A new weapon in Springs' health arsenal: education

December 17, 2009
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	 Photo by THE GAZETTE

Doctors and nurses can sit in a lecture hall similar to a movie theater, watching surgeries performed on a cadaver down the hall or on a patient in a hospital down the street. School children and the public can hear from experts about health care and see demonstrations live on video feeds.  


The Julie Penrose Health Education & Research Center, which opened in April, is a nonprofit center that plans to become an academic mainstay for Colorado Springs in the absence of a medical school.


Dr. Allan Bach, an orthopedic surgeon, runs the center and helped spearhead its creation. A longtime professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine before relocating to Colorado Springs in 1998, the center was his way of returning to his passion for teaching. The $1.8 million nonprofit center, which despite the name is not associated with Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, is in northeast Colorado Springs next to the new St. Francis Medical Center.


Bach, who continues to see patients in his private practice, believes the education center will help lead Colorado Springs’ growth into a place for academics in the medical profession. The Gazette sat down with Bach to get his perspective on health care.


Q: Why is education so important in health care?


A: The delivery of health care is only as good as what the patients will do with the information. If they don’t understand that this is important for them to be healthy, to take the advice, then they won’t be healthy.


Q: What is the biggest health care challenge facing Colorado Springs?


A: I think that goes along with the biggest health care challenge presenting to the US: It’s to deliver good quality health care to all citizens. How are we going to do that?


Q: Where do you see health care in the next 15 years?


A: I think that the scientific part of medical care will change gradually. A lot of things that we did 30 years ago we still do, and they’re good methods, but there’s a gradual change in all kinds of things. As far as delivery of health care, you can be assured that it’s going to change. It has become so expensive that we all know that some change needs to be done in how we deliver health care, in order to be able to afford it.


Q: What makes Colorado Springs unusual when it comes to our health?


A: I think Colorado Springs falls into a group of several cities in the western United States that has a population of people that are very energetic, outdoorsy, very healthy. And we (also) have to deal with a population of patients that are not so healthy. That may be immigrants who don’t have the same sort of look at health care than some of the people who are very healthy, who are skiers or hikers. The problem is we need to keep the entire population healthy. It’s expensive to have people be unhealthy.


Q: What are the community’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to health?


A: (Colorado Springs has) extremely good institutions for taking care of diseases, and a very, very well-educated and expert medical system here. The doctors are good, the nurses are good. We have good equipment. The weaknesses, I think, are the weaknesses of most populated areas, that we haven’t spent enough time working on the prevention of things. We have a population that’s underserved and can’t get medical care, and they wind up going to the emergency rooms for medical care, and that’s very expensive. So we have to work on some sort of way to provide a different environment so we’re not making health care for those people extraordinarily expensive when it doesn’t really have to be.


Q: Colorado Springs lacks academic opportunities for physicians. Do you see that changing?


A: One of the reasons we have this center is to work on trying to increase health education in the Colorado springs area since its such a big population. And I think, in my estimation, we’ll eventually be the home of a medical school or at least be a part of the University of Colorado medical school.


Call Newsome at 636-0198. Visit the Pikes Peak Health blog at www.pikespeakhealth.freedomblogging.com and the Gazette’s Health page at Gazette.com/health

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