Randolph Man Named Nation’s ‘Outstanding Senior Volunteer’

95-year-old Major Melvin McLaughlin warmly celebrated

Major recognition

From left, Patrice Thabault of Home Instead Senior Care presents 2013 Outstanding Senior Volunteer Major Melvin McLaughlin and Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin with a $5,500 in recognition of McLaughlin to support a charity of his choice, Gifford.

Randolph’s Maj. Melvin McLaughlin has spent more than 40 years selflessly volunteering at his local medical center, Gifford. On Wednesday that volunteerism was recognized – big time.

The 95-year-old retired U.S. Marine, fondly known as “Major,” was named the country’s 2013 Outstanding Senior Volunteer by Home Instead Senior Care.

Home Instead is the world’s largest provider of non-medical, in-home care services for seniors. Last year it launched the Salute to Senior Service Contest to recognize senior volunteerism.

Nominated by the staff at Gifford for his daily visits to the hospital, McLaughlin was named the Vermont winner of the contest last month and on Wednesday at noon at Gifford in Randolph was recognized as the national winner.

“Home Instead wants to encourage a positive outlook on aging,” Vermont franchise owner Patrice Thabault noted in presenting the award. “The Major and other (senior) volunteers are really changing the face of aging in the United States.”

With the recognition came a $5,500 check ($500 as the state winner and $5,000 as the national winner) from Home Instead to Gifford, the charity that McLaughlin chose to recognize with his award.

Major recognition

Representatives of VA Medical Center, from left, Chief of Voluntary Services Karen Campbell and Patient Services Manager Wendy DeCoff, present 2013 national Outstanding Senior Volunteer Major Melvin McLaughlin of Randolph with a Courage of Valor award. The award is for World War II veterans who are VA patients.

The gifts didn’t stop at the national recognition, however.

Hearing about McLaughlin’s honor, VA Medical Center Chief of Voluntary Service Karen Campbell attended Wednesday’s presentation to honor McLaughlin, a long-time VA patient, with its Courage of Valor award.

“They don’t necessarily have the time, but they always have the heart,” Campbell said of volunteers, “and, boy, do you have that.”

Fran Keeler of Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL) read a letter of commendation from DAIL Commissioner Susan Wehry. “Your more than 40 years of dedicated service … is appreciated. You’re an inspiration to us,” Wehry wrote.

Sen. Bernie Sanders sent his own letter of congratulations, thanking McLaughlin “for demonstrating such generosity and goodwill over the past four decades.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy sent McLaughlin a flag that had flown over U.S. Capitol.

And Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin unveiled a granite plaque anonymously donated and featuring the words McLaughlin says to each patient, nursing home resident, and staff member he visits at Gifford: “Has anyone today told you that they love you?” McLaughlin then answers, “God does and I do too.”

The plaque of Barre granite now sits in the hospital’s visitors’ entrance as a permanent fixture for all to see.

Major recognition

Major Melvin McLaughlin, the nation’s 2013 Outstanding Senior Volunteer, is surrounded by his three daughters, from left, Sally Truckenbrod of Bethel, Nancy Stevens of Raleigh, N.C., and Audrey Rhoades of Washington, N.H. The daughters surprised him by all attending a July 3 celebration of McLaughlin’s national recognition. It is the first time the family was all together since McLaughlin’s wife’s passing almost four years early to the day. She died on July 4 and was a resident of the Menig Extended Care Facility at Gifford, where McLaughlin still volunteers.

McLaughlin first moved to Randolph in 1967 after retiring from 25 years with the U.S. Marines, serving in World War II, Korea, and the infancy of Vietnam. He built a home and a second for one of his daughters, Sally, and then found himself with free time. He started volunteering at Gifford on Thursdays, delivering the local newspaper to patients.

Later, he took patient meal orders on a clipboard and then several years ago began making general rounds seven days a week, visiting with patients and staff alike, offering his telltale phrase of love, plenty of hugs, a positive attitude, and plenty of gratitude.

Woodin called that gift of love an intangible, but a powerful gift that anyone can afford. The fact that that gift and lesson on experiencing love comes from a tough Marine makes it all the more powerful.

Woodin sought to return the favor by asking the large crowd in attendance at Wednesday award announcement to honor McLaughlin with a warmly and loudly delivered, “We love you, Major.”

“My cup runneth over,” Major said in response, encouraging all in attendance to live each day with only gladness, no shame. “Thank you, Lord, for your blessings. I am a rich man.”

Read much more about McLaughlin on the Salute to Senior Service Web site, www.salutetoseniorservice.com, and look for him in Thursday’s Randolph Fourth of July Parade. He is the grand marshal.

Year in Review – Part 1

Our 2012 Annual Report included a month-by-month “Year in Review” section. Here is the first quarter excerpt.

JANUARY

pediatrics' open houseUrologist Dr. Richard Graham and menopause practitioner Dr. Ellamarie Russo-DeMara of the Twin River Health Center offer a free talk at the Montshire Museum on urinary incontinence.

Gifford is once again awarded a grant from the Avon Breast Health Outreach Program. For the 11th year, Gifford is the only entity in Vermont to receive the $35,000 grant for breast cancer awareness education and outreach.

Pediatrics and adolescent medicine moves from the main medical center building to Dr. Chris Soares’ former space at the corner of South Main and Maple streets. Joining the practice on the first floor of the renovated, spacious Victorian home is pediatric physical, occupational, and speech therapies.

A free three-week series on heart health includes talks from cardiologist Dr. Bruce Andrus and registered dietitian Stacy Pelletier as well as a heart-healthy cooking demonstration from Gifford’s chefs.

FEBRUARY

As part of Gifford’s expanded efforts under the Vermont Blueprint for Health, a chronic illness support group – Chronic HealthShare Consortium – is launched and begins meeting monthly.

Dr. Ovleto Ciccarelli strives to bring colon health to the forefront with a free health talk, “Everyone’s Got One: A Discussion on the Colon and How to Keep It Healthy”.

Pacemaker surgeries return to Gifford after a quarter century hiatus.

The Menig Extended Care Facility is named among nation’s top 39 nursing homes by U.S. News and World Report, which released a list of “2012 Honor Roll” nursing homes. Menig was the only nursing home chosen in Vermont and neighboring New Hampshire.

MARCH

The 106th Annual Corporators Meeting is held at the medical center and features Steve Kimbell, commissioner of what was then the Vermont Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration. Leo Connolly, Fred Newhall, and Peter Nowlan are elected to the Board of Trustees.

A Vermont House of Representatives resolution recognizes “the outstanding health care services provided by Gifford Medical Center”. The resolution is in honor of Gifford’s more than 100 years of service to the Randolph area and for its many recent awards.

The Diabetes Education Expo focuses on teeth and feet and how diabetes can keep both healthy. It is the 7th annual exposition organized by the Diabetes Clinic especially for the growing diabetes population.

An open house is held for pediatrics’ new space at 40 South Main Street. Children attending enjoy face painting, balloons, snacks, tours of their new doctor’s office, bike helmet fittings, and painting tiles that have become part of the clinic’s permanent decor.

Vote for Major

Vote for Major for a Salute to Service AwardGifford Medical Center volunteer Maj. Melvin McLaughlin of Randolph has been nominated in the Salute to Senior Service Contest for his 40-plus years of volunteerism at the Randolph hospital.

Major, as he is known, is one of seven Vermonters nominated and hospital staff members are hoping that those who know and love Major will visit www.salutetoseniorservice.com between April 15-30 to vote for Major as the state’s winner and for a chance at a national recognition as “the most outstanding senior volunteer in the U.S.”

Your vote determines the state winner. A panel of judges picks the national winner.

A complete write-up on Major is available on the site. Here’s a bit of what the medical center had to say about their friend:
Major McLaughlin

Every single day, now 95-year-old Maj. Melvin McLaughlin makes the short drive from his Randolph home to his local hospital, Gifford Medical Center, to lend more than a helping hand; he lends a helping heart. Pushing a walker, Major visits every hospital unit and Gifford’s adjoining nursing home to offer patients and staff alike love, a listening ear, and the sincerest of thanks. Whether at a patient or staff member’s side, male or female, stranger or friend, Major – as most know him – breaks the ice with a catch phrase: “Has anyone told you today that they love you?” If the answer is no, Major is ready with his reply: “Well, God loves you and so do I.” Staff members are also treated to the most heartfelt thanks for the job they do and somewhere in this sharing of love, there is almost always a hug between the kind-hearted Major and those lucky enough to step in his path.

 

“Gifford is home,” he’s told us on more than one occasion. “I have so many friends here, from the top to the bottom. And I emphasize the bottom because I like to tell those people, ‘Thank you for what you do, because without your labors this place would not stand.”

Vote for MajorWe at Gifford love Major. He is a brilliant and beautiful light in the day. As one nurse put it, “A day without Major is a day without sunshine.” He is the personification of what we are as an organization – warm, compassionate, supportive, humbled and blessed to be able to care for others. Introduce a new staff member, patient, or nursing home resident to Major and we have just told them everything they need to know about us. We care. We’re family. We’re here for you. This is the type of individual who walks our halls. This is our benchmark for love. For his boundless selflessness, remarkable strength of character, and length of commitment, we can’t imagine an individual more deserving of this service award than our amazing, treasured friend Major.”

When the nomination was read at a volunteer appreciation luncheon at the medical center on April 10, Major received a standing ovation from all in attendance. The former Marine saluted his fellow volunteers.

Those visiting the Salute To Senior Service site can also add their own comments about Major.

Gifford Volunteers Honored

Selfless community members give 16,524 hours to non-profit hospital

Susan O'Malley of Randolph

Susan O’Malley of Randolph

Gifford Medical Center recognized its 120 volunteers at an annual appreciation luncheon on Wednesday.

Volunteers gave 16,524 hours in 2012. That’s 2,066 eight-hour workdays or the equivalent of eight full-time employees, noted Ashley Lincoln, director of development and marketing. “That’s a pretty incredible number,” Lincoln said. “We really appreciate the smiles that you bring, your enthusiasm, and your willingness to come when you’re called.”

Arlene Conant of Randolph Center and Robin Rafuse Gurney of Randolph

Arlene Conant of Randolph Center and Robin Rafuse Gurney of Randolph

Volunteers give of their time throughout the medical center, at its clinics, at the Adult Day, through chaplaincy, as part of the Board of Trustees and through the Gifford Auxiliary at the Thrift Shop. “We have a far reaching volunteer group and I thank all of you,” said Volunteer Services Coordinator Julie Fischer to the group of about 75 in attendance.

The volunteers were treated to live music by Thom Goodwin, quality and infection prevention manager at Gifford and a

Chris Furmeister of Randolph

Chris Furmeister of Randolph

musician. Gifford’s chefs prepared a meal based on the event’s Texas barbecue theme. Gifford staff volunteering as servers donned Western attire. And door prizes from generous local businesses, including Onion Flats, Randolph Village Pizza, Blue Moon Boutique, Belmains, Bud and Bella’s Bookshop, Dandelion Acres, Central Supplies, Chef’s Market, Holiday Beauty Salon and Tozier’s, were given out.

Major salutes

Major salutes

One volunteer in particular received a standing ovation after it was announced that the hospital has nominated him for a senior service award. Major Melvin McLaughlin, 95, has been volunteering at Gifford for more than 40 years.

Lincoln read the hospital’s nomination, which describes McLaughlin’s service and hospital staff members’ regard for the long-time volunteer. “We at Gifford love Major. He is a brilliant and beautiful light in the day. As one nurse put it, ‘A day without Major is a day without sunshine.’ He is the personification of what we are as an organization – warm, compassionate, supportive, humbled and blessed to be able to care for others. Introduce a new staff member, patient or nursing home resident to Major and we have just told them everything they need to know about us. We care. We’re family. We’re here for you.”

Nap and Agnes Pietryka of Randolph

Nap and Agnes Pietryka of Randolph

The text of the full nomination is available online at www.salutetoseniorservice.com. Hospital administrators are hoping staff, volunteers and community members visit the site between April 15-30 to vote for McLaughlin, a Randolph resident since 1967.

McLaughlin, a member of the U.S. Marines for 25 years, saluted his fellow volunteers as they cheered him.

Volunteers also offered their thanks for the opportunity to give of their time at the medical center, an experience so many find extremely rewarding.

The event concluded with a presentation from LaRae Francis of Gifford’s Blueprint Community Health Team, who explained the team’s work to connect Gifford patients with needed community services and to help them better navigate the health system. The program is aimed at helping the chronically ill better manage their diseases by reducing barriers to care. The team has had 600 referrals since it began in February of 2011.

Community members wanting to access the program to receive help and learn about available community services can call (802) 728-2499. For information on volunteering at Gifford, call Fischer at (802) 728-2324.

Gifford Shares Achievements, Plans

Gifford logo

Annual Corporators Meeting postponed

RANDOLPH – Each March Gifford Medical Center’s corporators gather to review the year past. This year, the 107th Annual Meeting of the Gifford Corporators has been postponed, but the hospital did not want to delay in sharing a few of 2012’s many successes and some plans for the future.

The meeting will be rescheduled, allowing for corporators to hold their annual business meeting, elect new board members and discuss health care reform.

Year in review

The end of the 2012 fiscal year marked another year “in the black” for Gifford. This is the 13thconsecutive year the medical center has achieved both its budget and operating margin – a feat unheard of at other Vermont hospitals.

The year also brought numerous awards and recognitions for the medical center. The Vermont House of Representatives honored Gifford with a legislative resolution of support and thanks. The Robin’s Nest Child Enrichment Center, Gifford’s day care, once again earned five STARS from the Vermont STep Ahead Recognition System.

The Menig Extended Care Facility nursing home was named a 2012 Best Nursing Home and an Honor Roll nursing home by U.S. News and World Report – the latter naming it one of the best 39 nursing homes in the country. (Menig just last month earned a 2013 Best Nursing Home recognition once again). Menig also received the state’s Nursing Home Quality Recognition.

The March of Dimes recognized Gifford with a Leadership Legacy award for its commitment to prenatal, birth and newborn care. Long-time pediatrician Dr. Lou DiNicola was recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the first-ever “CDC Childhood Immunization Champion” for the state of Vermont. Gifford was awarded a Hospital of Choice Award from The American Alliance of Healthcare Providers for courtesy and compassion.

Continue reading

Menig Once Again Ranked Among Nation’s Best!

Gifford Medical Center

From left, Menig Extended Care Facility licensed nursing assistants Loretta Cushing and Darlene Doyle and licensed practical nurse Anne Murphy gather around nursing home resident Della Allen, 99, on Wednesday. The nursing home at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph was recognized among the nation’s 2013 Best Nursing Homes.

RANDOLPH – For a third consecutive year, the Menig Extended Care Facility at Gifford Medical Center has been named among the nation’s very best nursing homes by U.S. News & World Report.

Looking at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data regarding health inspection, level of nursing staffing and quality of care for nearly 16,000 nursing homes nationwide, U.S. News & World created and released a “2013 Best Nursing Homes” list on Tuesday. Menig, along with seven other Vermont nursing homes, made the list for its “five-star” (the maximum available) rating.

Menig was also recognized in 2011 and 2012 and was named among the top 39 nursing homes in the nation last year.

“I am so proud of the Menig staff. We work in a place that is clean, well maintained, has great food and a dedicated pool of volunteers who love the elderly. Varied activities keep the residents’ quality of life high. This teamwork and our nursing staff’s commitment to care are what make Menig such a high-quality home,” said Cindy Richardson, Menig director of nursing. “This honor is wonderful recognition of the work we do on behalf of our residents every day.”

The U.S. News list is created to help consumers find quality nursing home care. Homes are given between one and five stars in the rankings.

“Fewer than one out of every five nursing homes got an overall rating of five stars,” said Avery Comarow, U.S. News health rankings editor. “All seniors deserve the best nursing care available, and these are homes that merit their consideration by demonstrating such high quality.”

Menig is a 30-bed nursing home attached to Gifford Medical Center in Randolph. The medical center is currently amid the permitting process to move the nursing to Randolph Center where it would become the anchor of a senior living community. The new community would include independent and assisted living as well, helping to meet a significant community need for more senior care and living options. The move would also free up space at Gifford to create industry-standard single inpatient rooms (rather than shared two-person rooms) for patient safety and privacy.

Learn more about the nursing home rankings here. Also, you can learn more about Menig online at www.giffordmed.org.

 

Gifford Seeking Applicants 
for Philip Levesque Grant

grants and awardsCommunity organizations must apply by Feb. 11

 

RANDOLPH – Nonprofit community organizations have an opportunity to apply for a $1,000 grant.

Gifford Medical Center is seeking applications for the annual Philip D. Levesque Memorial Community Award – a grant established in memory of the hospital’s late administrator.

Applications for the $1,000 grant are due to the hospital by Feb. 11.

The grant was established by Gifford’s Board of Trustees in 1994 in memory of Levesque, Gifford’s beloved president and chief executive officer from 1973-1994.

The award is given annually to an agency or organization involved in the arts, health, community development, education or the environment in Gifford’s service area in recognition of Levesque’s commitment to the White River Valley. Continue reading

Gifford Cancer Program Earns National Accreditation

Commission on Cancer logoRANDOLPH – The Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons has granted accreditation with commendation to the cancer program at Gifford Medical Center through 2013.

A facility receives accreditation with commendation following an onsite evaluation by a physician surveyor during which the facility demonstrates a commendation level of compliance with one or more standards that represent the full scope of the cancer program (cancer committee leadership, cancer data management, clinical services, research, community outreach, and quality improvement). In addition, a facility receives a compliance rating for all other standards.

Through its oncology department, Gifford in Randolph offers area patients access to an experienced oncologist, Dr. John Valentine; care from a specially certified oncology nurse; and treatment planning and options, including outpatient chemotherapy and hormone therapy for the treatment of prostate cancer.

Cancer patients and their families additionally benefit from Gifford’s specialists and surgeons and the hospital’s robust palliative care program. Gifford also has a Cancer Committee, a patient care navigator program for women undergoing breast biopsies, and data management and quality oversight. It promotes cancer prevention, screenings, and treatment to the public through patient education and outreach efforts.

“We’re honored to be accredited once again by the Commission on Cancer,” Gifford Vice President of Surgery Rebecca O’Berry said. “This accreditation is a quality indicator for patients choosing cancer care, and an indicator that quality cancer care can be found close to home at Gifford.”

Established in 1922 by the American College of Surgeons, the Commission on Cancer is a consortium of professional organizations dedicated to improving survival rates and quality of life for cancer patients through standard-setting, prevention, research, education, and the monitoring of comprehensive, quality care. Its membership includes fellows of the American College of Surgeons and 49 national organizations that reflect the full spectrum of cancer care.

Gifford’s program has been accredited by the Commission on Cancer since 1965.

The core functions of the Commission on Cancer include setting standards for quality, multidisciplinary cancer patient care; surveying facilities to evaluate compliance with the 36 Commission on Cancer standards; collecting standardized and quality data from accredited facilities; and using the data to develop effective educational interventions to improve cancer care outcomes at the national, state, and local level.

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 1.6 million cases of cancer will be diagnosed in 2012. There are currently more than 1,500 Commission on Cancer-accredited cancer programs in the United States and Puerto Rico, representing close to 30 percent of all hospitals. This 30 percent of hospitals diagnose and/or treat 80 percent of newly diagnosed cancer patients each year. In addition, a national network of more than 1,650 volunteer cancer liaison physicians, including internal medicine physician Jim Currie of Gifford, provides leadership and support for the Commission on Cancer Accreditation Program and other activities at local facilities.

The Accreditation Program, a component of the Commission on Cancer, sets quality-of-care standards for cancer programs and reviews the programs to ensure they conform to those standards. Accreditation is given only to those facilities that have voluntarily committed to providing the highest level of quality cancer care and that undergo a rigorous evaluation process and review of their performance. To maintain accreditation, facilities with Commission on Cancer accredited cancer programs must undergo an on-site review every three years.

Menig Once Again Recognized for Quality

Menig receives quality award

Vermont Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living Commissioner Dr. Susan Wehry, far right, and Vermont Division and Licensing and Protection Director Suzanne Leavitt, far left, present Menig Extended Care Facility Administrator Linda Minsinger and Director of Nursing Cindy Richardson, center, a Nursing Home Quality Recognition on June 6 in a ceremony in Colchester.

RANDOLPH – For an eighth consecutive year, the Menig Extended Care Facility at Gifford Medical Center has received a quality recognition from the state of Vermont and Vermont Health Care Association (VHCA).

The Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living and VHCA awarded Menig the Nursing Home Quality Recognition on June 6 in a ceremony at the Hilton in Colchester.

Receiving the recognition on Menig’s behalf were nursing home Administrator Linda Minsinger and Director of Nursing Cindy Richardson.

“I’m very proud of my staff. I know the residents receive excellent physical care, but are also treated with respect and dignity,” said Richardson, noting staff members demonstrate their care and compassion for the residents daily through every conversation, hand held, or care administered.

The award, offered annually to nursing homes in Vermont meeting certain criteria, looks at resident and family satisfaction, state survey results, participation and data entry into the National Advancing Excellence Quality Program, and lack of family complaints.

Good care contributes greatly to achieving those markers, but Richardson noted that it takes a larger team to have such a high-quality home for residents.

“The core of the recognition is the aides who give them care and the nurses who guide the care,” Richardson said, “but the facility is also clean, it has good food and it’s well-maintained. That’s what also makes it a quality place to live and work.”

The nursing home’s dedicated group of volunteers and chaplaincy volunteers also contribute greatly to Menig’s warmth and offerings, Richardson said.

“I’m very proud that Gifford staff has done that great of a job for all these years to meet the state’s highest award for quality for a nursing home. It shows what a great team we have working together,” Minsinger added.

Named for the late Howard and Gladys Menig of Braintree, Menig was first built attached to Gifford Medical Center in 1998 to provide enhanced quality of care to residents of the state-closed Tranquility Nursing Home in Randolph.

Repeatedly recognized for its high-quality care both on a state and national level, 30-bed Menig is the only nursing home in Orange County and highly sought after as a place to live one’s final years.

Now the hospital is hoping to provide care and housing options to a greater number of seniors through the creation of a senior living community in Randolph Center, to include independent living and a reconstructed Menig as well as assisted living in the future.

“This quality recognition is further evidence that we’re doing the right thing for our residents and poised to make an even greater difference in Randolph Center,” Director of Development and Public Relations Ashley Lincoln said.

Other/past awards for Menig

  • 2012 Honor Roll, U.S. News and World Report (a recognition given to only 39 nursing homes nationally receiving four straight quarters of five-star rankings in all categories evaluated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)
  • 2012 Best Nursing Homes, U.S. News and World Report (award also received in 2011)
  • Excellence in Action Award, from national resident/family surveying company My InnerView (2008-2011)
  • Nursing Home Quality Recognition, Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living and the Vermont Health Care Association (2011 and 2012)
  • Nursing Home Quality Award, Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living and the Vermont Health Care Association (2005-2010)
  • Gold Star Employer Award, Vermont Health Care Association (received during the seven consecutive years – 2005-2011 – the award was offered)
  • Registered Nurse of the Year, awarded to Menig nurse Judy Libby, Vermont Health Care Association (2006)
  • Nursing Director of the Year, awarded to staff member Brooks Chapin, Vermont Health Care Association (2005)

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.