Aspen-Bariloche Medical Exchange Program

Mission Statement

The Aspen - Bariloche Medical Exchange Program works to improve patient care for the Aspen and Bariloche communities through education, philanthropy and cultural exchanges.

Aspen Times Weekly Article – August 2012


In Loving Memory Nicolas “Nico” Spagat

Founding fathers of the Aspen-Bariloche Medical Exchange Program who passed away on January 10, 2010.
We’ll miss your energy and enthusiasm - Thank you for inspiring us!

Program Description

The Aspen – Bariloche Medical Exchange Program use Maimonides’ Goldern Ladder of Tzedakah to describe our work. Moses Maimonides, a rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Andalusia, Morocco and Egypt during the Middle Ages stated in the top rung of Tzedakah's Golden Ladder, “Help a person help himself. Prevent poverty by giving someone a gift or a loan or find work for him so that he will not need to appeal for help.”

By following Maimonides’ Golden Ladder of Tzedakah we believe that our program is unique and has made such a lasting impact on both the Aspen and Bariloche communities because we incorporate the importance of knowledge exchange. The medical professionals from Aspen are able to teach their counterpart in Bariloche newer techniques and how to use the modern medical equipment we are providing. In response, the medical professionals in Bariloche teach their Aspen counterparts how to perform medical procedures without modern equipment and little supplies. This knowledge is very valuable as disaster and emergency management become more important.

The Aspen–Bariloche Medical Exchange Program began forming shortly after San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina was named one of Aspen’s Sister Cities on November 12, 2002, and following one of Argentina’s worst economic disasters. During this economic tragedy, the value of the Argentine peso declined to less then one quarter of its value and funding for the only public hospital in Bariloche, Hospital Zonal Ramón Carillo, was drastically reduced. At the same time, the Ramón Carillo Hospital, outdated and already facing minimal government financial support, was faced with the daunting task of being the only medical provider to more then 500,000 indigent people in the Bariloche community and surrounding region. Luckily, through this new Sister Cities relationship, the medical professionals working at the Ramón Carillo Hospital were able to contact Aspen Valley Hospital to make a desperate plea for help.

Dr. Scott Gallagher and Dr. Mark Purnell visited Bariloche in early 2003 to explore the possibility of creating a medical exchange program. At the Hospital Zonal Ramón Carillo they found a government-supported hospital that has had little improvement since its creation in 1938; equipped with only the most basic medical equipment and not enough staff for the growing numbers of patients. Fortunately, we also discovered a very dedicated and well trained team of medical professionals who were interested in participating in an exchange of ideas and medical technology. Shortly thereafter, Aspen Valley Hospital, The Aspen Valley Medical Foundation and Aspen Sister Cities teamed up to send the first of several shipments of medical supplies to the Hospital Zonal Ramón Carillo. Thus the foundation for the Aspen-Bariloche Medical Exchange Program was formed.

Since the first visit to Bariloche in 2003 the Aspen-Bariloche Medical Exchange Program has successfully brought six delegations of medical professions to Aspen from Bariloche and sent four delegations of medical professionals to Bariloche from Aspen. The focus of the medical professionals participating in this exchange is to improve patient care for the Aspen and Bariloche communities through education, philanthropy and cultural exchanges. Along with the philosophies of Maimonides, exchange participants are encouraged to remember that if you give a person a fish, you feed them for a day. If you teach a person to fish, you feed them for a lifetime. We have also successfully sent five shipments of desperately needed medical supplies to the Ramon Carillo Hospital. All of the medical supplies shipped to the Ramon Carillo Hospital were donations from medical supply companies and refurbished medical equipment collected by our volunteers. More than $1,000,000.00 worth of medical equipment and supplies has been received and much more is needed.

Special Thanks!

Aspen – Bariloche Medical Exchange Program has been very fortunate to collaborate with and receive support from The Buster Foundation, Aspen Orthopaedic Associates, Aspen Sports Medicine Foundation, Aspen Sister Cities, Bariloche Sister Cites, Aspen Valley Hospital, Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, Ramón Carillo Hospital, Aspen – Bariloche Medical Foundation, Tom Marcotte with Synthes, Tom Hahn & JP Hutchens with Smith & Nephew, Clay Clark with Arthrex & Acumed, Lauren Fisher of KCI, Project C.U.R.E, and many local businesses and individuals.

Dr. Purnell Teaching in Bariloche Dr. Erkisson Tito Teaching Dr. Christensen View of Bariloche Airport Group Photo Girl in Bariloche Group Photo