Monday Medical: Mayo Clinic collaboration expands quality care close to home |

Monday Medical: Mayo Clinic collaboration expands quality care close to home

Christine McKelvie/For the Steamboat Today

For more than a century, complex medical issues have sent some residents of Northwest Colorado to the Mayo Clinic in search of answers. In 1920, when Steamboat Springs merchant F. M. Light traveled to Minnesota seeking relief from asthma, the Routt County Sentinel reported that "a polyp as large as an oyster" was removed from his nose.

Patients weren't the only ones who recognized the value of the Mayo Clinic. Pioneer physicians in Routt County, including Dr. F. E. Willett, occasionally journeyed to Mayo to take refresher courses and sharpen their surgical skills.

Now residents of our region may benefit from the world-renowned Mayo Clinic resources without ever leaving home. Last week, Mayo Clinic representatives were at Yampa Valley Medical Center to announce a new collaboration. YVMC has become just the second hospital in Colorado and the 26th in the nation to be invited to join the Mayo Clinical Care Network.

Patients and physicians will not be charged any fee for the network services. YVMC will absorb the cost of the contractual agreement, YVMC CEO Frank May said.

For those who are not immediately familiar with the reputation of the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Wyatt Decker, vice president of Mayo Clinic and CEO of Mayo Clinic in Arizona, explained the not-for-profit institution this way:

"It is the first and now largest multi-specialty practice, it provides integrated and comprehensive medical care, it is the place where the idea of sub-specialties began, and it always puts the patient first," he said.

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Mayo Clinic has major campuses in Rochester, Minn., Scottsdale, Ariz., and Jacksonville, Fla. It employs more than 61,000 individuals, including about 4,100 physicians and scientists.

YVMC leadership, including Chief Medical Officer Dr. Larry Bookman, pursued this collaboration for almost a year and a half because of the benefits it can bring to our region.

"We see it as an opportunity to obtain the latest research and treatment recommendations from Mayo Clinic in order to provide excellent care close to home," Bookman said. "This will allow our doctors to take advantage of conferences, educational collaboration and online research on a whole host of medical topics.

"Advantages are numerous for patients," he added. "Doctors have a top-quality resource to go to. They can make a phone call and get an immediate one-to-one discussion with a specialist or sub-specialist. This will be especially helpful when a specialty is unavailable here, such as rheumatology, pulmonology or endocrinology."

Dr. Russell Heigh, a gastroenterologist and executive leader with the Mayo Clinic, listed several opportunities for YVMC and Mayo Clinic to work together. AskMayoExpert allows physicians, nurses and other providers to seek answers if there are questions of diagnosis, therapy or care management. Another is eConsult, which connects doctors to designated Mayo physicians.

"Cancer care teams who have complicated or challenging cases can present them to our tumor boards in video conferences after uploading images, biopsy slides and other information," Heigh said. "Our team will see and hear the information, and everyone will discuss it together."

David Wasserman, who organizes all Mayo Clinical Care Network consulting projects for the Southwest region, sees additional benefits, including access to advanced clinical trials programs for treatment of cancer and other diseases.

"Also, when a hospital adds or enhances a service, we invite physicians, health care teams and administrators to the Mayo Clinic for clinical shadowing, meetings and one-on-one mentorship," Wasserman said. "We share our experience and you can adapt it to your specific hospital and patient needs."

To the Mayo and YVMC teams, the new collaboration is a natural fit between two not-for-profit health care organizations that have a cultural alignment and affinity.

"We share a common philosophy and commitment to improve the delivery of health care," May said. "The Mayo Clinic Care Network is a resource our physicians can use to validate the work they do so well. This will help us elevate our care. It is a great accomplishment for our hospital, in a community of 12,000, to be invited to join this network."

"Our pursuit of the collaboration has always been about quality and expanded availability of quality care," Bookman added. "Being able to take better care of patients is the goal of every doctor. Now we have a resource, an entity that is world-renowned for its quality and whose core values match YVMC's."

Christine McKelvie is a writer/editor for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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