Gifford Positioned for Changing Health Care Landscape

109th Annual Meeting celebrates forward-looking growth in programs and facility

Joe Woodin

Administrator Joe Woodin answers questions during Gifford Medical Center’s 109th Annual Meeting.

Nearly 100 community members gathered Saturday night for “Building for the Future,” Gifford Medical Center’s 109th Annual Corporators Meeting.

Reporting on an exciting and transformative year, administrators and board members highlighted the implementation of several long-term initiatives:

  • The new Menig Nursing Home, looking out over the green mountains in Randolph Center, will open—on time and on budget—mid-May 2015.
  • The hospital wing vacated by Menig will be converted into state-of-the-art private patient rooms to offer privacy for provider consultations and family visits, and to accommodate medical technology at the bedside.
  • A new organizational structure, created to reflect Gifford’s new Federal Qualified Health Center designation, will allow Gifford to offer enhanced preventative, dental, and behavioral health services to our patients.

“It’s been an extraordinary year,” Gifford Administrator Joe Woodin stated. “These initiatives strengthen the services we offer our patients and also position Gifford well for the future in an era of healthcare reform.”

Moving forward while making budget for the 15th consecutive year
After presenting the annual hospital report and a brief update on the uncertain state of Vermont’s healthcare policy, Woodin noted that Gifford has maintained ongoing fiscal stability while pushing ahead with these forward-looking initiatives. For the 15th consecutive year Gifford has made budget and achieved its state-approved operating margin. The culmination of years of research and planning, each of these new projects reflect Gifford’s commitment to providing quality community care for years to come.

New $5 million capital campaign launched
Lincoln Clark, board treasurer and co-chair of the “Vision for the Future” campaign, announced the launch of the public phase of the $5 million capital campaign.

“As of tonight this campaign is no longer silent,” Clark told the group. “It has been a remarkable experience—we started two and a half years ago with a vision, research, and a community survey. We decided then to wait until we raised 60 percent before going public, and we’ve exceeded that goal. We hope to reach the campaign’s $5 million goal by December 31st of this year.”

The “Vision for the Future” campaign supports the hospital’s conversion to industry-standard private patient rooms, and the construction of the new Menig Nursing home in Randolph Center. Menig, one of only twelve nursing homes in Vermont to retain a five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, will anchor the new Morgan Orchards Senior Living Community in Randolph Center.

Panel presentation describes a Gifford ready for tomorrow’s healthcare needs
A panel presentation looked at four recently implemented changes that will help Gifford provide for future community healthcare needs:

  • Dr. Martin Johns, medical director for Gifford’s FQHC and hospital division, talked about building the behind-the-scenes administrative structure now in place that will help Gifford provide expanded preventative, dental, and behavioral health services as a Federally Qualified Health Center.
  • Dr. Lou DiNicola, pediatrician, described the challenges staff faced while transitioning to a federally mandated Electronic Medical Record system. Now that the transition is complete, the benefits are clear: greater efficiency and improved patient care.
  • Alison White, vice president of Patient Care Services, talked about how important private patient rooms are for provider consultations, improved patient care, and how they will help bring medical technology to patients’ bedside.
  • Linda Minsinger, executive director for the Gifford Retirement Community, talked about plans for the new Morgan Orchard Senior Living Community in Randolph Center.

Gifford scholarships and awards presented
Bailey Fay was awarded the Dr. Richard J. Barrett Health Professions Scholarship, a $1,000 award for a Gifford employee or an employee’s child pursuing a health care education. Laura Perez, communications director of the Stagecoach Transportation Services, accepted the $1,000 Philip D. Levesque Memorial Community Award, given annually in recognition of his personal commitment to the White River Valley.

Randy Garner

Retiring board member Randy Garner was presented with a gift to honor his 12 years of service at Gifford Medical Center’s 109th Annual Meeting. Vice-President of the board Peter Nowlan looks on.

For the second year of a two-year commitment, the $25,000 William and Mary Markle Community Grant was given to schools in Gifford’s service area to promote exercise and healthy eating and lifestyles.

Board of trustees and directors election and service recognition
During the corporators business meeting, retiring member Randy Garner was presented with a gift to recognize his 12 years of service, and retiring board member Fred Newhall was recognized for his three years of service.

The following slate of new corporators were elected: Brad Atwood (Sharon); Rob and Linda Dimmick (Randolph Center); Dee Montie & Murray Evans (Brookfield); Joan Goldstein (South Royalton); Kelly Green (Randolph); Kate Kennedy (Braintree); Doreen Allen Lane (Berlin); Larry and Susan Trottier (South Royalton); Clay Westbrook (Randolph)

The following were elected officers of the board of directors: Gus Meyer, chair; Peter Nowlan, vice chair; Barbara Rochat, secretary; Lincoln Clark, treasurer.

Gifford’s Snow Warriors!

Gifford facilities crew

Facilities crew: Josh Doolittle, Bruce Jacobs, Stu Standish, Tom Maylin, Dennis McLaughlin, Frank Landry, and Patrick Giordano

It’s official: Vermont set a record for the coldest February. Since the year began, we’ve had storms and below-zero temperatures made even more brutal by gusting wind.

As we trek from warm cars into a warm building each workday, we’re thankful for the folks who keep Gifford’s sidewalks and parking lots cleared and safe for travel.

Patrick Giordano, facilities supervisor, says he’s seen snowier years, but this one has been challenging because it has been so consistently snowing.

This hard-working crew uses three tractors—one with a brush cleaner, one with a blower, and one with a bucket—as well as muscle and lots of shovels to keep entrances and pathways cleared for patients and staff.

Even if it’s only snowing lightly, someone is out shoveling to keep snow off the entrance circle, Emergency Room entrance, loading dock, and day care entrances, as well as all walkways. So the continuous snowfall has meant lots and lots of man hours for the facilities crew.

So far this year the snow piles have been cleared five times, and 320 dump truck loads of snow have been hauled away. The crew has spread 110 tons of salt to keep the lots and walkways safe.

Snow and cold brings lots of behind-the-scenes tasks as well: Gifford’s roofs must be shoveled off, and any roof snow that slides off on its own, blocking stairs or fire exits, has to be shoveled so that exits are kept clear. There have been hydraulic and electrical motor failures, a flat tire on the bobcat used to load salt, and broken chains on the snowplow—often at the most inconvenient times.

Gifford’s staff is grateful to this crew, which has endured bone-chilling temperatures when not getting soaked by ice and pelting snow.

“We’ve definitely had a lot of baked goods delivered to us this year, which is great!” says Giordano. “We all really appreciate that.”

Gifford Receives 2015 Business Excellence in Sustainability Award from White River Valley Chamber of Commerce

Emma Schumann and Ashley Lincoln

Emma Schumann, executive director of the White River Valley Chamber of Commerce (left) with Ashley Lincoln, director of Gifford’s development and public relations.

On February 6, Gifford received the 2015 Business Excellence in Sustainability award from the White River Valley Chamber of Commerce.

This award recognizes remarkable efforts to sustain and support the communities of the White River Valley, and was given to Gifford for its holiday gift certificate program.

The program, which distributes gift certificates redeemable at local businesses, allows Gifford to thank employees for their dedication and hard work while contributing to the economic health of the community it serves. Historically, within three weeks in December, Gifford employees spend nearly $40,000 at locally owned community businesses from Chelsea to Rochester, Sharon to Barre, and towns in between.

“For 14 years I have had the privilege of organizing this program, and I can honestly say that it is one of the more rewarding parts of my job. Some Gifford staff members have cried when they received their gift certificates,” said Ashley Lincoln, director of Development and Public Relations at Gifford. “Over the years many business owners have also told me how much Gifford’s support has meant to them during the slow winter months.”

Community has always been important to Gifford. Along with the gift certificate program, the medical center offers scholarships and grants each year to support area businesses and schools; during the growing and harvest season meals include produce from local farmers; and careful consideration of the community needs is considered when planning projects like the new senior living community being developed in Randolph Center.

Lincoln adds, “Nourishing and building healthy, sustainable communities ensures that we will be able to continue to provide quality local care for years to come.”

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.

Dr. Lou DiNicola Honored By the Vermont Medical Society

Dr. Lou DiNicola

Dr. Lou DiNicola with award and scroll

Randolph pediatrician and former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter, Louis DiNicola, M.D., received the Green Mountain Pediatrician Award on Friday, November 14 at the chapter’s annual meeting in Montpelier.

Surrounded by approximately 50 of his Vermont colleagues, Dr. DiNicola was acknowledged for over 38 years of service as a Gifford pediatrician. The award is given annually to an outstanding pediatrician for their dedication and contribution to children’s health in the state.

“I was very surprised,” Dr. DiNicola said. “It humbles me when I am recognized. I do what I love; this is what makes me tick.”

The award was presented by long-time friend and colleague, Dr. Kim Aakre of Springfield. In addition to a plaque, she presented a 7-foot handwritten scroll, describing what makes Dr. DiNicola special. The scroll added even more emotion to the event.

DiNicola shared, “I lost a longtime neighbor and friend earlier in the day. This handmade gift has helped fill that hole in my heart; the timing was perfect.”

Gifford’s Record of Success Continues for 15th Straight Year

Randolph hospital ‘makes’ budget, operating margin

Gifford 2014 budget

President Joseph Woodin and CFO Jeff Hebert announce via video that Gifford closed the books with a 3.2% margin for the 2014 fiscal year.

In a feat that has not been replicated by any other hospital in Vermont, Gifford Medical Center announced that it has achieved its state-approved operating margin for the 15th straight year, by managing its expenses and the budget process.

In a “reality TV” video announcement sent to staff on Monday, November 3, President Joseph Woodin and CFO Jeff Hebert announced what auditors have confirmed – Gifford closed the books with a 3.2% margin for the 2014 fiscal year.

“This is all thanks to the hard work and dedication of our staff,” said Woodin. “Without their diligent focus, always trying to manage quality and costs, we would not be able to have accomplished this.”

An operating margin is the money the medical center makes above expenses – needed to reinvest in programs, staff and facilities. Sixteen years ago, Gifford ended the fiscal year with a negative 16% margin ($2.9 million loss), after having lost money 4 out of 5 years. At that time, the future of the hospital was uncertain, with some state officials even asking if the hospital should be closed.

Today, Gifford is known as one of the most successful and innovative hospital and health care organizations in New England. They are designated a CAH (Critical Access Hospital), as well as an FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center); one of only three in the nation to carry that dual designation. They also operate a nursing home (Menig) that is rated one of the top 1% in U.S., and are currently constructing the first phase of a five-phase senior living community in Randolph Center, VT.

Consistently achieving the operating margin can be an indicator of an organization’s success. Despite record shortfalls in revenue for Vermont hospitals, including Gifford, Woodin noted the medical center was able to make up for revenue shortfalls through managing expenses and due to support from federal programs like 340B, a drug pricing program that in part generates revenue when Gifford patients fill non-generic, non-narcotic prescriptions at participating pharmacies.

“This news is exciting for Gifford and for the community,” said Woodin. “It is an indicator of Gifford’s health as a medical center, community organization, and employer. Primarily it means we’re stable, and we’re able to provide consistent care and services without facing cuts and uncertainty.”

The achievement is especially remarkable within the current economic climate and amid so many changes in health care, hospital officials also noted.

Ob/gyn team provides comprehensive care — and now total laparoscopic hysterectomies

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

Gifford ob/gyn teamGifford’s women’s health team has grown to include two new ob/gyns.

Dr. Sean Tubens and Dr. Melissa Scalera have joined gynecologist Dr. Ellamarie Russo-DeMara, as well as Gifford’s certified nurse-midwife team, in caring for women.

Dr. Sean Tubens
Dr. Tubens is a native of Baltimore who joined the U.S. Marines out of high school. He went on to work in his father’s trade – as a hairdresser – before illness took his parents’ lives just months apart. Dr. Tubens found himself wanting to do more and pursued a career in medicine.

He attended Towson University in Baltimore, graduating magna cum laude in just three years while working full-time. He went on to Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica in the West Indies and New Jersey and completed his ob/gyn residency at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Fla. During his residency, he worked exclusively on high risk pregnancies and performing gynecologic
surgeries.

His work at Bayfront earned him recognitions for excellence in laparoscopic surgery, excellence in reproductive endocrinology and as outstanding resident teacher of the year.

When it came time to look for a job, Dr. Tubens looked for a warm and friendly community where he and his wife could settle with their two huskies.

He has found that in Vermont and at Gifford.

“People are so welcoming. They smile. That’s very attractive,” said Dr. Tubens. “We hope we can spend the rest of our lives here.”

Dr. Melissa Scalera
A native of New Jersey, Dr. Scalera was the first person in her immediate family to go to college. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Williams College located just three miles south of Vermont in Williamstown, Mass. She worked at a direct marketing company that made and sold leather books before deciding that she wanted a change.

“I want to be a doctor,” she decided, quit her job, and moved in with her parents. With no science classes to her credit, she did two years of post-baccalaureate studies in the pre-medical curriculum at nearby Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., before attending the New Jersey School of Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark. She went on to residency at Albany Medical Center in nearby New York.

Since then she has worked for 13 years as an ob/gyn physician in Washington, Texas, Oregon, Pennsylvania, New Zealand, and North Carolina. A love of snow and skiing has brought her and her family to Vermont, and to Gifford.

“Gifford,” she says, is “a really fantastic match for me.”

A new team
Dr. Scalera brings a love of all things ob/gyn to the practice. Dr. Tubens is a new resource in high-risk pregnancies, gynecologic surgery as well as office procedures. Specifically, Dr. Tubens offers urogynecology procedures for uterine prolapse, bladder and rectal prolapse, and urinary incontinence. He also performs total laparoscopic hysterectomies – something not previously offered at Gifford.

Dr. Tubens and Dr. Scalera are currently working exclusively in Randolph. Their skills meld nicely with Dr. Russo-DeMara, who focuses on gynecologic and menopause care. Dr. Russo-DeMara works out of Gifford’s Bethel and White River Junction practices. Joining them are Gifford’s midwifery team, which focus on prenatal care and births as well as well-woman care in Randolph and Berlin.

“This new team is providing comprehensive women’s health medical and surgical services, from contraception to menopause management and everything in between,” explained Alison White, Gifford vice president of patient care services.

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.

Family Nurse Practitioner with Doctorate Degree Joins Gifford

Christina Harlow

Christina Harlow

A nurse practitioner with advanced degrees and diverse experience has joined Gifford Health Care’s family practice in Randolph.

Family nurse practitioner Christina Harlow holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Colorado Mesa University, a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Arizona College of Nursing in Tucson and a doctor of nursing practice degree from the same institution.

She is board certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, a member of the American Nurses Association, and has experience in emergency medicine, psychiatrics and more.

A native of Wisconsin, Harlow’s first career was as a mountain bike guide and a river guide in Utah and West Virginia. During that time, however, Harlow lost a brother to mental illness. Looking to her future, she knew she needed a more stable career. The loss of her brother struck an interest in better understanding depression and anxiety.

She went to nursing school and worked internationally as a volunteer in Honduras and Northern India and in the United States as a psychiatric registered nurse, then in specialty and inpatient care and finally in an emergency room. “I wanted to be more well-rounded, because psych is everywhere,” she says of her diverse experience.

She went on to nurse practitioner school and then took the extra step to earn her doctorate in the field.

She worked as an emergency department nurse practitioner in Colorado and as an adjunct professor at Adam’s State University, before deciding to move to Vermont with her family.

Her husband, Dr. Nathaniel Harlow, grew up in Vermont and wanted to be closer to family here.

The couple both joined Gifford – him as a sports medicine provider at the Sharon Health Center and her as a family medicine nurse practitioner in Randolph, where she is looking forward to getting to know her patients and providing well-rounded care.

“I wanted more than just a passing relationship with my patients,” she notes of her emergency department work. “I am really interested in continuity of care.”

In Harlow, patients will find a highly-educated, compassionate caregiver and open communicator.

“Being a nurse first, I have open communication with my patients. I nurse to my patients,” she says. “I like to focus on health. Your health is your wealth.”

“I also really embrace a holistic perspective,” she says, noting she considers a patient’s emotional and spiritual well-being in addition to more common inquiries about diet and exercise.

Harlow’s specific clinical interests include preventative care, women’s health, holistic care and mental illness. As a family nurse practitioner, she treats all ages as well as both men and women.

In her free time, Harlow – a competitive mountain biker, road cyclist, adventure racer, distance runner and climber – enjoys travel and the outdoors. She and her husband are currently living in Brookfield with their young daughter, Juliana, 1.

Harlow is seeing new patients. Call Gifford’s central scheduling line at 728-2777 to make an appointment with Harlow.

Fellowship-trained Sports Medicine Doctor Joins Sharon Health Center

Dr. Nathaniel HarlowDr. Nathaniel “Nat” Harlow grew up in Vermont, in Underhill, so when it came time to put his newly earned sports medicine fellowship to work, he looked to the Green Mountains of his childhood.

Dr. Harlow has joined Gifford Medical Center’s renowned sports medicine practice in Sharon.

A graduate of Brown University in Providence, R.I., he went on to medical school at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, Maine.

Interested in rural medicine, he completed a family medicine residency at St. Mary’s Family Medicine Residency in Grand Junction, Colo., and went on to work at a Critical Access Hospital in Del Norte, Colo., as an emergency department physician and director of emergency medicine for three years.

An avid climber, skier and mountain biker, Dr. Harlow had considered a sports medicine fellowship out of residency, but the program wasn’t yet developed.

Through his emergency physician role and through work with ski area clinics, he saw many skiing traumas and acute orthopedic injuries. The interest was sparked once more, and by now the fellowship program was developed.

He completed a primary care sports medicine fellowship at Rocky Mountain Orthopedics through St. Mary’s Family Medicine Residency in Grand Junction, Colo.

Already board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine, he went on to earn an additional Certificate of Added Qualification in sports medicine from the same board.

“I believe strongly in providing health care in rural, underserved areas,” says Dr. Harlow, and “I really wanted to come back to Vermont.”

He found just what he was looking for – rural medicine with a sports medicine focus at the Sharon Health Center.

“I’m very excited to be part of the practice. It’s such a strong team environment. It’s a unique practice setting for sports medicine,” he says.

In Sharon, Dr. Harlow is working alongside podiatrists, chiropractors, another sports medicine doctor, an athletic trainer and physical therapists.

Dr. Harlow practices full-spectrum primary care sports medicine including non-operative orthopedics care, as well as the medical aspects of sports medicine, such as care of concussions, sports pre-screenings for heart health, people with asthma and diabetics. He has strong interests in combining sports and wilderness medicine to care for the mountain athlete, using exercise as medicine for non-athletes to help treat and prevent chronic conditions, and osteopathic manipulation.

Friendly and approachable, Dr. Harlow listens to his patients and works with athletes and non-athletes alike to help them reach or return to fitness goals.

Dr. Harlow is a member of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, American Academy of Family Physicians and the Wilderness Medical Society.

Now living in Brookfield with his wife and fellow Gifford health care provider, family nurse practitioner Christina Harlow, and their 1-year-old daughter, Juliana, Dr. Harlow enjoys fly fishing and playing guitar in addition to mountain sports. He is also an avid volunteer, both at home and internationally. In fact, he hopes to reach out to area high schools and colleges to provide expertise in concussion management, for example.

To schedule an appointment or learn more, call him at the Sharon Health Center at 763-8000.