On Thursday, August 23rd, Grand County Rural Health Network will hold their sixth annual Bulls, Boot & BBQ fundraiser. The event features great food and drink, music and a silent auction, but the highlight of the evening is when local health care professionals are recognized for their dedication and contributions to the community with the Excellence in Healthcare Service award. Past winners of the coveted award include Wade Walker, RPh in 2017; Val Lind, RN in 2016; Hannah Foley, FNP and EMS Chief Ray Jennings in 2015; Mary Jo Hargadine, RN in 2014; and Therese McElroy, RN in 2013.

In 2018, the Grand County Rural Health Network Board of Directors pored over a number of well-deserving nominations and selected two recipients for this year’s award: Heather Bentler, RN and John Nichols, MD.

Heather Bentler is a registered nurse who has worked for Middle Park Medical Center (MPMC) for the past 16 years, mostly in the Emergency Department as well as floor work at the hospital taking various shift work when needed. She also worked one day a week at St Anthony’s 7 Mile Medical Clinic and Granby Medical Center for 5 years beginning in 2005.

A Kremmling resident, Bentler has always been active in the community. She worked with West Grand Schools’ Head Injury Prevention Program for athletes. She was the Trauma Coordinator for over 8 years for MPMC and met monthly with the Front Range Trauma Program committee. As a result of this program, she was able to bring a large balloon, which when blown up was educational material for students to walk inside and learn how the brain functions and the results of brain trauma. Bentler also worked on the Bike Rodeos and school health fairs to make sure all students had access to and were fitted for safety bike helmets.

Bentler also implemented Teddy Bear Clinics, where students are able to see X-Rays and CT scans and experience suturing/sewing up injuries on teddy bears. Bentler also brought the simulated drivers golf cart to students and adult health fairs in both Kremmling and Walden. This allowed drivers to know what may occur while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol or texting while driving. She has also been a vital part of the After-Prom Party in Kremmling for the past 3 years.

Dr. Nichols is the volunteer Medical Director for Grand County Search and Rescue (GCSAR), Winter Park Ski Patrol, and Grand County Emergency Medical Services (EMS). He also volunteers as a Rescue Member, the highest qualification available. Formerly on staff at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Denver as a neurosurgeon, Dr. Nichols now provides contract services as an Emergency Room neurosurgeon. Dr. Nichols has been a member of GCSAR since 1998.

As Medical Director, Dr. Nichols makes recommendations and provides training on medical equipment and procedures to ensure these agencies have appropriate resources, knowledge and skill in the field. GCSAR board of directors wrote, “His training sessions with GCSAR are perhaps the greatest contribution to our team effectiveness. His skill in outdoor emergency care is unparalleled in Grand County, particularly in the assessment of altitude illness, trauma injuries, and cold weather influences. His depth of understanding of wilderness and backcountry injuries and illnesses and his preparation of us as the First Responders is a distinguishing feature of GCSAR training.” Other search and rescue teams seek out Dr. Nichols’ expertise and training for medical response assessments.

Dr. Nichols frequently participates as a Rescue Member on emergency backcountry missions. This greatly enhances GCSAR’s field effectiveness. His training and teaching has saved countless lives through oversight for each medical mission, his ability to coordinate transitions to EMS or helicopter evacuation, and the depth of training he gives team members. All of this is done on a volunteer basis. Dr. Nichols’ active volunteer role benefits Grand County visitors and residents experiencing illness or injury in the backcountry, on the slopes, or at home.

The 6th annual Bulls, Boots, and BBQ fundraiser will be held at the B Lazy 2 Ranch and Event Center in Fraser on August 23, 2018 from 5:30 pm – 10 pm. Tickets are available at gcruralhealth.org, by calling (970) 725-3477 or at Winter Park Optical, located in the Fraser Marketplace Shopping Center.