The specialists at RMPO are passionate about serving and educating the community and promoting orthopedic health for children and teens.

Medical Outreach

Healthcare in Ecuador: Jaren Riley, MD

It’s one of the most exciting events I’ve ever witnessed. Dozens of families wait on pins and needles in a crowded hospital plaza to hear the announcement of the surgery schedule in Guayacil, Ecuador. Some families have travelled hundreds of miles by bus, train, taxi, and foot just to be seen by the visiting American surgeons. Last night, some slept on the benches lined up outside the clinic, either because they had nowhere else to sleep, or because they wanted to be sure that they would be seen today. Clinic began at seven in the morning, it is now almost midnight, and the room hums with excitement and anticipation. The first surgery for Monday morning is announced to the crowd, a teenage girl with severe scoliosis will get her surgery this year. The family, and all of the surrounding families, erupt in applause, shouts, hugs, and tears. The goals of my surgical missions to South America are to provide surgeries that are otherwise unavailable, and to educate local surgeons. Surgical correction of scoliotic deformities is a particularly crucial service that meets both of these goals. These surgeries are also very complex, even here at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. They require a skilled team of scrub technicians, nurses, neural-monitoring, anesthesiologists, pediatric hospitalists, and physical therapists. They all sacrifice their time and comfort so they can work at an exhausting pace in tough conditions.

During surgery, I invite the local surgeons to scrub in and participate. We talk about the treatment of scoliosis, the indications for surgery, the planning process for the surgery, and the technical pearls and pitfalls of the surgery. We work, eat, think, and learn together, so by the end of an exhausting week, we have established a community of learning, service, and friendship. By Friday, we have completed twenty seven surgeries. We round together on all of the patients. There is another round of applause, hugs, and tears as the patients get out of bed to show us how well they are walking, and how tall they are now that their spines are straight.

The families are overflowing with thanks, but we are just as grateful for everything we learn from them. Organizing such humanitarian trips for so many people, and the communication it requires with the local hospitals, is a monumental task. I’ve worked with two wonderful groups, Project Perfect World and Eagle Condor.

Dr. Riley wins P/SL Frist Humanitarian Award

Nearly 400 volunteers help make our work at P/SL and RMHC at P/SL better and easier. That's why P/SL so strongly supports a culture of volunteerism among our employees.

Each year we recognize our generous volunteers through our HCA Frist Humanitarian Award nominations. There are three areas, Employees, Volunteers and Physicians. We would like to recognize all three of our Frist Humanitarian Award Nominees today.

Our first award recipient is Dr. Jaren Riley. Dr. Riley is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. One of his specialties is treating young patients with scoliosis. He’s taken this passion to help youngsters outside the traditional office walls. Dr. Riley is currently donating his time and expertise to children in Ecuador.

Dr. Riley’s volunteer journey began in 2010 while working at the Shriner’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. He traveled to Juarez, Mexico four times a year. There he saw hundreds of patients a day. The Shriner’s would then arrange for the patients to come back to the hospital in Salt Lake City for surgery. That first trip was the key that locked in his commitment to volunteering.

In 2013, Dr. Riley traveled to Ecuador, then Peru and he’s returning to Ecuador in June of this year. To him, donating his surgical time and expertise is the greatest experience ever. He says besides parenthood, his time volunteering is the best there is.

Dr. Riley has many challenges to overcome while in Ecuador, but he says it reinvigorates him and gets him so excited to take care of patients.

While in Ecuador, word spreads fast of the American surgical team arriving. Dozens of families come to see the surgeons travelling hundreds of miles. The goal is to provide surgeries that are otherwise unavailable, and also to provide training to the local surgeons.

I would like to read a paragraph that Dr. Riley wrote himself that best describes the experience. “During surgery, I invite the local surgeons to scrub in and participate. We talk about the treatment of scoliosis, the indications for surgery, the planning process for the surgery, and the technical pearls and pitfalls of the surgery. We work, eat, think and learn together, so by the end of an exhausting week, we have established a community of learning, service and friendship. By Friday, we have completed 27 surgeries. There is applause, hugs, and tears as the patients get out of bed to show us how well they are walking, and how tall they are now that their spines are straight. The families are overflowing with thanks, but we are just as grateful for everything we learn from them.”

These trips are seven straight days in which the team works everyday from 7 a.m. to midnight. While it may be physically exhausting, the rewards are infinite.

Dr. Riley, your efforts are changing people’s lives and giving young children with scoliosis a bright new future full of possibilities. Thank you for everything you do and congratulations on being our Frist Humanitarian Physician Award Winner.

Healthcare in Haiti: Audra Braun, PA-C

Audra Braun, one of Rocky Mountain Scoliosis and Spine’s Physician Assistants, has taken three trips to Haiti during 2011 and 2012, working as a provider in rural outreach clinics and hospital trauma and critical care units.

My first trip to Haiti was in 2011 where I worked for a week as a provider in rural outreach clinics providing primary care to children. I found this to be a life-changing experience that gave me a strong desire to return to Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. In 2012 I spent three months working in a critical care/trauma hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This was an invaluable experience that taught me about some of life’s greatest attributes, as well as its worst cruelties. Haiti has a held onto a large piece of my heart, and I try to return at least once yearly to continue to contribute to healthcare in Haiti. I feel very privileged to have a medical education that allows me to help.”

A Little Goes a Long Way: Erika Dunham, OTR/L, ATC

For the last nine years, I’ve had the great privilege of traveling to Managua, Nicaragua to assist in establishing special needs medical and educational programs in various impoverished communities. The special needs population in Managua has dealt with isolation and neglect in the past, but we are seeing vast improvements and greater acceptance of these kids as more and more programs are being developed.

By providing the opportunity for a child with a disability to go to school and receive basic medical care, we see confidence levels soar and Nicaraguan youth develop a sense of purpose. Tackling illiteracy for these students often begins with a routine eye exam and a new pair of glasses. A simple gift of a wheelchair allows a previously homebound child to be transported to her school so she can learn to read, develop social skills and receive a nutritious meal. Simply learning addition and subtraction provides an individual with the necessary skills to work in the market and earn a small income. A little encouragement helps students recognize their potential and instills enough motivation, that they begin overcoming their limitations and recognizing what they CAN do. Shining shoes in the park became a weekend profession for one of our students when he decided to not allow the lack of function in his lower extremities to hinder his success. He now finds great satisfaction in earning money for his family and looks for additional opportunities to expand his responsibilities.

Over the years, however, I’ve learned the greatest gift one can give is the gift of relationship. A yearly visit, letters, emails, a Facebook message can make all the difference in the world to these kids. Knowing they have someone cheering them on, believing in and praying for them, inspires these amazing kiddos to persevere, fight their way through poverty and become something greater than they ever imagined. There’s just nothing better than watching a child come to the realization that they matter, really and truly matter to someone.

In the News

Our providers have been featured and recognized in local news outlets for their work in orthopedic care. Check out our latest news stories and media coverage.

Everyday Heroes Award

Dr. McAvoy and Dr. Pengel were awarded the 7 News Everyday Hero Award for their concussion education and service they provide in our community.

Health and Safety Symposium

The Denver Broncos partnered with USA Football and HealthONE Rocky Mountain Youth Sports Medicine Institute to present their annual Health and Safety Symposium. Nearly 200 youth football coaches from the Denver area and Fort Collins attended the forum, which included presentations by HealthONE's Dr. Sue Kirelik and Dr. Brooke Pengel.

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