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Life of service leads doctor back to Glenwood

Donna Daniels
Staff Writer

Welcome home, Dr. Crystal Walden Roney.

Roney is the newest addition to the Mountain Family Health Center in Glenwood Springs. She’s been on the job since February, joining Drs. Chris Tonozzi, Terry DiCrose and nurse practitioner Jenny Lang-Burns.

Roney grew up in Glenwood Springs and graduated from Glenwood Springs High School in 1985. Her parents, Bill and Linda Walden, own a ranch in Gypsum.

Roney came to medicine through her parents. She spent the first four years of her life in Zambia, where her parents worked in a mission-related project, Roney said.

Her mother was a nurse and her father a teacher.

“They definitely had some influence on me,” she said. “Ever since I was a kid I wanted to go into medicine.

“It’s an easy way to serve people.”

Service runs in the family. Her sister Rachael is married to Steve Carcaterra, who recently stepped down as director of the LIFT-UP charitable relief agency, and her other sister, Carmen Walden, is an elementary art teacher in Gypsum.

After high school, Roney attended Colorado Mountain College, graduating in 1987.

She spent two years at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., then entered the University of Colorado Medical School, where she graduated in 1994.

Roney completed her family practice residency at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.

After finishing her residency, instead of hanging her shingle out in a snug family practice here in Glenwood Springs, Roney worked for four years on the Navajo Reservation, at Sage Memorial Hospital in Ganado, Ariz.

“I like the cross-cultural work,” Roney said.

While the hospital was staffed by Western doctors, the counselors were Navajo, and tended to the spiritual side of the patients, she said.

“They would arrange traditional ceremonies,” Roney said.

She especially liked the older Navajo.

“The older they were, the more traditional. They were great. Anyone over 50 didn’t speak English so we had an interpreter,” Roney said.

They were all appreciative of Roney and the other doctors and staff at the hospital, she said.

Many of the older people, some of them in their 80s and 90s, lived in remote areas of the reservation.

“They’d be crippled with osteoarthritis, those old ladies in their velvet skirts, and they’d hitchhike” to the hospital, she said. “They were dear.”

She and husband, Roark, who teaches computer science at Glenwood Springs Middle School, moved back to Glenwood Springs last year, along with 4-year-old daughter Coral.

For Roney, the move from the Navajo Reservation to a clinic for low-income folks and the uninsured was a natural.

“I feel very fortunate to have this job,” she said. “The doors are open to everybody, but we focus on people without insurance. The clinic tries to help people who might not get care otherwise.”

What’s great about the job is the mix of people she sees. About 60 percent are Hispanic.

“Here cultural barriers are broken down,” she said. “That’s what attracted me to the clinic.”

Roney estimated the majority of her patients are children, many of them newborns.

Unlike private medical practices, Mountain Family Health Clinic, which opened in the fall of 1999, welcomes Medicaid. It also receives funding from the Colorado Indigent Care Project, as well as a variety of federal and state grants.

Roney said she’s given up the leisure-time activities she used to enjoy, such as skiing, to spend as much time as possible with daughter Coral.

“We hike and go to the park and the library,” she said. “I also try to spend as much time as I can with my parents.”


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