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Because there is a hospital in town …

TVH 1939

Teton Valley Hospital, 1939

There is an iconic image, central to the development of Teton Valley, that surfaces from time to time in historical reviews. A crowd of well-dressed citizens stands in front of a building faced with stone cut in the rock mills that once operated in the Victor area. Everyone is smiling—for good reason. The year is 1939. For the first time ever, there is a hospital in town.

The young man in the foreground wearing a light colored suit has particular reason to smile. Not many years earlier, he suffered a near fatal bout with pneumonia—a struggle made worse by the fact his treatment occurred far from home. He seemed to do better when the pretty young girl he’d had his eye on for some time was there by his side—not always easy, given the logistics of travel from “the basin” to the lower valley in that era. The young’s man is Merle Kunz. His helpmate during that period, whom he would soon marry, is Maureen Tonks. In time the pair would become my mother- and father-in-law. The smile visible in that picture is a manifestation of the assurance felt by all who gathered that day. Life will be better. There is a hospital in town.

Jump ahead a couple decades. The year is 1959. Another young man has just returned to his birthplace. Donald Coburn fulfills a lifelong dream. He has just purchased the valley’s only pharmacy from J.H. Harper—a business that owes its viability to one simple fact: There is a hospital in town.

Now jump ahead a few more years. My parents closed up shop and made a quick trip “out below” to complete some necessary business, leaving a younger brother in my care. My brother fell off our trampoline and fractured both forearms. We walked a half block and found Doctor LaGrande Larsen just closing up shop. He assessed the situation, then applied two plaster casts. We were both back home when the folks returned. All because there was a hospital in town.

Kelley Coburn

Kelley Coburn,
TVHC Pharmacist

Not long after that, a friend who was aware of my interest in everything that creeped, crawled, or flew entrusted me with a broken-winged owl found while disking a pasture. There wasn’t a veterinarian in town during that era. The solution was obvious: There was a new physician in town, Dr. Kitchener Head. I showed up in the hospital waiting room with a very disgruntled owl under my arm. Dr. Head treated his feathered patient’s wounds. The owl lived for some time. All because there was a hospital in town.

A couple decades later I became the hospital’s first fulltime pharmacist. A red-letter week occurred soon after when my two oldest daughters gave birth to two daughters over a three day interval. There was a moment during that joyful, hectic period of family expansion when I was given charge of a young grandson. I took him to my workspace and began explaining my duties—reviewing orders, repackaging medications, etc., only to be cut short by a 3-year-old’s succinct observation: “I get it. You’re a slave.” A precious memory that hinged on the fact that there was a hospital in town.

In time another young man, fresh from medical school arrived in town: Dr. Chad Horrocks. One of my daughters became his nurse. One of his patients was troubled by symptoms that might possibly be mitigated by the in-home use of an expensive medical unit. Unfortunately, the patient’s family lacked the means to purchase the needed equipment. Dr. Horrocks was convinced a solution could be found. He asked my daughter Amanda to do some discreet checking around the community. In short order the needed funds were raised. All because there was a hospital in town.

Beginning over 76 years ago, each generation has ensured that the next generation would have the security and privilege of having a hospital nearby, staffed with people who can deliver the best care possible every day, every night, year after year. National Health Care Week is May 8 – 14. We thank our community for making it this week-long recognition relevant to Teton Valley. Because we have a hospital in town.


Hospital renovations include new exam rooms, specialty clinic

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Driggs Health Clinic has expanded its clinic space with the addition of 6 new exam rooms, a shared physicians’ office and renovated echo-cardiology stress testing room. The new area is located inside the east entrance of Teton Valley Hospital, replacing a physical therapy rehabilitation space that was relocated closer to in-patient rooms. The expansion was needed to accommodate growing clientele for specialty services such as cardiology, neurology, and pain management.

Cardiologists Dr. Patrick Gorman, Dr. Blake Wachter and Dr. Douglas Blank travel from their practices in Idaho Falls to hold regularly scheduled clinic hours in the new space. Neurologist Dr. Brad Talcott, also from Idaho Falls, has added dates to his local schedule in response to patients’ requests. Dr. Marc Porot offers a minimum of 5 days per month to visit with patients about pain management.  Echo-cardio technicians from University of Utah Hospital and from Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center provide rotating appointment dates.

“We anticipate adding more specialties in the near future in direct response to patient requests and our community’s level of need,” says Keith Gnagey, CEO for Teton Valley Health Care.

“Teton Valley is fairly isolated and it can be especially hard to drive out of town during the winter. I would rather have one doctor make the trip from Idaho Falls than have 20 local residents make the trip.”

Teton Valley Health Care is entering phase two of a project to update and refresh the appearance of the facility. Phase One started with the refurbishing of the Driggs Health Clinic reception area followed by a total makeover of the Medical Imaging suite that included a new digital X-ray and fluoroscopy unit.  In spring, the Aesthetics exam area was completed and now, after three months of construction, the specialty clinic has opened.  Phase Two will bring about completion of hospital patient room updates, hospital hallway re-flooring and renovation of the laboratory clinical area.

“I avoid giving timelines for projects such as these because facility improvements depend largely on the financial health of our organization. TVHC doesn’t own the hospital bricks and mortar, the County retains ownership of the building. It’s our responsibility to maintain and improve the property for our community and that’s one reason for setting these renovation goals,” said Gnagey.

The Teton Valley Hospital Foundation provided $75,000 in funding for this project.

TVHC invites everyone to come and visit the new specialty clinic during a Community Open House scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 2 from 5-7 p.m. Appetizers will be served along with a chance to win raffle prizes including $50 gift cards to Peaked Sports or The Wardrobe Company. Please contact Ann Loyola at (208) 354-6301 or aloyola@tvhcare.org for more information. As always, full hospital tours are available throughout the week.


Doc Talk: Got sunscreen?

By Kristen Coburn, C-FNP

Kristen Coburn head shot

Kristen Coburn, C-FNP

It’s shaping up to be another hot week here in the valley. Forecasters are predicting temperatures in the 80s and 90s and plenty of sunshine … what more could we ask for on a holiday weekend?

If you plan on spending time outdoors enjoying the sun, catching some of the Independence Day activities, or even doing yard work, make sure you drink plenty of water and take care of your skin.

Sunscreen is one of the best protections against damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation. There are two types of ultraviolet radiation: UVA and UVB. Ultraviolet radiation is part of the electromagnetic (light) spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun. It has wavelengths shorter than visible light, making it invisible to the naked eye. Ultraviolet A (UVA) is the longer wave UV that causes skin damage, skin aging and may cause skin cancer. Ultraviolet B (UVB) is the shorter wave UV ray that causes sunburn, skin damage and may cause skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Facts


Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB and UVA from damaging the skin. Here’s how it works: If it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer or about 5 hours. Most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher do an excellent job of protecting against UVB (with many brands also touting UVA protection) however, it may be overly optimistic to rely on 5 hours of continuous protection after one application.

Another way to look at it is in terms of percentages: SPF 15 filters out approximately 93 percent of all incoming UVA/UVB rays. SPF 30 keeps out 97 percent and SPF 50 screens out 98 percent. These numbers may seem like negligible differences, but if you are light-sensitive or have a history of skin cancer, those extra percentages will make a difference. And as you can see, no sunscreen can block all UV rays.

Be aware that there are problems with the SPF model: First, no sunscreen, regardless of strength, should be expected to stay effective longer than two hours without reapplication. Second, “reddening” of the skin is a reaction to UVB rays alone and tells you little about what UVA damage you may be getting. UVA radiation is more detectable over time, showing up as pre-aging of the skin via wrinkles, discolorations, and coarse texture. Plenty of damage can be done without the red flag of sunburn being raised.

Who should use sunscreen?

Anyone over the age of six months should use a sunscreen daily. Even those who work inside are exposed to ultraviolet radiation for brief periods throughout the day, especially if they work near windows, which generally filter out UVB but not UVA rays.

Children under the age of six months should not be exposed to the sun, since their skin is highly sensitive to the chemical ingredients in sunscreen as well as to the sun’s rays. Shade and protective clothing are the best ways to protect infants from the sun.

What type of sunscreen should I use?

Which sunscreen you choose depends on how much sun exposure you’re anticipating. In all cases we recommend a broad-spectrum sunscreen offering protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Many after-shave lotions and moisturizers have a sunscreen (usually SPF 15 or greater) already in them, and this is sufficient for everyday activities with a few minutes here and there in the sun. However, if you work outside or spend a lot of time outdoors, you need stronger, water-resistant, beachwear-type sunscreen that holds together on your skin. The “water resistant” and “very water resistant” types are also good for hot days or while playing sports, because they’re less likely to drip into your eyes when you sweat. However, these sunscreens may not be as good for everyday wear. They are stickier, don’t go as well with makeup, and need to be reapplied every two hours.

When shopping for sunscreen, consumers should look for The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation, which is awarded to sun protective products that meet stringent criteria for safety and effectiveness.

Despite recent claims about sunscreen safety, consumers should rest assured that sunscreen products and specifically the ingredients oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, are safe and effective when used as directed. Of course, some people may be allergic or sensitive to the ingredients. In those instances, a healthcare professional can help recommend alternatives.

Sunscreens should be considered a vital part of a comprehensive sun protection regimen that includes seeking shade, covering up with clothing including a wide brimmed hat, UV-blocking sunglasses, avoiding tanning and UV tanning booths.

Kristen Coburn, FNP is a family practice physician who sees patients at Driggs and Victor Health Clinics. She also provides aesthetic treatments including free consultations, Botox and physician-recommended skincare products at Teton Valley Hospital’s Aesthetics Clinic

This article orignally appeared in the Teton Valley News.