Dr. Barb Zind has been described by those who know her as an “incredible doctor and human being.” A practicing doctor for over 35 years, Barb has a passion for kids, a deep desire to “do something that really helps,” and a love of adventure marked by an incredible career all over the globe.
Not only is Barb a pediatrician at Primary Care Partners, she has training in pediatric hematology/oncology and is affiliated with St. Mary’s Hospital, which is the only dedicated pediatric unit in Western Colorado for kids to receive pediatric chemotherapy.
“I help orchestrate chemotherapy by coordinating treatment with Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children and Colorado Children’s Hospital to give children the medicine they need close to home. The treatment takes only a few minutes and we save a child who is already feeling crummy a trip to Denver or Salt Lake.”
Her desire to help kids is not just a nine to five, it’s a passion reflected in the programs she generously gives her time to and in her volunteer work abroad. It’s a way of life for Barb.
Nine years ago, Barb listened to a poster session on a national program called We Can! One year later, she and a colleague, Dr. Cassana Littler, secured grant funding to kick off this program in Mesa County and today it is still going strong no longer funded by grants, but supported by an annual 5K & Field Day.
We Can! stands for Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity and Nutrition. The program— which Barb refers to as her “baby”— is designed to help kids ages 6-18 and their families learn healthy eating habits and physical activity through fun exercises because “we are not going to entice a kid to exercise if push-ups or sit-ups are required.” Instead, We Can! offers fun games like pinball, where one volunteer stands in the middle of a circle dodging soft foam balls until he or she is tagged. Once they’re tagged, the person who hit them gets to be the next pinball. “The kids love it!” she smiles.
Interactive games to get kids moving are just one part of a Wednesday We Can! group meeting. While kids are doing hands-on activities like measuring the actual amount of sugar in beverages they drink on a weekly basis or weighing Crisco to help them see how much fat is in different types of food they choose, the parents meet in a separate room. “Our data surprisingly showed us that parents don’t actually see themselves as examples. We’re working with them to change that as we partner together to reinforce healthy lifestyles for their kids. We are not about diets. We focus on choices.”
Dr. Zind works with a team of doctors and staff, nutritionists, exercise physiology interns from Colorado Mesa University, nursing students, family practice residents, and community volunteers to ensure this program is a continued success. Dr. Cassana Littler is still working closely with Barb since the program’s inception. After watching the two of them coordinate a We Can! Wednesday program, their friendship and mutual respect is self-evident. “I think there has been one Wednesday since we started this program eight years ago that we both couldn’t be here. That’s the only time,” reflects Cassana, and then she adds without prompting, “I am truly lucky to be working with Barb.”
As if Barb’s work with We Can!, as a pediatric oncologist, and a pediatrician isn’t enough to keep her extremely busy, she adds: “I want to tell you about one other passion I have. For the past nine years I’ve been an international volunteer with the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund.” Her work with this group has taken her to Palestine and Lebanon helping treat children in need of a primary care provider with medical expertise in pediatrics. “I’m in it for the amazing food,” she jokes. While the food may be an added benefit of her travel, her actions tell a different story. She is there to have a long-term impact helping children and treating rare diseases while honoring her deceased Lebanese father’s heritage. Over the course of the year, while she is stateside, she stays in direct contact with the social workers abroad to ensure each child she sees has the follow-up care they need.
Her work doesn’t end in Palestine, however. She has also treated patients in the bush of Papua, New Guinea and on the Chinle Navajo Reservation. Her service is an inspiration because she is focused on—in her words— “doing something that really helps and makes an impact.”