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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.”
This 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.”
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.
Maggie Gardner was studying sociology at the University of Vermont when a nurse-midwife came to speak during a class on reproduction.
Gardner’s first thought: “I want to be her.”
Today, she is.
After graduating from the University of Vermont in 2001, Gardner went to work for that midwife’s home birth practice, Welcoming Home Family Nurse-Midwifery in Hinesburg. Gardner was the office manager and assistant, both clerically and clinically, including assisting at births.
She went on help start a midwifery practice in her hometown of Vergennes, Tapestry Midwifery, and returned to the University of Vermont, undertaking the master’s entry program in nursing and earning her registered nurse certificate. Next was nurse midwifery school at the Frontier Nursing University in Kentucky – a master’s degree program.
And now, Gardner, a Vermont native, is working at one of the state’s most coveted certified nurse-midwifery practices – Gifford Ob/Gyn and Midwifery.
Board certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board and a member of the American College of Nurse Midwives, Gardner is seeing patients at Gifford’s clinics in Randolph and Berlin.
“I’m excited,” says Gardner, calling Gifford’s practice on the top of the pedestal when it comes to midwifery. “It has a strong reputation in the midwifery community.
“Many people don’t get to choose where they work. I get to choose to work at a place that’s committed to midwives.”
Gifford’s practice, she notes, takes the best of the home and hospital birth experience, and combines them into a natural, hospital-based midwifery birth.
Gardner will do the same in her practice at Gifford as well as focusing on open communication, equal partnerships with patients and families, and individualized care.
Gardner cares for all types of patients, from women needing routine gynecologic care to women expecting a baby, but has special interests in breast feeding support, Pap test follow-up, testing for and educating women on risk factors for sexually transmitted infections, and sexual health.
Those interests in part incorporate Gardner’s other work experience. In addition to her midwifery experience, Gardner has worked in pediatrics, emergency medicine, and infectious disease at Fletcher Allen Health Care in primarily office assistant type roles, and most recently was a manager at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, where she was responsible for the implementation of a new centralized lab management system for 21 Planned Parenthood health centers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
Gardner lives in the home in which she grew up in Vergennes. She is married and has two children, a 15-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old.
Call Gardner and the midwifery team at Gifford at 728-2401.
This article appeared in our Fall 2013 Update Community Newsletter.
Pediatrician Dr. Pam Udomprasert with a young patient
Family health center now meeting even more of community’s needs for care
Pediatrician Dr. Pam Udomprasert joins the family medicine team at the Gifford Health Center at Berlin beginning this October.
“Dr. Pam,” as patients affectionately know her, is a graduate of SUNY Downstate College of Medicine in Brooklyn and completed her three-year residency at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford.
She worked in Connecticut before joining Gifford and moving with her family to Randolph in 2011.
Board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and the National Board of Medical Examiners, she is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. She has a special interest in lactation support as well as asthma and allergies.
Personable and responsive, Dr. Pam continues to see patients in Randolph part of the week. In Berlin, she joins family nurse practitioners Sheri Brown and Tara Meyer as well as internal medicine physician/infection control practitioner Dr. Jim Currie.
The diverse team is available to care for all of your primary care needs, from birth through end-of-life.
The clinic is also home to Gifford’s remarkable team of certified nurse-midwives providing prenatal and well-woman care, neurologist Dr. Robin Schwartz, orthopedist Dr. Stephanie Landvater and podiatrist Dr. Kevin McNamara.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Pam or another member of the Berlin team, call 229-2325.
Class focuses on chronic disease self-management and peer support
BERLIN – A new Healthier Living Workshop series begins Oct. 24 and continues Thursdays through Dec. 5 from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Gifford Health Center at Berlin. (There is no class on Thanksgiving.)
Healthier Living Workshops are six-week classes for people with chronic conditions and their caregivers. They are offered for free – along with chronic pain workshops – throughout the year by Gifford 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 Gifford’s Blueprint office at the Kingwood Health Center at (802) 728-7100, ext. 6.
The Gifford Health Center at Berlin is located at 82 East View Lane, just off the Airport Road in Berlin. For directions and more information, visit www.giffordmed.org.
BERLIN – Physician assistant Jayne Collins of Greensboro has joined orthopedic surgeon Dr. Stephanie Landvater in practice at the Gifford Health Center at Berlin.
A Montpelier native and graduate of Franklin Pierce University, Collins brings her extensive knowledge of anatomy and body mechanics to outpatients, including through injury evaluation, during pre- and post-operative appointments and more.
Orthopedists provide non-surgical and surgical care for people with injuries, diseases and abnormalities of the bones, joints and tendons, or musculoskeletal system. Collins has 25 years of experience as an athletic trainer and physical therapist.
In addition to her physician assistant master’s degree from Franklin Pierce, Collins has a master’s in sports medicine from Springfield College in Massachusetts and bachelor’s degrees in physical therapy from SUNY (The State University of New York) at Stony Brook and physical education/athletic training from Springfield College.
She spent several years as an athletic trainer in New York before returning to Vermont and launching a decades’ long career in physical therapy. She worked at Central Vermont Medical Center as a physical therapist and managed Green Mountain Sports Physical Therapy II in Montpelier before opening her own practice in Waterbury in 1990. She was the owner, director and a senior therapist at Family Physical Therapy Inc. in Waterbury for 20 years prior to realizing her dream of becoming a physician assistant.
“It was the next step in my medical education and career goals. In addition to still helping people heal, I would be able to help manage their orthopedic health care,” Collins says.
And she wanted to work with Dr. Landvater.
“From my years of experience as a physical therapist working with Dr. Landvater’s patients, one of my loftiest goals was to work as Dr. Landvater’s physician assistant because of her practice ethics, how much her patients mean to her and the quality of health care she gives her patients,” says Collins.
Working with Dr. Landvater at the Gifford Health Center at Berlin also means giving back to the area.
“I’m native to central Vermont and it’s nice to be able to continue to work in the community that I was raised in, raised my family in and worked in for years.”
Collins goals came to fruition in September when she became a member of the Berlin team. In addition to her work at Gifford, she is a family medicine physician assistant at a small practice in Swanton.
Collins is certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants and a member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the Physician Assistant Academy of Vermont, Vermont and national physical therapy and athletic training organizations, the American Diabetes Association and the Vermont Association of Diabetes Educators.
Her clinical interests include general orthopedics, sports medicine and injury prevention.
Collins is married with two adult sons, who serve in the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her horse, photography and scrapbooking.
Call Collins and Dr. Stephanie Landvater at the Gifford Health Center at 229-2325. The health center is located at 82 East View Lane, just off the Airport Road.
Gifford also provides orthopedics care in Randolph.