SLV Health to receive ASU Foundation’s Willis Fassett, Jr. Award

San Luis Valley Health’s long-standing support of Adams State University takes many forms, from helping to educate future nurses and providing internships to funding scholarships and providing medical services. SLV Health Chief Executive Officer Konnie Martin said, “Our contribution is a combination of financial support, service, and education. The value of our partnership activities is the true heart of our relationship to the ASU Foundation. It’s a good fit for our community.”

SLV Health has been a major supporter of Adams State for decades. The organization will be recognized for its contributions with the ASU Foundation’s Willis Fassett, Jr. Award, to be presented at the annual Donor and Student Recognition Dinner, November 7.

The Willis Fassett, Jr. Award honors individuals and organizations with an exceptional record of support for Adams State’s educational mission. Fassett and others established the Foundation in 1962 to provide scholarships and charitable gifts for the institution. A prominent business leader and Monte Vista banker, Fassett devoted his life to the people of the San Luis Valley and served as a long-time president of the ASU Foundation. The award includes the Buffalo Chant bronze, created specifically for the Foundation by the late William Moyers ’39, Adams State alumnus and famous Cowboy Artist.

One example of the ASU and SLV Health partnership is the close work with Adams State’s Nursing Department to offer clinical rotation experiences for student nurses. Hospital staff provide education in that setting and in the classroom as instructors. In addition to clinical rotations, nursing students also participate in leadership rotations, where they shadow nurse executives. Paid nursing internships are also available for students at the end of their training.

“In addition to traditional clinical experiences, we model career ladders and possibilities for nursing professionals beyond hands-on clinical care. We fully embrace the nursing students and help them gain an understanding of the complexity and challenges that go with nurse leadership,” Martin said.

Dr. Melissa Milner, director of Adams State’s Nursing Department, said, “SLV Health is a significant factor in the education of our nursing students. The hospitals and clinics not only provide our students with the opportunity to complete clinical rotations, but they also allow our students to work with nurses practicing within the San Luis Valley. This partnership helps expose students to the unique needs of the Valley’s patient population, as well as prepares students to successfully transition into the profession upon graduation. The knowledge and experience of the nurses within the San Luis Valley Health organization are a valuable asset to our students.”

Adams State business students also have a range of internship opportunities with SLV Health. Students have worked with SLV Health staff in its foundation, marketing office, business office, and human resources. “The internship program grows itself, bringing a new generation of workers into our organization. We are very purposeful. That is our role, to educate and help with the workforce as we care for our community. We hire a number of people from the ASU nursing program, as well,” Martin said. Overall, a large portion of SLV Health’s employees are Adams State alumni, including physicians and top administrators. “There are so many career and leadership opportunities in health care. We are happy ASU has such a robust health care administration program,” Martin added.

John Luterbach, Adams State Class of 2014, is just one Adams State alumnus who benefitted from an SLV Health internship. Now Population Health and Clinical Integration Consultant with Trinity Health, he said, “I feel quite fortunate to have begun my career with such an exemplary organization as San Luis Valley Health. I was exposed to a culture that places a tangible emphasis on its mission, core values, community, and continuous learning — critical qualities that lay the foundation of any thriving organization. With an emphasis on ‘learning by doing,’ my internship not only introduced me to a flourishing health system, but prepared me to succeed in my current role, provided me with invaluable mentors, and served as the catalyst for my professional development.”

SLV Health also has a strong partnership with Adams State Athletics, funding scholarships and providing medical services. SLV Health provides ambulance services at home athletic events. Medical specialists such as an athletic trainer, chiropractor, physical therapist, orthopedic surgeon, and physician’s assistant regularly work with ASU athletes. Martin said, “We provide consultative care as a community service. The care provided is rewarding and inspiring to our medical professionals. Some find sports medicine very fulfilling.”

In turn, ASU athletes volunteer to support SLV Health activities. Wrestling, cross country, and women’s basketball help annually with the SLV Health Foundation’s Stephanie L. Miner Run/Walk. The volleyball team and other teams often raise funds on a “Think Pink” night. Football players recently helped with a Red Cross effort to install smoke alarms in homes. “We really use and thank the students for their help. We have a lot of fun while also providing an avenue for community service and interacting together,” said Donna Wehe, SLV Health Director of PR, Marketing and Development.

Adams State Director of Athletics Larry Mortenson said, “SLV Health has been a longtime supporter of Adams State athletics. Their support goes far beyond financial. The care for our student-athletes’ health and welfare provided by their practitioners has been a tremendous asset to our department. SLV Health is a valuable partner with ASU athletics.”

Martin said the partnership between Adams State and SLV Health also benefits the community. “ASU’s mission is education, and SLV Health’s mission is health care. We share common ground in providing service and play important roles in the community. We look forward to building more opportunities to work together. We’re so dependent and supportive of each other that the possibilities are endless. Health care is a growing field, and so many professional jobs come out of health care. Having a strong partnership with the education system is key to both of us fulfilling our missions.”

By Julie Waechter