Defining community: How we help each other and our collective well-being
Ryan Summerlin May 1, 2012
Once again I am heading off to Nepal, Honduras and potentially Sudan next fall (if the bombing stops by then) to check in on health care and educational initiatives I’ve been involved with for the last 15 years.There are always psychic adjustments upon departure and re-entry to the U.S. based on economic disparity which extends to available shelter, personal safety, food, and health care, among other factors. In Sudan, I’ve provided medical care ranging from the joyful delivery of newborns to the unfortunate amputation of limbs – all completed under drastically sub-optimal conditions.Beyond all the bombing and bullets in Sudan, one element remains: a sense of community. And there is much to be said about the foundational components of what determines community in this northeastern African country as well as right here in Summit County.Globally, it’s in our nature to do the right thing; it feels good to be of service, and helping others is self-reinforcing amidst the multiple challenges we face together. Also, helping is without limits: I have seen the poor share what little they have with people who are even less fortunate in Sudan and in Colorado.When a Breckenridge Elementary “Pennies for PJ” campaign results in thousands of dollars in donations for a faraway land and its people, we feel the collective warmth from the contribution along with the intellectual understanding of why the money is critical.As a physician, I truly believe a sense of community originates with our collective well-being. It simply makes sense to care for one another whether you examine the discussion from a personal perspective, a financial one or a combination of both.The Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved recently reported that our state has 829,000 uninsured residents. Countless others participate in government-sponsored programs or cannot afford the premiums and deductibles that ride along with their independent or employee-sponsored health care plans.Locally, The Colorado Health Institute has calculated that 22 percent of Summit County residents are uninsured (12.2 percent are children). This ranks our county as among the highest in rates of uninsured in the state. And census data from Summit County and neighboring communities points to more than 13,000 residents living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, categorizing them as medically underserved.Having identified this level of need, it’s been natural to want to address it. We will soon welcome an additional, community-based health care provider, Rocky Mountain Regional Health Services (RMRHS). The new nonprofit will supplement and support the fine efforts of others in the community including the Family and Intercultural Resource Center and the Summit Community Care Clinic. I admire the many ways we’ve come together over the years to make a difference. Please know that there is always more to be done and that everyone’s efforts count.As I prepare to venture overseas, I want to thank my partners at High Country Healthcare, especially Drs. Randy Nation and Erin Hay, for providing me with the time to offer my services internationally. I also want to thank Summit County residents for their understanding and patience. While I won’t be available to care for you for a few weeks, you are in more than capable hands. I have been fortunate enough to have my life unfold within a myriad of communities and I wil l look forward to returning to this one soon. Life is bliss …Dr. C. Louis (“Doc PJ”) Perrinjaquet is a family physician, and the president of High Country Healthcare-Family Practice, Urgent Care & OB/GYN Specialists, which has offices in Breckenridge, Frisco and Silverthorne. Doc PJ has practiced medicine in Summit County for almost 30 years.