New Chief Medical Officer provides clinical vision

Dr. Jose Melendez provides clinical vision for Memorial Hospital
June 21st, 2016

Dr. Jose Melendez, Memorial’s new chief medical officer, has been on the job only a few weeks, but he considers himself fortunate to be part of an organization that is experiencing “multiple wins.’’

“I have the perfect job,’’ Melendez said. “It has exceeded my expectations. The staff at Memorial Hospital are dedicated to their patients and pursue excellence, our quality scores rate among the top academic affiliates in the country, and we are expanding services and improving our facilities.’’

As chief medical officer, Melendez has many duties at Memorial. His primary focus is to provide clinical vision for the hospital. He works with 88 physicians employed by Colorado Health Medical Group in Colorado Springs and more than 1,000 community physicians who have privileges at Memorial to provide the highest quality care for patients.

Dr. Jose Melendez, Memorial’s new chief medical officer, conducts rounding with nurse Jamie Green (seated), and nurse Cody Peugh.

“We have many caring and exceptionally qualified physicians who are excited about the new Memorial. They see the opportunities, improvements and new programs. They are energized by the prospect of a team working together toward continued excellence,’’ he said.

Melendez cites a long list of new endeavors for Memorial – the launch in July of a residency program at the hospital; the expansion of the cardiac program; construction of a new hybrid OR and biplane catheterization laboratory; and the purchase of a second da Vinci robot.

The momentum is something Melendez has experienced before. He’s worked for 16 years as senior medical director of anesthesia at University of Colorado Hospital and as vice chair for clinical affairs for the Department of Anesthesia at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Under his guidance, the UCH operating room experienced unprecedented growth, and the hospital excelled to become one of the top academic medical centers in the nation.

During his first few weeks at Memorial, Melendez has been getting to know people, learning about programs and hearing what the needs are for Memorial. He’s often asking: “How can we help to make it better?’’

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Dr. Jose Melendez, chief medical officer for Memorial Hospital.

Melendez said his goal is for Memorial to become a regional referral center for complex care in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.

“To accomplish that goal, we are going to have to expand our programs to care for more complex health care issues,’’ Melendez said.

He is enthusiastic about a new Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit coming to Colorado Springs in August because it will elevate the level of care for stroke patients. In the near future, Memorial also will perform TAVR – transcatheter aortic valve replacement, a procedure in which a team of physicians works together to place a collapsible artificial valve into the heart. With TAVR, physicians go through the femoral artery or an artery in the chest, eliminating the need to open up the chest cavity.

As Colorado Springs grows, so must Memorial, he said. In the coming year, Memorial will host 43 surgical residents from the CU School of Medicine and eight residents from Peak Vista’s Family Residency Program. They begin rotations in early July.

“By surrounding ourselves with students and residents, we will become better physicians. Teaching will improve the care of our patients,’’ Melendez said. “The addition of medical residents breeds the opportunity for research – opportunities that will result in more clinical trials coming to Colorado Springs.

“In addition to state-of-the-art care, all prestigious institutions have education and research. As a teaching facility, we will be able to recruit and retain the brightest and most promising doctors to our community,’’ Melendez said.

An advocate for patients, Melendez is the kind of doctor who places patients first. While walking through the Memorial cafeteria one day, he noticed a man struggling to open his milk carton and stopped to open the carton for the man.

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Dr. Jose Melendez, chats with Anora Athey, clinical manager on Memorial Hospital’s cardiovascular unit, while rounding in the hospital.

“I’ve told my students: ‘Treat your patients like you would your grandmother. Be gentle, respectful and do everything in your ability to make the patient better,’ ’’ he said.

Part of doing the best for patients, he said, is to provide quality care. He’s planning to hold a Quality Summit with key leaders at Memorial.

“We will review all of the wins that we have had and determine what we can do to get to the next level,’’ Melendez said.

In his few weeks at Memorial, Melendez has learned a lot about the progress that the hospital has made in recent months: newly remodeled private patient rooms, a new Radiation Oncology Building and a new heart catheterization lab at Memorial Hospital North.

There are also a few projects that are less noticeable but important for patient comfort – replacement of boilers and air handlers and a new grease trap for the kitchen.

All of those projects – big or small – point to “multiple wins,’’ things that are needed for Melendez to see Memorial become what he envisions – a regional referral center for complex care in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.

About the author

Erin Emery is editor of UCHealth Today, a hub for medical news, inspiring patient stories and tips for healthy living. Erin spent years as a reporter for The Denver Post, Colorado Springs Gazette and Colorado Springs Sun. She was part of a team of Denver Post reporters who won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting.

Erin joined UCHealth in 2008, and she is awed by the strength of patients and their stories.