By Darrell Arnold
LA VETA- La Veta is privileged to be the home of Dr. Patrick Sternberg, a highly
regarded neurologist whose area of service extends from Taos to Colorado Springs, and from Pagosa Springs to La Junta and Lamar. Dr. Sternberg also chairs the board of directors of the Spanish Peaks HealthCare Foundation.
Sternberg says, "We try to accomplish three things. One is to excite kids about going into healthcare fields. Secondly, we want to educate them about the systems of the body- cardiology, pulmonology, nuerology, etc., and, thirdly, we want to teach them how to keep those systems healthy in their own bodies."
"In addition," says Sternberg, "we have a guaranteed loan program which allows people at the hospital to further their education. Most people take advantage of this through Pueblo Community College or Trinidad State, but some people go quite far afield and some people do it on line."
The third program provided by the foundation is that of educational scholarships for high school students at La Veta and John Mall high schools.
Sternberg explains, "It’s important to note that it’s not just this year’s graduating seniors. If a student graduated two or three years ago and went into some kind of medical technologist or nursing degree, they can reapply for our grant and ask for a little more help to complete their
studies. We’re happy to do that. They must be graduates of Huerfano high schools. We probably give away between $5,000 and $8,000 per year in scholarships."
Nationwide, studies have shown that a lot of people from rural areas want to return home to their rural area. The Foundation helps make that happen. Says Sternberg, "Because we and all rural hospitals have tremendous difficulty filling positions with technicians and physicians and nurses and whatever, if we can home-grow some of our own, then the chances that they’ll come back here rather than be lured away by more well-paying jobs in cities are greater."
As with any foundation, funding is always a concern. Sternberg relates "Our biggest funder is the Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center. They generously contribute $500 per month. In addition, we have individuals who give up to $2,000 each year. We also have our fundraisers.
"What I would love," continues Sternberg, "is to sock away enough money in a scholarship fund that we can pay scholarships each year out of our interest from that fund rather than always having to earn this year’s scholarship money this year."
Another future goal of the Foundation is to provide a summer science camp for students in the county. "We are excruciatingly aware that most kids in Huerfano County have virtually nothing to do in summer," says Sternberg. "We want to get kids excited about health science and combine it with river rafting or hiking or something that is outdoor summer fun. We think we could benefit a lot of at-risk kids who really just sit around and get into trouble in summers."