From Dream to Reality: the origins of the little clinic next to Aspen Medical Center

When Dr. Andrew Ropp, co-founder and Medical Director of Aspen Medical Center, tells his patients that they can get acupuncture and massage at a little clinic next door, some are still surprised. Aspen Wellness opened a year after Aspen Medical Center and is one of Santa Fe’s most affordable places for these complementary and alternative medical treatments.

Offering both Eastern and Western approaches to health care had been a goal of Dr. Ropp’s since his early days of training in New York over 20 years ago. As a student, he founded the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Club at his medical school. He organized speakers on a whole host of topics such as Nutrition, Homeopathy, and his personal favorite, the topic of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. After graduation and his medical residency in Family Medicine, he worked at the Hopi Health Care Center(HHCC) in Arizona. During his three years there, he became licensed in acupuncture and utilized his skills in the HHCC’s pain clinic for several hours per week in addition to his regular duties at the clinic. He saw first hand how powerful acupuncture could be to help people manage pain and how much people appreciated having a non-pharmaceutical option for pain relief.

Since moving to Santa Fe with his family in 2006, Dr. Ropp has concentrated his career on family medicine and operating Aspen Medical Center for primary and urgent care. But his dream of a clinic that provided the option of acupuncture to patients was realized with the help of his wife, Rachel Ropp, Doctor of Oriental Medicine (DOM).

Rachel had always been attracted to Asian cultures. Having grown up in an Asian suburb of Los Angeles, she was inspired to study Chinese, volunteer, and travel in Asia during her college years. Many years later, after seeing her husband study for his acupuncture certification, she chose to come to Santa Fe and attend Southwest Acupuncture College and gain her Masters in Oriental Medicine. After running a community acupuncture clinic in Albuquerque for 4 years, she decided to join her husband at Aspen Medical Center, opening Aspen Wellness next door to his clinic.

Chinese Medicine has been practiced for over 3000 years and consists primarily of herbal medicine and acupuncture. In general, acupuncture is the practice of placing very thin, painless needles at various locations in the skin with the purpose of balancing the body’s energy which has been shown to ease pain. Acupuncture can be used for pain anywhere in the body and also for stress, digestive problems, allergies, insomnia, general well-being, and even for strengthening the immune system. At Aspen Wellness, Chinese herbal remedies are prescribed for common conditions including stress, anxiety, insomnia, hormonal issues, and even the common cold. Nutritional and lifestyle advice from the Chinese medical perspective is available. Patients at Aspen Wellness appreciate having non-pharmaceutical options to treat their health issues. Aspen Wellness also offers massage by Licensed Massage therapist, Stephanie Salazar.

The goal of Aspen Wellness has always been to offer acupuncture for an affordable price. Pre-pandemic, that meant seeing multiple patients at a time in a common space. These days, each patient is seen in a private space with numerous safeguards to keep everyone safe. Despite the changes, the cost remains low at just $30 per treatment regardless of how many issues are being addressed. We are currently providing acupuncture for the lowest price in Santa Fe.

Aspen Wellness offers appointments Monday – Friday and can make accommodations for people who need to be seen after work hours or on the weekend. Call to schedule an acupuncture treatment with Dr. Rachel Ropp if you have back pain, neck pain, knee or any joint pain, headaches, digestive issues, allergies, stress, anxiety, insomnia, or even if you are just curious to try it and see what acupuncture can do for you. For more information, go to www.aspenwellness.care or call 505-466-5887.

Coronavirus PSA

We are living in trying times. There is a global pandemic that is ravaging the world. The illness is called Coronavirus Disease 2019 or COVID-19 for short. This virus causes an upper respiratory illness but can attack the lungs. It can cause fever as well as cough or shortness of breath, among other symptoms.

The last time the world experienced a pandemic of this scale was probably the 1918 flu pandemic also know as the Spanish flu, so likely no one alive today remembers a time like the one we are living in now. It is a reminder that life is fragile and we are all connected. When this virus first appeared in Wuhan, China in December 2019, no one on earth was immune to it as far as we know. It can infect anyone. Some people have mild symptoms or possibly no symptoms at all, but a significant number of people are becoming critically ill and many people are dying from this virus. It is likely many more will die before this pandemic is over. Hospitals in places like northern Italy have become overwhelmed by this pandemic and it is likely to continue to spread to other regions and get worse around the world before it gets better.

At Aspen Medical Center, we care about your health and safety. We are doing everything in our power to try to prevent the spread of the virus and yet still provide essential medical services. We are cooperating with our state and local authorities and following recommended protocols and guidelines. We are closely monitoring nation-wide and global trends and we continue to gather information constantly. We are allowing employees to work remotely from home when possible. We are using appropriate personal protective equipment or PPE in our clinics. And we continue to follow intensified infection control protocols. We are screening prospective patients over the phone or if they come to our locations and we are sending high risk patients immediately for testing at one of our local state-designated testing sites or to the ER if appropriate. The Governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, has agreed to waive all copays and costs to patients for testing and treatment related to COVID-19. We are prepared to meet whatever challenges come our way in these uncertain and ever-changing times.

We are now offering telemedicine. Telemedicine is a way to get a virtual visit with a health care provider. Secure video chat technology is used and we can conduct medical interviews, do counseling, perform a limited physical evaluation, and if necessary order labs, make referrals, or prescribe medications electronically to the pharmacy of the your choice. This allows us to continue to provide needed medical services but prevent the spread of the virus by providing care remotely. We can provide these services for people who have chronic ongoing medical needs, people who have acute medical needs, and even people who think they might be infected with this virus.

Also, we have temporarily closed Aspen Wellness. So Rachel Ropp, DOM, is not currently doing acupuncture but she still has Chinese herbs available for her patients who wish to purchase them.

During this time of a global infectious pandemic, it is important for all of us to do our part in protecting ourselves and everyone else. What are some of the things you can do?

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Do not go to work or school if you are sick
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and then throw away the tissue
  • Practice social distancing (in general try to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other people)
  • Avoid non-essential travel (avoid shopping trips and social visits when possible)
  • Reach out to people remotely through email, calling them up, texting, or through social media
  • If you or your child get sick, contact your medical provider or call us at Aspen (505-466-5885 in Santa Fe or 505-747-6939 in Espanola)

At this time, we do not know what the future will bring. What I do know is that at Aspen Medical Center, we will continue to do our best to provide health care, for both chronic care and urgent care needs, to the population of northern New Mexico at both our Santa Fe and Espanola locations. We will continue to do everything in our power to keep our community as safe and healthy as possible

Nurse taking pulse

Wellness Visit

Wellness Visits at Aspen Medical are designed to keep you healthy

There are two types of visits to Aspen Medical Center. There are “problem-based visits” and “wellness visits.” A “problem-based visit” focuses on a specific problem. It may be an acute problem such as a cold or flu-like illness, an earache, a sprained ankle or other injury, a cut or laceration, a sore throat, a cough, or a fever, etc. A problem-based visit might also focus on a chronic condition or conditions, like diabetes, high cholesterol, hypothyroidism, high blood pressure or hypertension, etc. A problem-based visit can occur as often or as seldom as necessary.

What is a “wellness visit”?

The second type of visit to Aspen Medical Center is a wellness visit. The “wellness visit” is all about prevention. Wellness visits are annual physicals and generally occur once a year. We perform a head to toe physical exam at that time. These visits are designed to help you stay healthy and prevent illness. At a wellness visit, we focus on things like vaccines to prevent diseases and screening tests like pap smears for women to detect cervical cancer. If necessary, we will make referrals for mammograms to screen for breast cancer or colon cancer screening to detect colon cancer. We’ll measure your blood pressure (like we do at all visits) to screen for high blood pressure or “hypertension.” We might recommend blood work after the wellness visit to screen for health conditions such as high cholesterol and diabetes. The point of the wellness visit is to allow us to detect problems early while they are still relatively easy to treat. 

The “Medicare Wellness Visit”

For people on Medicare, which generally starts at age 65, there is a specific type of wellness visit. Medicare calls this visit an “Annual Wellness Visit” (AWV). It is very similar to our wellness visit. The AWV is also a preventive visit. During the AWV, we’ll discuss vaccines and do appropriate screenings for vision, hearing, fall risk, depression, and dementia, among others.

An ounce of prevention . . .

There has been some debate over whether regular wellness visits are necessary, but we feel they are extremely important. You know the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That is what these wellness visits are all about. We know that if we detect problems early, we have a much better chance of preventing them from getting worse or curing them altogether. Prevention is so much simpler, less complicated, cheaper, safer, less painful and more comfortable for you than waiting until problems require more care. So we welcome you to get a wellness visit at Aspen. Our goal is to help you live as long and healthy a life as possible.

Man with Seasonal Allergies

What Are Seasonal Allergies

What is an allergy?

An allergy is the body’s overreaction to substances that do not cause a reaction in someone who is not allergic. These substances are called allergens. There are many different types of allergens including mold, animal dander, dust, certain foods, as well as pollen from trees, grass, and weeds. These allergens cause the release of histamine in susceptible individuals which leads to allergy symptoms.

What are seasonal allergies?

An allergic reaction to pollen or mold spores is a seasonal allergy. An allergy to pollen is sometimes called “hay fever.” Seasonal allergies will affect people at the time of year when certain pollens are at their highest levels. The most common times of year for seasonal allergies are in spring, summer, and fall.

Juniper allergy in New Mexico

Seasonal allergies are a common problem in many parts of the world and New Mexico is no exception. One of the most common seasonal allergies in New Mexico is the juniper allergy. Twenty to 30 percent of the population is allergic to juniper. Junipers are coniferous plants of the cypress family. Only the male juniper plants produce allergenic pollen. The female plants are fertilized by the male plants and produce berries but not allergies. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, juniper allergy seems to affect people starting in February and can last through March and into April. Other allergies common to the Santa Fe area include allergies to mulberry or pig weed, cedar and chamisa.

Symptoms of allergies

Allergy symptoms vary depending on the severity of your allergies. Common allergy symptoms include:

  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • itching (especially the eyes, nose, mouth, throat, or skin)
  • runny nose or post-nasal drip
  • congestion (stuffy nose)
  • headache
  • pressure in the face (e.g. nose or cheeks)
  • watery, red, or swollen eyes
  • dark circles under the eyes
  • sore throat
  • feeling of ear fullness or ears popping
  • hives
  • difficulty smelling

Allergic reactions can also trigger an asthma attack in susceptible individuals. If you think you have allergies and your symptoms are interfering with your life, consider seeing a health care provider to discuss possible allergy medication and treatments.

What can be done to prevent or avoid allergies?

There are measures you can take to minimize or try to prevent exposure to things you are allergic to such as:

  • Keeping windows closed during high-pollen seasons
  • Wash hands after petting animals
  • Using dust and mite-proof bedding and mattress covers
  • Showering before bed to wash off allergens from hair or skin
  • Regularly washing bedding and vacuuming your home

Allergy Treatments

There are several allergy medications that can be used to treat allergy symptoms. These include:

  • Antihistamines help reduce sneezing, runny nose, and itching. These come in pill form as well as nasal sprays and some medications require a prescription.
  • Decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine relieve the stuffy nose of allergies. Decongestants come in pill form or as a nasal spray. Decongestant nasal sprays are available over the counter but should not be used for more than 3 days in a row as chronic use can cause rebound congestion that makes you even more congested after you stop using them. Using decongestants, particularly in pill form, can raise your blood pressure so you should ask your health care provider before using this type of medication.
  • Nasal steroid sprays are one of the most effective treatments for seasonal allergies. They reduce the reaction in the nasal tissues to inhaled allergens. Some nasal steroids are now available over the counter. You will have to use the nasal spray for 1-2 weeks before getting the full benefit.
  • Eye drops help improve symptoms of irritated, watery, itchy eyes. Some of these medicines are available over the counter and others require a prescription.
  • Allergy shots (also called immunotherapy) are an option for people who try other treatments but continue to have bothersome allergy symptoms. These shots include small amounts of allergen so that your body gradually gets used to the allergen. Over time, your allergy symptoms become less severe.
  • Complementary treatments such as acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine help control some people’s allergies. They can be particularly helpful for certain symptoms of allergies such as nasal congestion and allergy headaches. If you are interested in acupuncture, come to Aspen Wellness!

At Aspen Medical Center, we provide consultations for allergies as well. We can prescribe allergy medications and if necessary, we can provide allergy specialist referrals. If you are suffering from allergies, come in and see us today!

Andrew Ropp, MD

Medical Director
Portrait of a smiling family doctor

What is Primary Care?

What is Primary Care?

Primary care is the backbone of a well-functioning, efficient healthcare system. Primary care providers (PCP’s) can be physicians, physician’s assistants, and/or nurse practitioners who treat adults and children of all ages for their general healthcare needs. Usually the primary care provider (PCP) is the first contact and principal point of continuing care for patients. The PCP also coordinates specialist care that the patient may need. Primary care results in better health outcomes, reduced health disparities and lower spending, by avoiding unnecessary emergency room visits and hospital care. PCP’s, acting as guides for your health, are an important component in ensuring that the healthcare system as a whole is sustainable.

Outpatient primary care services include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Chronic disease management (e.g. diabetes, asthma, COPD, depression, anxiety, hypertension, back pain, arthritis, thyroid dysfunction, etc.)
  • Comprehensive annual wellness visits and physical exams
  • Routine and same-day care for all ages
  • Pap smears
  • Family Planning
  • Immunizations
  • Care coordination
  • Weight management
  • Tobacco cessation
  • Cancer screening
  • Referrals to specialists
  • Laboratory tests

Continuity is a key characteristic of primary care, as patients usually prefer to consult the same practitioner for routine check-ups and preventive care, health education, and every time they require an initial consultation about a new health problem. It is generally recommended to follow up with your PCP at least once a year. PCP’s are like air traffic controllers who can help manage and coordinate care, especially for people with multiple complex medical problems. Therefore, it is always important to follow up with your PCP anytime there is lab work or other studies done, if/when you need medication refills, after seeing a specialist, after an illness or injury, or certainly if there is a major health event in your life such as a hospitalization or surgery. Your PCP needs to remain informed about your health status.

If you do not have your own PCP, Aspen Medical Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico is still taking some new primary care patients on a limited basis. We are always available for your urgent care needs (please see the previous blog for a discussion of urgent care). At Aspen Medical Center, we are here to help you get and stay as healthy as possible.

Andrew Ropp, MD

Medical Director
Gratitude

Gratitude

Gratitude

It’s time to celebrate Thanksgiving. This is not only a time when we get together with family and friends and eat lots of delicious food, but it is also a time to give thanks and be grateful.

Gratitude, from the Latin gratus, meaning “pleasing or grateful,” is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness, as well as better physical and mental health. There has actually been a great deal of research done on the effects of gratitude and the list of its benefits is almost endless. Perhaps this would be a good time to review some of the benefits of gratitude and to consider some advice on how to practice gratitude in daily life.

Studies show the following benefits of gratitude:

  • Gratitude improves happiness
  • Gratitude improves sleep quality
  • Gratitude improves self-esteem
  • Gratitude leads to more helpfulness and empathy
  • Gratitude improves resilience
  • Practicing gratitude makes you more optimistic and helps you feel better about your life
  • Grateful people are more hopeful and healthier
  • Gratitude improves relationships
  • Gratitude boosts the immune system

Gratitude helps us focus on what we have instead of what we lack. The practice of gratitude does not come easily to everyone and sometimes it is difficult to feel grateful but it is a feeling that can be developed. Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude:

  • Write a thank-you note. Help make yourself and another person happy too by writing a thank you note to someone who had a positive impact on your life.
  • Thank someone mentally. If you are too busy to write a note, just think of someone who did something nice and thank them in your mind.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. One way to bring more of the positive effects of gratitude into your life is to keep a gratitude journal. Write down three things that you are grateful for before you go to bed.
  • Count your blessings. Counting blessings is something that can be done either in writing or just in your head. Listing all the good things in your life and all the ways you are fortunate can be an effective way to experience thepleasant feeling of gratitude.
  • Pray. If you are religious, giving thanks through prayer is a way to cultivate gratitude.
  • Meditate. Meditation is a way to practice awareness of the present moment and bring more peace and balance into one’s life. Gratitude can be an object of meditation by focusing on what you’re grateful for. Make gratitude a habit!

Andrew Ropp, MD

Medical Director