New Offices, Staff Increase Access for Berlin Primary Care Patients

This article was published in our Spring 2016 Update.

Berlin primary careIn late April patients at the Gifford Health Center at Berlin began seeing primary care providers in a new facility, just up the hill from the existing health center offices.

New providers Dr. Kasra Djalayer, nurse practitioner Elizabeth Saxton, and providers from Gifford’s Behavioral Health Team have joined nurse practitioner Jeff Lourie in the new Primary Care building, making it easier for area patients to build a relationship with a local provider. Ob/Gyn services are now available in Berlin, and our team of certified nurse-midwives will provide well-woman and prenatal care from offices in this new location.

The existing Health Center building, which opened in 2007, is now dedicated to specialty practices, including Orthopedics, Physical Therapy, Podiatry, Neurology, and Urology. The vacated primary care space has been renovated for physical therapy services on site. Also provided in the specialty clinic are enhanced lab, X-ray, and diagnostic technology services, which include MRI’s from a visiting mobile unit.

Both buildings are conveniently located off Airport Road, with plenty of open parking spaces. Call today: 224-3200 (Primary Care) or 229-2325 (Radiology & Specialty Clinic).

Sophisticated Equipment, Less Travel, Compassionate Care

This article was published in our 2015 Annual Report.

Gifford mammography

Gifford’s Lead Mammographer Terri Hodgdon

When Lead Mammographer Terri Hodgdon came to Gifford in 1991, the Radiology Department had four full-time employees and she took medical images in just two areas. Now patients come for mammography, ultrasound, X-rays, MRIs, and interventional radiology treatment. The darkrooms are gone (images are digital now), and the department is staffed by nearly a dozen people, including technologists at the Sharon and Berlin clinics.

This growth responded to a need for local radiology services, so patients could avoid travelling for care. Hodgdon sees primarily sports-related injuries when working in Sharon, but in Randolph she helps patients with mammograms, cardiac and lung issues. The newest procedures use interventional radiology (using medical imaging for breast biopsies, to place PICC lines, or to find and drain abscesses), which are less invasive than surgery.

“In radiology you have to be a perfectionist—it’s really important that everything is lined up perfectly,” said Hodgdon. “Still, easing people’s anxiety is a big part of my job. We’ve expanded. We have the newest technology, but helping the patient through the process still comes first. That’s stayed the same over the years.”

Nurse Practitioner Elizabeth Saxton Joins Gifford Primary Care

Elizabeth Saxton

Elizabeth Saxton

Nurse practitioner Elizabeth Saxton, APRN-AGNP, has joined Gifford’s primary care team. She is now seeing patients at the Gifford Health Center at Berlin, and also Gifford patients who live in nursing homes in the area.

Saxton first came to Vermont as a student at UVM, fell in love with the state, and has lived here ever since. After receiving a BA in history, she went on to receive her MS in Nursing from UVM.

Board-certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, she is also a member of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and the Vermont Nurse Practitioners Association. Her clinical interests include preventative health, eldercare, mood disorders, LGBQT support, and addiction treatment.

“I like to get to know my patients well, and to make sure they understand their diagnosis, how they will be treated, and how to get the most affordable medications,” she said. “Patient education is very important to me. I see myself as a collaborative and supportive resource for people.”

An outdoor enthusiast, she is an avid skier and enjoys biking, kayaking, hunting, and fishing when she us not working.

In Berlin, Saxton works with family nurse practitioner Jeff Lourie. Other providers at the Gifford Health Center at Berlin (located just off Airport Road) include specialists in Neurology, Orthopedics, Podiatry, Urology, and Midwifery. Call (802) 229-2325 for an appointment.

American Health Centers Inc. Sponsors Gifford Last Mile Ride

Mobile MRI provider donates $2K to annual fundraiser for end of life care

American Health Center donation for Last Mile Ride

Director of Ancillary Services Pam Caron, Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin, AHCI President and Chief Operating Officer Dr. Donald N. Sweet, and Radiologist Jeffrey Bath, M.D.

American Health Centers Inc. (AHCI) has donated $2,000 to the Last Mile Ride, Gifford’s annual fundraiser to support services for those with advanced illness or needing end-of-life care.

AHCI brings affordable mobile magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) units to community hospitals throughout Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. MRI is a safe and painless test that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed pictures of the body, and differs from a CAT scan because it doesn’t use radiation. The AHCI mobile magnetic unit serves patients at Gifford health centers in Randolph, Sharon, and Berlin.

“American Health Centers has been bringing services to Gifford patients since 2001,” said President and Chief Operating Officer Dr. Donald N. Sweet, who visited the hospital to deliver the donation. “We are very pleased to be able to honor this partnership by supporting the unique end-of-life services funded by the Last Mile Ride.”

“We are so grateful to have AHCI’s sponsorship in this 10th anniversary year of the Last Mile Ride,” said Gifford Director of Development Ashley Lincoln. “Funds raised this year will support the construction of a second Garden Room suite for patients and their families, and help us to expand access to special services that comfort those in life’s last mile.”

Gifford’s Last Mile Ride is an annual weekend fundraiser that supports special end-of-life services: a session for family photographs, massage, Reiki, or music therapy to help with relaxation and pain management; or funds to make one final wish come true. This year the 1-mile walk, and a timed 5-k run will be on Friday, August 14; the motorcycle and bike rides will be on Saturday, August 15. Learn more or register at www.giffordmed.org.

Podiatry care when you need it most

Emily Wheeler certainly didn’t want an injury so late in her pregnancy but was glad for the care she received

This article was published in Gifford’s Fall 2014 Update Community Newsletter.

Dr. Samantha HarrisEight months into her pregnancy, Emily Wheeler of Corinth didn’t expect to need a podiatrist.

But the unlikely happened. The day after her baby shower on a routine walk out her front door, she fell down her steps. Her first concern was for her baby and she rushed to Gifford’s Birthing Center for monitoring. Only after determining that her baby was fine did she go upstairs to the Emergency Department to have what she suspected was a broken ankle X-rayed.

She followed up with Gifford podiatrist Dr. Samantha Harris of the Gifford Health Center at Berlin. Dr. Harris confirmed Emily’s worry. Her ankle was fractured. She spent the last weeks of her pregnancy in an air cast and wheelchair.

Emily had never heard of Dr. Harris before. She is new to Gifford, but Emily was familiar with the Berlin health center. She was already going there for her prenatal care with Gifford’s midwives. Now she had another reason to go.

“She was really quick with the diagnosis and quick to give treatment,” says Emily, praising her new podiatrist. “The office there has been really great and Dr. Harris has been available.”

Emily delivered a healthy, 10-pound baby boy in August. Days later she headed back to Gifford Health Center at Berlin to get back on her feet once again and – now for a third reason – to have Owen’s first check-up.

About the health center
The Gifford Health Center at Berlin, located off Airport Road, offers a full spectrum of care, including family and internal medicine, help with infectious diseases, midwifery, neurology, orthopedics, urology, and podiatry.

About Dr. Harris
Dr. Harris joined Gifford in July from a practice in her native Tennessee. She got her start in medicine as a physical therapist and went on to attend Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine in Independence, Ohio. Her residency in podiatric medicine and surgery at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo followed.

A desire to start farming and produce maple syrup brought her to Vermont, and she found the right fit at Gifford, which is home to four podiatric surgeons working out of Gifford clinics in Randolph, Sharon, and Berlin.

Family Nurse Practitioner Joins Gifford Health Center at Berlin

Jeff Lourie

Jeff Lourie

Family nurse practitioner Jeff Lourie has brought his passion for primary care to the Gifford Health Center at Berlin.

A Cape Elizabeth, Maine, native, Lourie attended The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., earning his bachelor’s degree in organic chemistry. He went on to work in a research lab studying organic chemical synthesis before discovering that what he really wanted to do was help people – hands on.

He became a certified nursing assistant in his native Maine, and then went on to pursue his family nurse practitioner degree at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

From there he was certain of his career path: rural, primary care.

“It’s where you can really make a difference,” he says of primary care, noting that difference comes in the bonds formed with whole families. “When you see two, three, four generations of families, you really get to understand why things happen.”

Lourie worked for three years at a rural family practice in Wilton, Maine, before moving with his wife, Emily, to her native Vermont in 2013. The couple moved to Barre and Lourie went to work at Berlin Family Practice as a practitioner for Fletcher Allen Health Care.

This month he joined the Gifford Health Center at Berlin, part of Gifford Health Care in Randolph.

In Berlin, Lourie works with family nurse practitioner Tara Meyer in providing primary care at the multi-specialty health center located just off Airport Road.

Board certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, Lourie is a member of the American Nurses Association, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, and is on the board of The Vermont Nurse Practitioners Association.

He brings clinical interests in diabetes management, weight loss, preventative care, and pediatrics to the health center. He is also a certified medical examiner for those seeking a commercial driver’s license.

As a primary care provider, Lourie sees his role in part as a motivator and in part as an advocate for patient goals.

“My goal is to partner with patients,” he says. “I want to work on the issues that they want to work on.”

Lourie is seeing new patients of all ages. Call him at the Gifford Health Center at Berlin at (802) 229-2325.

Podiatrist Dr. Samantha Harris Joins Berlin Practice

Gifford podiatrist Samantha Harris

Dr. Samantha Harris

Drawn to the region because of the maple industry, podiatrist Dr. Samantha Harris has joined Gifford Medical Center, specifically the Gifford Health Center at Berlin.

A native of Nashville, Tenn., Dr. Harris started her medical career as a physical therapist, attending Tennessee State University in Nashville and working for seven years in the field before deciding to advance her career. “I wanted to be able to do more for patients and looked into medical school,” she said.

She considered a career in orthopedics but after two podiatric surgeries of her own – one on each foot a year apart – her eyes were opened to the field of foot and ankle surgery.

She attended the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine in Independence, Ohio, and then completed her residency in podiatric medicine and surgery at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo.

She returned to Tennessee to work in private practice before love and maple syrup had her looking to Vermont.

Dr. Harris’ significant other, Devin Randall, lives in Upstate New York and has a passion for maple production and farming. For the couple, that meant casting their eyes to Vermont. For Dr. Harris, Gifford, which is home to bustling podiatry practices, was the perfect fit.

“I felt like I had known everyone for years on the interview. It was like, ‘Wow, this place is perfect for me,’” says the personable caregiver. “I loved it.”

Gifford has multiple podiatrists, Dr. Rob Rinaldi, Dr. Nick Benoit and Dr. Paul Smith, practicing in Randolph, Sharon and Berlin. Dr. Harris joins the Berlin practice.

Podiatrists diagnose and treat disorders of the foot and ankle, from ingrown toenails and diabetic foot care to reconstructive surgery. Dr. Harris provides all types of podiatry care. Her physical therapy experience also brings extensive knowledge of the body and she is known for spending time with patients, listening and partnering with patients in their recovery.

“I understand the patient point of view as well as the physician point of view,” she says, recalling her own podiatric surgery experiences. “I can look from the inside out.”

Dr. Harris is accepting new patients. Call her at the Gifford Health Center at Berlin at (802) 229-2325 or schedule an appointment with any member of the podiatry team by calling Gifford’s central scheduling line at (802) 728-2777.

Project Independence Finds New Life in Gifford

Project Independence

Project Independence participants, from left, Marie, Diana and Kathy dance to singing and music by a visiting Chris Beltrami (not shown).

BARRE – The state’s first adult day center, Project Independence, got its start in Barre in 1975 when a nursing home activity director, Lindsey Wade, recognized an opportunity to do things better and more cost effectively.

Wade encountered nursing home residents who didn’t seem to medically belong there. Others were visiting the nursing home daily for the social interaction. Wade had an idea. The area needed an adult day care and not a medical model adult day, but a social model – something that didn’t exist anywhere else in the country.

An active board and an interested city brought to life Project Independence on Washington Street and in the decades since, its model has not only flourished but expanded statewide. There are currently 14 adult day programs in Vermont.

Project Independence

Project Independence Executive Director Dee Rollins visits with participants, from left, Flo, Gail, Beverly and Shirley as they wait to be served a home-cooked lunch that included baked macaroni and cheese and flavorful carrots.

Today’s Project Independence serves 23 towns in Washington and northern Orange counties, welcoming an average 38 seniors and the disabled each weekday. The project includes meals, showers, medication management and ample activities, allowing them a fun and safe day care experience while also allowing them to stay at home – a far more affordable model than nursing home care.

But statewide adult days are struggling. Funding available for adult days almost guarantees failure. “The Adult Day financial model is not a successful one,” says Project Independence Executive Director Dee Rollins. “It’s a continued struggle to support our model.”

And Project Independence has had some recent extra hurdles.

It bought a North Main Street location and moved in 2010. Less than a year later, in May of 2011, the building flooded during a period of torrential rains that had storm water draining through a bulkhead into the building’s basement causing $295,000 in damages and losses. The following summer a sewer hookup issue during Barre’s “Big Dig” caused backups and additional damages and losses.

Project Independence

Gifford licensed nursing assistant Penny Severance helps Project Independence participant, Maddie, to her table for lunch.

Between those losses and looming health care reform that promises changes to health care funding and encourages health care relationships, small, standalone Project Independence began looking for help in the form of a partner. It found it in Gifford Health Care in Randolph.

A merger
Project Independence of Barre and the Gifford Retirement Community, part of Gifford Health Care in Randolph, will merge at the conclusion of Gifford’s fiscal year on Sept. 30. Boards for the two nonprofit organizations unanimously agreed to the merger in May after studying the relationship for more than a year.

It will be a full asset merger with Project Independence retaining its name, location and fund-raising dollars. Project Independence’s board will become an advisory board to provide local perspective and experience, and employees will become part of Gifford, opening the door to enhanced benefits. Project Independence will benefit from Gifford’s staff, from financial to billing to nursing help, as well as its buying power as a larger organization.

For Project Independence it is an opportunity for financial stability and more amidst what have been a stormy couple of years and the projected financial changes under health care reform. For Gifford, it is an opportunity to further its work to support seniors and to partner with a reputable organization.

“It’s the right thing. It’s the right match. We have the right partner,” says Rollins, who was drawn to Gifford because it has its own adult day, the Gifford Adult Day Program in Bethel, shares a mission of supporting seniors and because of the Randolph hospital’s commitment to community.

Project Independence

Tammy Mattote, left, a licensed nursing assistant at Project Independence in Barre, serves participant Joanne lunch.

Gifford is currently building a senior living community in Randolph Center that will include a new nursing home and independent and assisted living units after seeing a need in the community for these services.

The Randolph medical center also already has services in the Barre area in the form of a health center off the Airport Road in Berlin. The Gifford Health Center at Berlin is home to family medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine, infectious disease, midwifery, orthopedics, podiatry, neurology and urology services.

“The combination of the two of us makes a lot of common sense and a lot of business sense,” Project Independence Board Chairman Steve Koenemann said, calling his board’s vote a very easy one to make and the plan “a no-lose proposition.”

“The goal is try to see the program grow,” Koenemann said. “We don’t want to change Project Independence. It has nearly 40 years of experience and reputation serving that community that’s not something that you want to back away from.”

“It’s not taking away anything from Project. It’s all additions,” added Rollins.

Gifford employees have already been providing support to Project Independence over the last year as the two organizations have carefully studied a merger.

Project Independence

Project Independence staff pose in front of the North Main Street adult day center in Barre. The center will merge with Gifford Health Care in Randolph this fall.

“When someone has a humble request for help as it relates to the delivery of health care services, we take that seriously,” said Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin, praising Project Independence’s board, values, volunteers and hardworking team. “For us, that’s extraordinarily appealing and we’re thankful that they’ve asked us.”

“We feel this is an honor that they asked,” agreed Linda Minsinger, Gifford Retirement Community executive director. “This is the right thing to do. It’s really important that these participants have a place that will carry on.”

Joining with Project Independence is in keeping with Gifford’s mission and providing support to a needed service that will no doubt grow as the state looks for more affordable ways to care for a growing senior population, said Gifford Board Chairman Gus Meyer.

“When you’re a very small organization, you don’t have the staff to do all of the different things to be done. It’s extremely difficult and it’s extremely draining to make an organization of that size successful. They’ve done a great job of keeping their organization alive in the face of huge challenges and at the same time provided a great service,” Meyer said. “A larger organization is much more able to absorb things that just come up. If there’s some facilities’ damage, it doesn’t become devastating.”

That is a scenario that has Project Independence breathing a sigh of relief.

“We are just all so encouraged. This just brings a true breath of fresh hope,” Rollins said. “We’re dancing in the streets.”

Well, maybe in the living room.

Project Independence participants – most of whom think of their home away from home as “the club” not an adult day center – let up a cheer upon hearing the news from Rollins that “the club” would merge with Gifford.

Staff members, who have been part of what have been very transparent discussions, were equally enthusiastic.

Cook Pam Bresette of South Barre said, “I think it’s going to be fabulous.”

Office Administrator Sue Catto of Barre took her job a year ago knowing positive changes were coming.

Licensed nursing assistant Amanda Koledo of Barre hopes to go to nursing school. Gifford provides tuition reimbursement.

Koledo has worked at Project Independence for six years. “I think it’s so exciting,” she said. “We’re on an island and we’ll now have life jackets.”

New Midwives Join Renowned Practice

Gifford nurse-midwivesThis article was featured in our Spring 2014 Update Community Newsletter.

Gifford renews its decades-long focus on providing area women 24/7 midwifery care with the addition of two new midwives.

Certified nurse-midwives Maggie Gardner and April Vanderveer have recently joined Kathryn Saunders and Meghan Sperry at Gifford Ob/Gyn and Midwifery in Randolph and the Gifford Health Center at Berlin. Certified nurse-midwives are advanced practice nurses specially licensed to practice midwifery and board certified.

Nurse-midwives plays an essential role in providing women’s health care throughout life, including at birth. This unique commitment to midwifery care is what attracted Maggie and April.

“The institution’s commitment to midwifery goes beyond just the midwives in the office. It’s the nurses in the Birthing Center, the layout of the Birthing Center itself where moms labor, birth and stay post-partum in the same room, and the administration’s commitment to making the practice successful,” said Maggie of the state’s oldest Birthing Center of its kind.

The strongest component of Gifford’s unique program is woman-centered care.

“The team is committed to women-centered care and respect for each family’s unique needs during pregnancy and childbirth,” April explains.

“We have longer visits than many other prenatal clinics, meaning we take the time to really listen to women about their concerns and questions,” April said.

And as mindsets over birthing have changed, the practice has changed with it.

“We are the oldest midwifery practice in the state of Vermont with a solid commitment to birth with women, encouraging women to decide how they want to birth. We move with the times. That is, we have everything from non-medicated births and water births to women who desire medication such as epidurals,” noted Kathryn.

In 2013, 14 percent of midwifery patients chose to have an epidural and 10 percent chose an intrathecal. Sixty-five percent of patients had natural births.

“We believe in a woman’s body’s ability to have a natural birth, but we also respect women who choose otherwise,” Meghan said. “We do not judge. We care and are open to the ideas of our clients.”

Certified Nurse Midwife Joins Randolph, Berlin Practices

April Vanderveer

April Vanderveer

April Vanderveer, a certified nurse-midwife and women’s health nurse practitioner, has joined the Gifford Ob/Gyn & Midwifery team.

Vanderveer is an experienced birthing center nurse who went on to nurse midwifery school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She also has a bachelor’s of science degree from the University of Vermont and a bachelor’s in nursing degree from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

It was her own Vermont birthing experience that prompted Vanderveer to pursue a nursing and then a midwifery degree. “I had an absolutely wonderful midwife, and she inspired me to look into it,” said Vanderveer, a native of California who moved to Vermont in 1991.

Vanderveer worked for 11 years at Copley Hospital in Morrisville as a Birthing Center nurse learning to care for moms and babies before and while in midwifery school.

As part of her schooling, she did nine months of clinical training at Gifford. “I just really liked the culture here. The midwives and the Ob nurses were really fantastic, and I just felt like this is where I wanted to work,” she said.

She realized that dream this month when she joined certified nurse-midwives Meghan Sperry, Kathryn Saunders and Maggie Gardner in practice at Gifford in Randolph and the Gifford Health Center at Berlin.

Vanderveer calls Gifford’s midwifery team a “cohesive group.” “I’m really excited to join a team of excellent practitioners,” she said.

Vanderveer is board certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board. Because of her unique training as a women’s health nurse practitioner, her clinical interests include women’s care across the lifespan.

She describes her approach as collaborative, where the patient is a member of the care team. She also strives to incorporate evidence-based practices (best standards of care) into patient’s individualized needs and goals.

Vanderveer lives in Waterville. She is married to a chef, Chase Vanderveer, and previously owned Winding Brook Bistro in Johnson with him. Together they have three children, ages 13, 14 and 17. Vanderveer enjoys the outdoors, kayaking and downhill skiing, as well as cross-country skiing, hiking, gardening and playing Frisbee golf on the family’s property.

Call Vanderveer or another member of the Gifford midwifery team in Randolph at (802) 728-2401 or in Berlin at (802) 229-2325.