Married couple Elvira Dana and Jason Kass live and work in Armenia, a developing country once part of the Soviet Union. When it came time to have children, however, Dana and Kass looked outside of Armenia for care.
Elvira Dana and Jason Kass hold 3-year-old Gideon and newborn Natalie at a family home in Northfield. The married couple has come home to Vermont from Armenia – traveling for 36 hours – to have both their children at Gifford Medical Center.
They looked to Dana’s native Vermont, specifically Gifford Medical Center in Randolph.
For each of their child’s births – first Gideon three years ago and then Natalie late last month – the family flew back to Vermont.
“When Gideon came along we decided very quickly we needed to be back in the U.S. for the birth,” says Dana, who grew up in Northfield and was one of Gifford’s early Birthing Center patients nearly 35 years ago.
She got her prenatal care – such that it was – in Armenia and e-mailed test results and information to Gifford’s team of certified nurse-midwives. “They were willing to be flexible about some pretty strange pre-natal care,” says Dana, noting some documents sent had been translated from Russian and Armenian.
At 36 weeks of pregnancy (the latest point in a pregnancy that women are recommended to fly and often the latest point an airline will allow a pregnant woman in the air) Dana, with Kass at her side, traveled the 36 hours home. Gifford childbirth education and lactation consultant Nancy Clark provided the couple a crash course in birthing.
Gideon was born the morning after that final birthing class. He arrived two weeks early and just two-and-a-half hours after Dana made it to the hospital.
Hurricane Sandy this year delayed the family’s flight and Dana ended up flying – a bit nervously – at 37 weeks. But Natalie was patient, arriving on Nov. 26, one day after her due date and about an hour and forty-five minutes after the family made it to the hospital.
In both instances, says the couple, the atmosphere, low-intervention birth experience, and friendliness of staff were exactly what the family was seeking.
“Nobody was stressed. It was so calm. It was just us, a midwife and a nurse with no beeping noises. Everyone we interacted with was so kind, including the cleaning and food services staff,” Dana says.
Pediatrician Dr. Lou DiNicola – Dana’s pediatrician growing up – checked on both babies following their births. The children have both gotten their pediatric care at Gifford while they’re in the state. And in fact, they even called Gifford, reaching Dr. DiNicola as the on-call pediatrician, when Gideon spiked a high fever in Armenia and the couple didn’t know what to do, says Kass, 37 and formerly of Randolph Center.
It is the consistency of the care provided at Gifford, says Dana, that gives the couple the confidence to fly in and give birth with a midwife they may never have met or entrust their child’s care with a pediatrician who may not be a familiar face.
“Mostly we just feel so incredibly lucky,” says Dana, cradling her newborn.
Service through the Peace Corps first took Dana to Armenia in 2005. Putting her master’s degree in teaching English as a second language to work, she taught English and trained teachers. She then was hired as Armenia country director of American Councils, a non-profit that administers U.S. State Department and international educational programs, including student exchanges.
Jason joined her in Armenia in 2008, working in the scant Armenia job market and for meager Armenian wages as a head gardener at a renovated public park.
Presently staying with family in Northfield, the couple and their now two children will fly back to Armenia on Feb. 4. Natalie will need a passport before they can go. Bilingual young Gideon is on his second passport, having already filled one in his three years of life.
The family hopes to make Vermont their permanent home one day again soon – at least by the time Gideon will start school.
The Kass family plays together. They are in Vermont from Armenia to have their latest child, newborn Natalie, at Gifford Medical Center’s Birthing Center.
RANDOLPH – Anne Galante never planned to be a physician.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Upstate New York, Galante graduated from Cornell University and worked in insurance in Los Angeles and then New York City for a decade. While in New York, she began volunteering in the Emergency Department in Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn. “It was very easy to be helpful,” Galante recalls. She cleaned rooms. She held children while they got stitches. She hugged patients newly diagnosed with cancer.
Then she started doing ride-alongs with an ambulance crew, going into to some of the city’s worst neighborhoods.
The experiences gave her stories to tell her friends until one evening during a gathering with those same friends, Galante was suddenly aware that her interest in medicine was more than idle curiosity. “God’s finger thumped my head. I had a calling. I said, ‘I think I’m going to try to go to medical school.’”
“I might as well have said I was going to fly without a plane.”
But soon she found her plane.
She enrolled in medical school at the University of Vermont in 1994, graduating in 1998 and going on to a four-year obstetrics/gynecology internship and residency at Albany Medical Center Hospital in New York.
She initially thought emergency medicine was her calling, but the very first clinical rotation she worked in medical school was in gynecology, and it stuck. “I just loved it, and I loved surgery,” says Dr. Galante, who was intrigued with women’s health.
She went on to work for four years at Porter Medical Center in Middlebury and then worked for an additional four years as a travelling physician filling in where needed. (The industry calls this a locum tenens.) She worked as the “house” ob/gyn on the Rosebud (Lakota Sioux) reservation in South Dakota, at Copley Hospital in Morrisville, at Springfield Hospital and at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph.
She has filled in at Gifford since 2009, but when the opportunity to transition to a full-time, employed provider presented itself this year, Dr. Galante was enthusiastic.
“I’m very happy. I feel like I came home. It’s wonderful to walk into a place where people already know you. They’re confident in you,” she says.
Gifford is renowned for its Birthing Center and midwifery and obstetrics team. In addition to collaborative birth support, Dr. Galante also provides a wide range of well-woman care, including adolescents’ gynecology, care for abnormal pap smears, colposcopies, sexual dysfunction, standard well-woman visits, and perimenopausal help.
Board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, she is a fellow with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and has worked as a volunteer physician with organizations such as Medicine in Action caring for women in Jamaica, Haiti, and Tanzania and at the Open Door Clinic in Middlebury.
A mother of two, Isabelle, 11, and Jackson, 10, Dr. Galante is a New Haven resident, published photographer, sailor, cyclist, and cook.
She sees patients at Gifford Ob/Gyn and Midwifery in Randolph. Call her (802) 728-2401.
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 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.