Gifford pediatrician named state’s ‘CDC Childhood Immunization Champion’

Dr. Lou DiNicola

Randolph pediatrician Dr. Lou DiNicola poses with a national award he received this week honoring him as the first-ever “CDC Childhood Immunization Champion” for Vermont.

RANDOLPH – Long-time Gifford Medical Center pediatrician and pediatric hospitalist Dr. Lou DiNicola this week received national recognition for his work around childhood immunizations.

Dr. DiNicola of Randolph was recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases and the CDC Foundation as the first ever “CDC Childhood Immunization Champion” for the state of Vermont.

The award was announced in a letter to Dr. DiNicola from Assistant Surgeon General Dr. Anne Schucaht and CDC Foundation President Charles Stokes, who thanked Dr. DiNicola for his “efforts to help save lives by ensuring that our nation’s children are fully vaccinated.”

“It humbles me,” said Dr. DiNicola of the surprise award. “It humbles because it really shouldn’t go to me. I’m one of many.” Nurses, office staff, the Department of Health and caregivers across the state all work on the issue of immunizations, he noted.

A pediatrician in Randolph since 1976, Dr. DiNicola has long since been among those caregivers advocating for immunizations in their practices and on a state level.

Dr. DiNicola also now serves as president of the American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter. In that role and as a pediatrician, he’s been a strong advocate of a Senate bill now in committee that proposed to eliminate the current “philosophical,” non-medical and non-religious, vaccine exemption for children entering childcare and school.

Dr. DiNicola has been to the Statehouse multiple times to testify regarding the issue, penned editorials to regional media, spent hours reaching out the governor and other state officials and helped establish the first-ever advocacy program for physicians in their residency program at the University of Vermont. The program teaches physicians in-training how to advocate for children’s health.

The efforts are all meant to better immunization rates that he says are now a major problem in Vermont.

The immunization rate of incoming kindergartners has dropped from 93 percent in 2006 to 83 percent today, according to Vermont Department of Health data. “We’re going to face significant morbidity and probably mortality,” if vaccinations rates don’t change, Dr. DiNicola says, urging parents and lawmakers not to “allow children to be opted out of a lifetime of health and happiness.”

And providing children a lifetime of good health has always been Dr. DiNicola’s goal. In fact, he’s received approximately five previous national awards over his 36-year career, including a recognition from Pres. Jimmy Carter, awards for work with special needs children, a Community Access to Child Health (CATCH) award and more.

To learn more about Dr. DiNicola’s efforts around immunizations, visit the CDC online at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/champions.

Gifford staff raise $455 for March of Dimes

Blue Jeans for Babies

Gifford Medical Center Communications Specialist Robin Palmer, right, presents March of Dimes Vermont State Chapter Director Roger Clapp with a “check” for $455. Gifford employees raised the money last month for the March of Dimes for wearing Blue Jeans for Babies.

RANDOLPH – Gifford Medical Center staff donned “Blue Jeans for Babies” last month, raising $455 for the March of Dimes in the annual fund-raiser.

Blue Jeans for Babies takes place across the nation as workplaces like Gifford give employees the opportunity to wear jeans to work for a day in exchange for a donation – in Gifford’s case: $5 – to the March of Dimes.

“It’s an event employees look forward to and greatly enjoy each year because they get to both support the March of Dimes and wear jeans to work for a day,” said Robin Palmer, a member of Gifford’s Marketing Department who helped organize the hospital’s effort.

“The March of Dimes’ mission also matches nicely with Gifford’s as we both work to bring healthy babies into the world,” Palmer added.

The March of Dimes is the nation’s leading non-profit organization for pregnancy and baby health. It raises funds through a variety of events to help prevent birth defects, premature births and infant mortality. Blue Jeans for Babies is one such fund-raiser.

Roger Clapp, March of Dimes Vermont Chapter director, thanked hospital employees for wearing “blue jeans for babies” and noted funds raised will be used to support stronger, healthier babies in Vermont.

March of Dimes Honors Gifford with ‘Leadership Legacy’ Award

March for Dimes' Leadership Legacy award

March of Dimes Vermont State Chapter Director Roger Clapp, right, presents Gifford Medical Center caregivers with a Leadership Legacy award for their support of healthy babies and the March of Dimes. Gifford staff members pictured, from left, are pediatrician and pediatric hosptalist Dr. Lou DiNicola and Birthing Center registered nurses Kim Summers and Karin Olson.

RANDOLPH – The Vermont Chapter of the March of Dimes today honored Gifford Medical Center with a Leadership Legacy award.

The award, presented by March of Dimes Vermont Chapter Director Roger Clapp, recognizes the Randolph hospital for both its commitment to prenatal, birth, and newborn care, and its support of the March of Dimes.

“This award recognizes Gifford’s leadership in newborn care, which has been ongoing for a number of years, as well as Gifford’s support of the mission of the March of Dimes, which is to improve the health of babies,” Clapp said.

The March of Dimes strives to prevent birth defects, premature births, and infant mortality through research, quality initiatives, community services, education, and advocacy. Gifford has been a leader in low intervention births and midwifery and obstetrics for more than 30 years.

The hospital is also a supporter of the March of Dimes’ upcoming March for Babies walks in central Vermont on Sunday, starting at the Montpelier High School at 9 a.m., and the Randolph walk on May 19, starting at the village fire station, also at 9 a.m.

“We’re really proud of what we do. We love what we do. We work with a great team of providers and staff. We have the same goal to start babies on the right foot, and we’re here to support them, I say, until they go to college,” said Gifford Birthing Center registered nurse Karin Olson.

“For more than 30 years I have had the honor of working in Gifford’s Birthing Center caring for more than 5,000 newborns during this time,” added pediatrician and pediatric hospitalist Dr. Lou DiNicola. “There is no better model that I know of to provide excellent, family-centered care for our mothers, families, and newborns. The midwives, obstetricians, nurses, and pediatricians in Gifford’s Birthing Center provide a superb setting that is safe for our newborns.”

This is the second recent award for the Randolph hospital for its work around positive birth outcomes.

Gifford’s midwives were recognized as a “best practice” in the nation by the American College of Nurse-Midwives. The practice looked at 2010 benchmarking data and named Gifford as having the highest success rate with vaginal births after caesareans as compared to similar small-size practices. The midwives were additionally named a “runner-up best practice” for both lowest rates of low birth weight infants and operative vaginal births. Operative vaginal births means births using vacuum or forceps.

Vermont as a whole has also been recognized for having healthy babies. The Vermont Chapter of the March of Dimes was the only in the nation to receive an “A” rating recently from the national March of Dimes organization. The rating, explains Clapp, looked at the state’s reduction in premature births. Vermont’s rate of premature births is 8.4 percent compared to a national average of 12 percent. The March of Dimes has set a 9.6 percent premature birth rate as a 2020 goal – a figure Vermont is already well below.

To learn more about the March of Dimes, including the upcoming March for Babies, visit www.marchofdimes.com/vermont. Find Gifford on the Web at www.giffordmed.org.

Experienced Vermont Family Physician Joins Gifford Hospitalist Team

Dr. Sandy Craig

Dr. Sandy Craig

RANDOLPH – Dr. Sandy Craig brings his 17 years of family, inpatient and emergency medicine experience to Gifford Medical Center as the newest member of the hospitalist team.

Dr. Craig, who grew up in Ripton and Johnson, most recently was a family physician at The Health Center in Plainfield.

He took an indirect road to becoming a Vermont physician, however.

A 1982 graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz, Dr. Craig studied biology and psychology but put medical school on hold while he traveled to Indonesia and Africa.

He spent two-and-a-half years teaching English at a medical school and a university, the Universitas Islam Nusantara, both in Bandung, and then doing wildlife research in Kenya.

Back in the United States, he worked for a Santa Cruz, Calif., animal hospital as a research assistant in genetics at his alma mater.

He returned to Vermont to attend medical school at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, graduating in 1992. Along the way, he worked as a firefighter in his hometown of Ripton, an emergency medical technician in Middlebury and as a nurse’s aide at Porter Medical Center. He also did a clinical elective at San Jose Pediatrics Hospital in Costa Rica and later at the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council in Harare, Zimbabwe.

He completed his internship and residency in family medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Department of Family Medicine. He went on to become a clinical instructor for the UNC-Chapel Hill medical school and an emergency department doctor at UNC’s Chatham Hospital for two years.

He returned to Vermont in 1998, where he has worked since as a family physician and later clinical director at Plainfield’s health center with admitting privileges at Central Vermont Medical School.

The work, says Dr. Craig, included considerable care of inpatients, or hospitalized patients.

While saddened to leave his outpatient practice in Plainfield, Dr. Craig is looking forward to delving into more inpatient work at Gifford as a member of the hospitalist team. Hospitalists are physicians and mid-level providers who care for hospitalized patients. Gifford was among the first small hospitals in Vermont to have a hospitalist practice.

“I like community medicine and I’m very interested in hospital work,” says Dr. Craig. “I’m excited to be working for a community-oriented hospital offering patients a personal touch.”

Dr. Craig is board certified by The American Academy of Family Physicians. He’s also a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Vermont Medical Association, and The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. He’s returned to Asia and Africa for international relief work, including to Indonesia in 2005 following the Indian Ocean tsunami.

He diagnosed New England’s first case of Hantavirus in 2000. His clinical interests include infectious disease, sports medicine, and hospitalist medicine.

Dr. Craig lives in East Montpelier with his 10-year-old son, Riley, and in his free time enjoys skiing, hiking, paddling, and climbing.

Gifford’s 2011 Annual Report: The Role of a Community Medical Home

Gifford Medical Center's 2011 annual report

Gifford Medical Center has released its 2011 Annual Report called “The Role of a Community Medical Home”.

Its contents include:

  • 2011 highlights
  • Community response to Tropical Storm Irene
  • “Contributing to the economy as an employer”
  • “Giving back to the community”
  • “Employees volunteering locally and afar”
  • “Advancing technology for patients, physician recruitment”
  • “Prepared for an emergency”
  • “A conservative approach to health care reform”
  • “The Vermont Blueprint for Health: Redefining primary care”
  • “Not just a medical center; a medical home”
  • “An award-winning medical center”
  • Volunteer profile: Major McLauglin
  • Messages from hospital leaders
  • Medical statistics
  • Financials
  • Donor profile: The Gifford Medical Center Auxiliary
  • Gifford Corporators

Click here to download the report.

Hospital Volunteers Recognized

Community members gave record 18,000 hours in FY 2011

Hospice Riverbend

Hospice singing group Riverbend sings at Gifford Medical Center’s volunteer appreciation luncheon on April 18. The hospital has more than 200 volunteers, who gave nearly 18,000 hours during the previous fiscal year.

RANDOLPH – Gifford Medical Center’s volunteers were honored Wednesday with a luncheon served by hospital managers, prize awards, musical performances, flowers and bags of toffee made by the Randolph hospital’s professional chefs.

More than 200 community members support the medical center with gifts of time to the hospital, Auxiliary and Thrift Shop, working as clerks, sorting clothes, working in offices, welcoming and visiting with patients, and much more.

Ruthie Adams and Ellie Winzenried

Gifford Medical Center Environmental Services Manager Ruthie Adams shares a hug with hospital volunteer Ellie Winzenried. The Randolph medical center’s volunteers were honored on April 18.

“The quality of care and the experience that our patients enjoy at Gifford is because of you. It starts with you,” Ashley Lincoln, director of development, marketing and public relations, told the crowd of about 70. “We’re very fortunate to have a lovely campus, but the personal touch that you bring to it is what makes it special.”

Gail Bourassa, director of patient access and financial services, oversees the hospital’s patient registration department. Seeing a smiling volunteer at the front information desk helps make a patient’s day, and makes her day, Bourassa said.

Islane Runningdeer

Music therapist Islene Runningdeer of Brookfield performs at Gifford Medical Center’s volunteer recognition luncheon on April 18. Accompanying Runningdeer is her 4-year-old granddaughter, Livee True of Barre Town.

“Thank you so very much,” added Brooks Chapin on behalf of the Menig Extended Care Facility, Gifford’s nursing home. “The residents just adore you. The staff just adores you. It means so much.”

Volunteers gave a record of nearly 18,000 hours during the hospital’s last fiscal year, helping improve the medical center’s bottom line and bringing added compassion to the patient care experience.

“We celebrate all of you who offer your time each day. And there are a vast majority of you who are here who willingly evenings as well as weekends. We would not be the community we are without you. Thank you for allowing us to celebrate you during this event,” said Volunteer Coordinator Julie Fischer.

Martha Umba and Terry MacDougal

Gifford Medical Center volunteer Martha Umba is awarded a door prize from Terry MacDougal. MacDougal is the activities director at Gifford’s nursing home, which benefits from many volunteers.

Islene Runningdeer of Brookfield sang her thanks. “Thank you for our volunteers. Thank you for our caring friends,” the music therapist sang while her 4-year-old granddaughter, Livee True of Barre Town, accompanied her on the drum. Runningdeer sings and plays music for patients, often end-of-life patients, at Gifford and shared her gift with the volunteers at the luncheon.

Hospice singing group Riverbend also entertained. They joked that singing following a turkey dinner with all of the fixings was not their norm. They sing at the bedside of patients in distress or approaching the end-of-life at Gifford and at area homes, coming when called and offering their special brand of peace and comfort for free.

New Evening Healthier Living Workshop begins May 15

healthier living workshopCHELSEA – A new Healthier Living Workshop series begins May 15 and continues Tuesdays through June 19 at the Chelsea Health Center – this time in the evenings, from 6-8:30 p.m.

Healthier Living Workshops are six-week classes for people with chronic conditions and their caregivers. They are offered for free throughout the year by Gifford Medical Center as part of the Vermont Blueprint for Health. The workshops are led by trained facilitators and are designed to help improve strength, flexibility and endurance. They also provide tips for managing medications, eating healthier and improving communications with family and friends.

The goal is to help people better manage their health conditions and deal with the frustration, fatigue and pain that can accompany a chronic disease.

Participants also benefit from meeting other people with chronic conditions, learning how they cope and enjoying the camaraderie of knowing that they are not alone in how they’re feeling, notes Gifford workshop coordinator Susan Delattre.

According to the Vermont Department of Health, past participants report increased energy, reduced stress, more self-confidence and fewer doctors’ visits as a result.
Gifford Healthier Living Workshop participants have called the series “very relaxed and you really felt free to express yourself” and said they most enjoyed “meeting people who understand what I am going through.”

To register or for more information, call Delattre at Gifford at (802) 728-2118.

The Chelsea Health Center is just off Route 110, north of the village. Log onto www.giffordmed.org to learn more.

“Rural Health is Vermont Strong”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFUKXFpddbc]

This video, starring our very own Dr. Jewett & Gail Proctor at the Rochester Health Center, describes how rural health care providers responded to Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. It was released last week during National Public Health Week, April 2-6, 2012.

With many bridges and roadways washed out after tropical storm Irene, it wasn’t just commuters, farmers, and tourists who were cut off. Health care providers as well as patients were cut off from clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies until roads were opened again.

In Rochester, Vermont, rural providers had to use two-way radios, cell phones, and 4-wheelers to get prescriptions filled and delivered to patients in need.

The State Office of Rural Health & Primary Care, a part of the Vermont Department of Health, works with and supports small rural hospitals, clinics and health care providers throughout Vermont to improve access to primary care, dental, and mental health care for all Vermonters, especially the uninsured, underserved and those living far from larger medical centers.

Gifford Offering Free Help with Advance Directives

Advanced DirectivesRANDOLPH – Gifford Medical Center in Randolph will provide free assistance completing Advance Directives on Tuesday, April 17 from 2:30-5:30 p.m. in the hospital’s Conference Center.

A special talk by Gifford Director of Quality Management Sue Peterson will also take place from 4-4:30 p.m. on the importance of having an Advance Directive for making your end-of-life wishes known, new statewide initiatives and to answer any questions people may have.

An Advance Directive is a legal document in which you specify your health care wishes should you become unable to speak for yourself. These directives can then be shared with appropriate family members, your hospital or health care provider and with the Vermont Advance Directives Registry to help ensure your wishes are known and followed.

“You want to ensure that your decisions about life support are carried out if you’re unable to make health care decisions or can’t speak for yourself,” Peterson said. “We also want to encourage people to make sure their directives are part of the registry.”

Gifford’s annual event falls around National Healthcare Decisions Day, which aims to increase the number of people who understand the importance of end-of-life planning, talking with their loved ones about their wishes and completing Advance Directives.

Volunteers will be available at Gifford on April 17 to help people complete their Advance Directives. The hospital is also providing Advance Directive booklets for free. The cost of these booklets is being funded by Gifford’s Last Mile Ride, which raises money for end-of-life care – or, in this case, important end-of-life care planning. This year’s ride is Aug. 18.

Gifford will additionally scan participants’ Advance Directives into their patient records, provide participants copies of their directives to share with family members and mail completed directives to the Vermont registry for anyone who is interested.

No appointments are necessary. Filling out the Advance Directive form can take anywhere from minutes – say if all you want to do is designate a health care agent, or proxy, to make decisions for you – or up to an hour to thoroughly review the form and share your complete wishes. Topics on the form include appointing an agent, treatment wishes, organ and tissue donation, and funeral arrangements.

Advance Directives can be changed as your wishes change. Anyone with a changed or newly completed Advance Directive can bring those to one of the patient registration desks just inside the main entrance of the hospital to have your Advance Directive electronically scanned and saved in your Gifford patient record.

The hospital’s Conference Center is located just off from the patient parking area and marked with a green awning. For handicap access, use the main entrance, take the elevator down to the first floor and follow signs to the Conference Center. For more information, including directions, call the hospital at (802) 728-7000 or log on to www.giffordmed.org.

Governor, Vermont Officials Make Stop at State’s Top Nursing Home

Governor Peter Shumlin

Gov. Peter Shumlin cuts a celebratory cake with Menig Extended Care Facility resident Edith Reynolds as nursing home leaders Linda Minsinger, Brooks Chapin and Cindy Richardson and Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living Commissioner Dr. Susan Wehry look on.

RANDOLPH – Wearing a broad smiling and expressing his sincerest of thanks, Gov. Peter Shumlin and the state’s top nursing home officials made a stop at the state’s top nursing home Friday afternoon.

Gov. Shumlin; Vermont Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living Commissioner Dr. Susan Wehry; Vermont Health Care Association Executive Director Laura Pelosi; Division of Licensing and Protection Director Suzanne Leavitt; and Assistant Director Fran Keeler all visited Randolph’s Menig Extended Care Facility to meet with residents, their families, and staff and to offer words of praise.

Menig has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nation’s best 39 nursing homes. The findings are from a review of more than 15,500 nursing homes nationally. Chosen as winners were those that received four straight quarters of perfect five-star ratings from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in all three areas that CMS evaluates – health inspections, nurse staffing, and quality of care.

Menig, part of Gifford Medical Center, was the only Vermont nursing home recognized. It was also the only in the two-state region of Vermont and New Hampshire, where, according to Medicare, there are 118 nursing homes.

Praising both Gifford and Menig, the governor noted “It’s widely known … that this is the best little hospital around.” He called Menig a “professional, clean, quality, compassionate place to grow older” and a “tribute to the community.”

On a statewide level, “It makes us proud. We’re proud of you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Dr. Wehry said it wasn’t her first trip to Menig to hand out quality awards and it surely wouldn’t be her last.

“I have the best job,” she said. “My job is to make Vermont the best state in the nation to grow old with dignity, and I can’t think of a better partner.”

Leavitt thanked residents for inviting her into their home and thanked staff, especially those who come in at “Oh-dark-30,” for the job they do. “You are the folks who are the foundation of success of a facility like this and it doesn’t go unnoticed,” Leavitt said.

Menig Extended Care Facility

Gov. Peter Shumlin, center, poses with Menig Extended Care Facility staff at a Friday ceremony where the Randolph nursing home was recognized as the best in a two-state region.

Hospital and Menig leaders too thanked the staff, describing the nursing home’s past and its future.

Menig got its start in 1998 to help meet the community’s need for nursing home care following the closure of larger, 53-bed Tranquility Nursing Home in Randolph. Part of non-profit Gifford, the nursing home initially had 20 beds but grew to 30 beds with an addition that opened in 2006.

The only nursing home in Orange County, it has repeatedly been recognized for its quality, including receiving seven consecutive Nursing Home Quality recognitions and Gold Star Employer awards from the state. It has also earned national awards and has a substantial waiting list for care.

The hospital is now striving to meet more of the community’s needs for senior living opportunities by constructing a new nursing home to replace the existing Menig, a 40-unit independent living facility, and possibly one-day assisted living in a picturesque rural setting near Vermont Technical College in Randolph Center. The existing nursing home would then become private, inpatient rooms.

Gov. Shumlin offered his support for the senior living community project, noting he’d stand behind the project “all the way.”

The governor and other state officials all spent considerable time with the nursing home residents, introducing themselves, chatting, and posing for pictures.

Many residents were delighted to meet the governor and other state officials. “He’s gone over big,” said resident Leland Flint.

Many were also delighted to hear kind words about their home.

Dr. Wehry

Dr. Wehry and Menig resident Stu Reynolds

“You can’t find anything better,” was a common theme. Glen Eldredge said it. His wife Shirley lives in Menig. Stu Reynolds said it. He lives in Menig with this wife and his mother-in-law.

Flint said it too. “Everything here is great. Nothing could be better.”

U.S. News and World Report, Medicare data, and the state’s leaders seem to agree.

Gov. Peter Shumlin

Gov. Peter Shumlin and resident Ethel Boynton