National Doctors Day

In honor of National Doctors Day, we did a Q&A with a couple of our incredible doctors who make camp possible. Read below for their perspective on the healing power of camp.

Dr. Benjamin Ross is the Medical Director here at Roundup River Ranch, and practices pediatric medicine in the Vail Valley. He also serves on our Medical Advisory Committee. Dr. Ben has been involved with Roundup River Ranch since 2012, volunteering every year on the medical team at Neurology Summer Camp and/or Family Camp sessions. He was first drawn to the mission of RRR because of the wide range of diagnoses served, and the ability to provide camp experiences to kids with more severe and serious illnesses. 

Dr. Keith Weisz works in Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Children’s Hospital Colorado. He serves as our Medical Advisory Committee Chair and is on our Board of Directors. Dr. Keith was a dedicated camp counselor at Double H Ranch, another SeriousFun Children’s Network camp. When he joined the fellowship program at Children’s Hospital Colorado in 2009, he got involved with Roundup River Ranch, and has continued to volunteer at RRR. His commitment to excellence in medical care, coupled with his compassionate approach, is a primary reason Roundup River Ranch is able to provide exceptional medical care to children who attend our camp sessions.

Q: How have you seen Roundup River Ranch positively impact children’s overall well-being, both physically and emotionally?

Keith Weisz, MD: RRR provides a safe place for children to grow, be more confident, and to experience the simple joys of childhood that they may have missed out on due to their illnesses. I always love witnessing the transformation of our campers after a session at camp. They have the opportunity to interact with other children suffering from similar diseases and form friendships that can last a lifetime.

Q: How do you strike a balance between providing necessary medical interventions and creating an environment that allows the campers to experience a sense of normalcy, joy, and social interaction?

Benjamin Ross, MD: That is the beauty of camp and a testament to our amazing nurses and counselors. They are with the campers at all times and trained to recognize (and predict) potential medical situations and intervene early before they progress. Campers are also allowed to share in medical decision-making, when appropriate, to help guide how and when some of their medical care is provided. Although we have a well-equipped medical facility, whenever possible, we try to bring medical care to the camper, whether in the cabin or at an activity site, to minimize the time they might need to be away from their group.

Q: Can you discuss the key challenges and responsibilities involved in ensuring the health and safety of the campers, considering their unique medical needs?

Benjamin Ross, MD: Everything matters as there could be unforeseen complications due to the wide range of medical conditions and campers that come to camp. Also, each session has its own unique needs/concerns that need to be considered. As a result; every year, every session and every camper is unique, so we are constantly re-evaluating each situation and adapting as needed. Fortunately, everyone at camp is aware of and adheres to our “guideposts” (Mission, Vision & Values – Roundup River Ranch), which eliminates many of the challenges one might face when working with a large group.

Q: From a medical perspective, how does the supportive community and activities within a camp setting contribute to the mental resilience of these young patients? How do you see the long-term effects of participation in such camps on the health outcomes and quality of life for children with serious illnesses?

Keith Weisz, MD: RRR can really impact a child’s life in just one session. Campers leave with increased confidence and self-esteem. Camp empowers them to take ownership of their disease and treatments. I have witnessed campers learning to give themselves their own shots/medications. Older campers gain leadership skills as they are often mentors to our younger campers.

Q: How do you collaborate with the medical staff and other camp personnel to create a holistic and individualized healthcare plan for each camper, taking into account their specific medical conditions and treatment requirements?

Benjamin Ross, MD: Each application is reviewed by medical and program teams as part of the initial process with specific notes made in their camp file for anything that falls outside our standard protocols. If needed, we can consult with our network of support staff and specialists as well as a camper’s medical team outside of camp. We do medical team meetings prior to each session to further review camper files and provide additional training/support to their specific cabin counselors and nurses. We also have daily medical team meetings during camp to make sure every child/camper is thriving and if not, we create a new plan for them.

Q: Can you share a specific example that highlights the therapeutic benefits of this camp environment for children facing serious health challenges?

Keith Weisz, MD: Laughter. We always underestimate the power of pure joy, happiness, and laughter on one’s health. During a session at camp, you can always hear laughter and cheering throughout the property. Our campers sometimes forget how to kick back, relax, and have fun when dealing with a life-threatening illness.

Q: What measures does the camp take to ensure that the medical facilities and staff are equipped to handle emergencies or unforeseen medical challenges that may arise during the camp sessions?

Benjamin Ross, MD: Medical equipment and supplies are regularly checked throughout the year to ensure we have the necessary tools available to handle those potential situations.  We do yearly medical training for staff as well as session-specific training before each summer session.  We also have a mix of medical volunteers that include primary and acute care providers as well as specialists pertinent to each camp session. Behind the scenes, we have an incredible medical advisory committee to help us review and update policies and procedures to stay current with the ever-changing medical field.

Q: How does Roundup River Ranch contribute to the well-being and peace of mind of the parents? What support systems or resources are in place to address parent’s concerns and needs during their children’s camp?

Benjamin Ross, MD: Hopefully, by knowing that everyone (and everything) at camp is focused on their child having the best experience possible while simultaneously being aware of and trained to provide the medical care they need, whether routine or unexpected. Our medical team is available anytime to address any questions or concerns that parents may have. They can also reach out to parents to provide specific updates regarding various issues that may have come up prior to or during camp.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of working on the medical team at camp?

Keith Weisz, MD: The greatest gift of my career is being able to go to camp every summer. I am continually amazed by the healing powers of camp, not only for our campers but for everyone involved. I am incredibly lucky to work with the most amazing, caring, and passionate people, who just happen to be the best medical providers in their respective fields. We all work together each year for one simple goal- to make sure our campers are safe, so they may enjoy the magical gifts of camp!

Benjamin Ross, MD: Everything! But I especially love seeing the kids smiling and having fun.

We are so thankful for all the physicians who support camp through MANY ways, including serving on the Medical Advisory Committee, spreading the word about camp, and volunteering! Happy National Doctors Day! 

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