Doc Willett Award winners announced; honor to be given out for 1st time in 5 years
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Honoring the compassionate medical care and dedication to community practiced by Dr. Frederick E. Willett, two awards are being given in his name for the first time in five years.
The UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center Foundation announced oncologist Dr. Allen Cohn as the 2018 Health Care Professional and Ken Rogers as the 2018 Health Care Community Advocate.
Whether by horse-driven buggy or, later, a car, “Doc” Willett was the “kind of guy who would drive two hours at 2 a.m. through snow to help a sick kid,” said Foundation Executive Director Karen Schneider.
Arriving in 1912, Willett devoted himself to providing medical care throughout the Yampa Valley for the next 56 years. According to his great-nephew Jim Stanko, he hardly ever sent out bills for his services.
“Money wasn’t his driving force,” Stanko said. “The needs of the community were more important to him than his personal wealth.”
Willett also established Steamboat’s first community hospital in 1914, which he ran for 25 years out of the building now occupied by Old Town Pub. A larger hospital on Park Street was opened in 1950 — made possible by his donations.
According to Schneider, the honorees are chosen through a public nomination process followed by committee and board review and will be given out every five years.
Schneider said the Foundation received the most nominations they ever received for the award, so it was a difficult choice.
An awards ceremony for Cohn and Rogers, in conjunction with a fundraiser for the foundation, will be held Sept. 6.
“They are both so deserving,” Schneider said. “They’ve given so much of their passion and time and effort to the community, and we are a better community for it.”
Starting in 1995, Dr. Cohn has traveled three times per month from the Front Range to Steamboat Springs to provide medical oncology care, so his patients don’t have to travel. In 23 years, he’s missed only two visits — once because of a blizzard.
“It’s been very rewarding to see how appreciative the patients are who would otherwise have to go to Denver every three or four weeks for treatments and, instead, can stay here with their families,” Cohn said.
Cohn has been the impetus for the growth of the Jan Bishop Cancer Center, which opened last year. He started out treating three or four patients per month in an extra room in the old hospital. Today, the new cancer center has more than 180 visits per month and is still growing.
Cohn also was instrumental in starting the multidisciplinary tumor board at UCHealth Yampa Valley Vedical Center, which allowed for a forum with conversation driven by the needs of the patient. He is known by his colleagues as a peer educator who makes himself accessible for questions and consults.
Cohn is also involved with the Colorado Cancer Research Program, has presented nationally and internationally and contributed to numerous publications.
Ken Rogers, district manager of the South Routt Medical Center, has combined his unique experience as an business owner and a medical first-responder to help the independent medical center in Oak Creek continue to expand services, while keeping the personalized, small-town feel with the focus on each individual patient.
Forty years ago, Rogers began his career in the health profession volunteering as an EMT with the fire department in a small town in Ohio.
He moved to Colorado in 1976 and continued to work as an EMT and paramedic, eventually teaching emergency medical services at Colorado Mountain College.
In addition to being on the board of directors of the Emergency Medical Services Association of Colorado, Rogers serves on the boards of Yampa Valley Electric Association and Heeling Friends, a therapy dog nonprofit. He works with Adaptive Action Sports, a nonprofit focused on adaptive snowboard and skateboard programs for disabled veterans. Rogers and his wife, a nurse, run their own nonprofit Colorado Comfort Canines, which brings teams of certified therapy dog teams to crisis and disaster scenes.
At the South Routt Medical Center, Rogers said his goal is to try to accommodate everyone regardless of insurance, ability to pay or where they are in life.
“We take care of everyone who walks in the door,” Rogers said.
The center has doubled its patient load in the past five years, and Rogers said the biggest challenge is finding more space. He also works to bring more specialists to South Routt and acquire much-needed equipment, like an X-ray machine.
He likes the small town feel of the clinic and taking care of locals like ranchers and miners whom he knows have livelihoods dependent on getting back to work quickly. But Rogers also works to ensure the highest of standards as a professional medical practice.
More information on the Sept. 6 awards ceremony can be found at yvmcf.org
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Editor’s Note: This is part 1 of a 2-part series. Part 2 outlines non-surgical and surgical treatment options for hip injuries.