County that anyone would receive in Denver or Aspen. She joined Dr. Wayne Callen and Dr. John Perna at the private practice of Lake County Medical Center, where for six years she formed relationships with the community she would continue to serve for nearly two decades now.

As Dr Perna motioned to retire in 2004, Zwerdlinger was pregnant with her first child and posed with decisions about her future and that of her family. She was once again offered a high paying position in the city of Denver, but already 1,000 feet higher and 100 miles away from the metroplex, Zwerdlinger reflected on the six years she’d already spent in Leadville, and again on its needs in healthcare.Spac_50

The Flight for Life helicopter lands at Rocky Mountain Family Practice during the private practice's community health fair.

The Flight for Life helicopter lands at Rocky Mountain Family Practice during the private practice’s community health fair.

Spac_50Dr. Lisa recalls a heartfelt conversation with her husband, Jeff Foley, that year in the parking lot of the local hospital, where they weighed the decisions before them, against the future they wished to have for themselves.

“Jeff and I looked at each other and said ‘We love it here. We like Leadville. We don’t want to move to the city. We don’t want to raise kids in the city. We want to live here,’ So we hawked everything we owned, and built this.”

RMFP_Sign_Graphic_Story_PartOneDr. Lisa is of course, referring to Rocky Mountain Family Practice (RMFP), which she and her husband began in 2005, and which continues to operate today as Leadville’s one and only private healthcare practice.

Next week, in this three-part series, Leadville Today will bring readers Part Two: Giving Birth To Babies and Businesses. Stay tuned and stay healthy.

Rocky Mountain Family Practice is located at 735 Hwy 24 South, and may be contacted by phone at (719)486-0500.

LT Contributor Brennan Ruegg is from Akron, OH, birthplace of marbles and Judy Resnick.