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img211Latest News – September 16

by Leadville Today


Mountain Medicine: Meaningful Practice

This is the third and final installment in a series about Leadville's first female physician and the establishment of Rocky Mountain Family Practice (RMFP). Part One introduced readers to Dr. Lisa Zwerdlinger, Part Two to RMFP and the services they provide. Part Three offers insight into the future of healthcare in Lake County.

by Brennan Ruegg, Leadville Today Contributor

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

 Healthcare has changed through the last century, as has what is considered to be survival. 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, mental health, freedom of addiction, and better diet are now priorities. It's easy to fall into persistent cure-seeking, but most of the abovementioned ailments are best battled with a strong will and an equally willful support system.

Dr. Lisa has been that support system for many in Leadville, using her growing relationships to make available a round-table of service professionals to the people in her community. This year RMFP celebrated ten years of business, and it didn't take long for it to blossom and attract the other services that have gathered in and 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 right across the highway. Dr. Lisa continues to develop a medical hub in the heart of Lake County that expands every year.

Click to connect to a list of all providers at RMFP.

And paralleling the life of her business, Dr. Lisa also starts a new chapter. 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 her a long stretch of skepticism before she learned anything from the obscure lesson.

A long time friend, after seeing Dr. Lisa's name pop up in the papers in 2015, reached out to give Dr. Lisa something her son had made for her. It was a sculpture called The Healer, and when Dr. Lisa saw it, she saw what she had seen by the stream years earlier. It was an old woman with graying hair and 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.

Dr. Lisa still works every day at RMFP, but she also takes time now 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. There's no question where her home is though."

I have a purpose in Leadville, and my purpose is to heal my community."And what does Dr. Lisa think is the most concerning health issue facing Leadville today?"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--along with telling it like it is and spending all the time it take to tackle a problem and make a lasting connection.

In a small town the quality of interdependence is magnified. The buck can only be passed so many times before it comes back around again. By wearing many hats and seeing the same faces every day, the people of Leadville are often reminded how what is good for one's own health is good for that of his community.

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.

Rocky Mountain Family Practice is located at 735 Hwy 24 South in Leadville, Colorado. Photo: Leadville Today.  

Leadville Today| September 16, 2016 at 11:55 AM | Tags: Amy King, Brennan Ruegg, Cloud City Medical, Colorado Healthcare, Jeff Foley, Lake County Colorado, Leadville, Leadville Colorado, Leadville Events, Leadville News, leadville today, Leadville traffic, Leadville weather, LeadvilleToday.com, Lisa Zwerdlinger, Mountain Medicine, Rocky Mountain Family Practice Leadville | Categories: Leadville Life | URL: http://wp.me/p1DpPK-8ci

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Latest News – September 8 Posted on September 8, 2016 | Leave a comment

Mountain Medicine: Giving Birth to Babies & Business

Last week, Leadville Today introduced the reader to Dr. Lisa Zwerdlinger, Leadville’s first female physician. Today, in the second of a three-part series, it’s about the business that she and husband Jeff Foley began: Rocky Mountain Family Practice (RMFP), which celebrates 10 years in 2016.


The sun rises over the Mosquito Pass Range, east of Leadville, Colorado, home to Rocky Mountain Family Practice. Photo: Carrie Kroschel.

by Brennan Ruegg, Leadville Today Contributor

The sun rises over the Rocky Mountains ushering in a new day, and sometimes, new lives into the hands of its people. In the Pioneer days traditional birth in a remote community like Leadville implied little more than gripping a cross and biting down on the belt. Mothers and children often perished in childbirth , much like the businesses and ideologies they brought with them. Others not only survived, but thrived.

A business is born in much the same way as a child. It’s held and carried in gestation, an increasing weight, requiring its own share of nourishment. And while it grows, its true shape and size are hidden from view. Until the time comes, often unexpectedly, when it springs forth with new life.


Rocky Mountain Family Practice has solid, working relationships in place, from other Leadville medical providers, to the neighboring heavy-hitters such as St. Anthony Summit Medical Center’s Flight for Life to Centura Health which will now be managing the local hospital. Photo: Leadville Today.

Dr Lisa, as she is affectionately known to her patients, broke ground for Rocky Mountain Family Practice (RMFP) in 2005. She and her husband Jeff Foley, (or “president and vice president,” in her words), were pregnant with her first child Yakov.

In 2006, both Yaki and the business were born. RMPF had opened its doors “on a penny and a prayer,” says Zwerdlinger. “We didn’t have a money tree growing out back. We really hawked everything we owned, because we simply believed in Leadville and in quality healthcare. We wanted this place to be a family practice,” Dr. Zwerdlinger explained.

For the first few years while raising her newborn son, Dr. Lisa was the only practitioner at RMFP. But when she became pregnant with her second child, Layah, she knew she wouldn’t be able to maintain the same level of service doing it all herself. So in 2007, two more members were added to the family: with the arrival of daughter Layah, came Amy King P.A.C., joining the practice as physician assistant.

Amy King P.A.C. Photo: Steve Sunday

Since then, RMFP has grown substantially, not only offering a varety of local services, but continuing to sustain positive working relationships with healthcare providers in neighboring communities, including Centura Health.

RMFP offers wraparound care, a term describing a collaborative effort which develops an individualized plan for a patient. In fewer words, Dr. Lisa and her team offer the advantage of relationships they have formed in Leadville, and beyond.

Molly Monahan, acupuncturist and massage therapist, Sally Ayote, dietician and nutritionist, Kevin King, chiropractor and husband to Amy King, and a mental health physician from SolVista Health all spend one day of their week at the Leadvilel medical clinic. Understanding that traditional, by-the-book medicine–Dr. Lisa’s forte–is not for everyone, these alternative practitioners attack a patient’s health issues from all sides to maximize their chance of success. And most private health insurance policies cover all of their services.

“We aren’t trying to market these things; there is evidence that these modalities work,” explained Dr. Lisa. But, she adds, “I don’t have all the answers!”

But if she doesn’t have the answer, she probably knows someone who does. Dr. Lisa has not only fostered relationships with her aforementioned colleagues, but has also been delivering Leadville’s babies at St. Anthony Hospital in Frisco, for years. Since the local hospital made the choice to no longer offer the option of giving birth in Leadville, Zwerdlinger continues to bring in the next generation of Leadvillites, albeit in a neighboring county. 

And if defined, long-term partnerships are any indication, Dr. Lisa is  consistently the physicians that private and public entities in Lake County look to for leadership. For years, Zwerdlinger has been the doctor selected to be the occupational health physician for Climax Molybdenum Mine, Lake County, the City of Leadville, High Mountain Institute, Colorado Mountain College, Lake County School District, and several rafting companies. And don’t forget Centura Health, the healthcare provider many in the Rocky Mountains look to for medical services; Dr. Lisa has been part of that team for years. With an ever growing circle of partners and relationships, Zwerdlinger and the RMFP team continue to prove that they are in it for the long haul.

RMFP serves all demographics: young, old, insured and uninsured. Dr. Lisa surveyed household income within the county and created a sliding-scale mirrored after that of the Public Health Department to offer affordable visits and care to low-income and uninsured patients.

“A regular office visit, if you were wealthy and to pay cash would cost around $170. I’ll give it to someone who really needs it for $40. And I do that because I care. If I can help, I will help,” Zwerdlinger said.

Yakov and Layah are now eleven and 9 years old respectively; RMFP is ten, with new members to the team constantly being adopted into the family.


When it comes to healthcare in a small town, Dr. Lisa and RMFP hit all the marks: medical integrity is in tact and workign partnerships are in place. It’s truly a one-stop-shop to set the people of Leadville on the road to good health.

By the way, what does Dr. Lisa think is the most pressing health concern facing Leadville today? The answer may, or may not, surprise you. Look for it next week as Leadville Today takes a look into the future: the future of RMFP, of rural medicine and of healthcare in Colorado. Stay Tuned!

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, once known as The Rubber Capital of the World

Latest News – September 1

Posted on September 1, 2016 | Leave a comment


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

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


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.



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.



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

Dr. 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.”


Dr. 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.









"I so appreciate Dr Lisa. She is hands down the most thorough doctor I have encountered yet- anytime I have any real concerns regarding my health, I make the extra effort to see Dr Lisa, even though I now live an hour away. I really appreciate that Dr Lisa listens to her patients' concerns, and covers all bases in addressing them, on all level."

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