Climbing for a cause

Climbing for a cause

Pope, Christina

Debbie Welle-Powell, MGMA member and vice president of managed care and network development, Exempla Healthcare, Wheat Ridge, Colo.

When most of us will be seeking relief from sweltering mid-July heat, Debbie Welle-Powell will be scaling Mount Blanc in the French Alps, and not just to cool off.

As an experienced hiker, as well as a health care administrator who has seen a growing number of uninsured patients pass through her facilities, Welle-Powell is combining her passions by using her Mount Blanc vacation climb to raise $25,000 for Inner City Health Center, a not-for-profit, volunteer-based Denver clinic that serves uninsured and low-income patients. Established in 1983, the clinic provides medical care, dental care and counseling services to 22,000 uninsured and low-income patients in the Denver area each year.

“Inner City Health Center is different because it is private, and most clinics of this kind are government-sponsored or -run,” Welle-Powell says.

As a volunteer at the clinic, Welle-Powell is heartened by its mission and success, even if it offers a temporary solution to a much bigger problem.

“Health insurance is not affordable in this country,” Welle-Powell says. “We all pay for it eventually because of cost shifting. We cannot claim to be a great nation while leaving 45 million Americans without health care coverage.” To that point, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study recently found that 20 million uninsured individuals – almost half of the total number of uninsured- are working adults.

While the issue of America’s uninsured can seem insurmountable, Welle-Powell’s “Climbing for Colorado’s Uninsured” campaign (as she has named her climb) is tackling it by raising money as she ascends Mount Blanc, Western Europe’s tallest mountain (16,300 feet above sea level). Its name means “White Mountain,” and it straddles the border of France and Italy. This is her first climb outside of the United States, a long-time goal.

A Coloradan since 1979, the native Minnesotan has trained by climbing Colorado’s famous lofty peaks and Mount Rainier in Washington. There she gained experience negotiating a glacier- a necessary skill for her European debut.

Welle-Powell will join a small group of expert climbing buddies to fly to Geneva on July 19. They will drive to Chamonix, France, the town at the foot of Mount Blanc. They will train and acclimate for two days before attempting the three-day trek.

“We all have the ability to make a difference, and I love the fact that I’m doing some good with what I like to do. This is probably as important to me as my work, or I should say this is my work.”

By Christina Pope

about the authoi

Christina Pope, MGMA senior writer,

Copyright Medical Group Management Association Publications Jul 2005

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