This article was published in our Fall 2015 Update.
Anyone who has suffered chronic muscle and bone pain knows that it can be difficult to find a treatment that relieves the discomfort. Sometime these injuries can significantly impair mobility, or your ability to enjoy daily activities.
“We’re always looking for new ways to treat these conditions because one person’s response can differ from that of someone else who has the same condition,” said Sharon Health Center Sports Medicine Specialist Dr. Peter Loescher.
Loescher suffers from chronic tendonitis of the knee himself, so he was especially open to trying out a new technology that might help similar conditions. He recently tested the EPAT (extracorporeal pulse activation technology) tool, a hand held device that looks like a small hairdryer, which uses pressure waves to increase blood flow to regenerate damaged tissue and promote healing. He liked that the tool offered a non-invasive treatment option to traditional cortisone injections or plasma replacement needle therapy.
“EPAT is especially good with repetitive injuries—carpenters elbow, tennis elbow, and some knee conditions,” Loescher said. “The body has long since given up trying to heal these daily repetitive injuries, and EPAT can help restart the body’s own healing process.”
After successfully using the technology on himself and other staff members at the Sharon Health Center, Loescher began a 3-month trial with patients who had not found a successful treatment plan and were willing to try something new.
Chronic shoulder pain interfered with work, limited daily routines
Randolph Personal Fitness Trainer Ginger Potwin came to see Dr. Loescher when the exercises and anti-inflammatory medication prescribed by an orthopedist failed to ease increasing pain in her shoulders. Over the course of a year, her daily activities caused flare-ups, and each time her symptoms worsened. She worried that she would be unable to continue working as a trainer.
“The flare-ups in both shoulders prevented me from doing outside activities like raking the lawn, shoveling, and gardening. Also, doing household chores such as mopping and folding laundry proved challenging,” she said. “I was unable to demonstrate exercises to clients.”
Initially Loescher used a needle to break up significant calcium deposits in both of Potwin’s shoulders. He mentioned that EPAT therapy might help her condition, and Potwin decided to try it.
I felt immediate results,” said Potwin, who has had four EPAT treatment sessions. “Following each session I noticed increased range of motion in my shoulders and the pain significantly subsided—including the flare-ups with regular activities.”
Potwin says that the EPAT session lasted about seven minutes (her needle therapy sessions were about 40 minutes), with a post-treatment recovery time of a few days compared to the two weeks she had previously experienced. When she first began EPAT she had about 20 percent use of her shoulders—this increased to about 70 percent after the first treatment. Very quickly she was once again able to demonstrate exercises to her clients, which is critical for her work.
“I am back to my normal routines: I am able to rake my yard, garden, and fold clothes without pain or potential flare ups,” says Potwin. “I am also training for a thirteen mile obstacle race (Spartan Beast Race) in Killington this fall. I would have not been able to participate in this race if my shoulders were in the condition they were in prior to the EPAT treatment!”
To learn more about EPAT therapy, call the Sharon Health Center at
This article was published in our Fall 2015 Update.
With the unique ongoing relationship primary care providers establish with patients and families, they may be among the first to recognize that someone is struggling with depression, anxiety, or even substance abuse.
This year Gifford expanded the Behavioral Health team (it now includes a psychiatrist, a master’s level psychotherapist, a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, and a psychiatric nurse practitioner) to help primary care providers identify ongoing issues and help patients get the support and care they need.
“There are people in our community who are struggling with sadness, depression, are grieving a loss, or are overwhelmed by money issues. We want them to know that they can get help,” said Gifford’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Martin Johns.
He notes that the new Behavioral Health team will complement the work of the Clara Martin Center, which handles more long term psychotherapy needs, and offers a depth of expertise that is unusual in a small rural hospital.
“Having behavioral health expertise onsite to assist in the emergency room if needed, or to consult on inpatient and outpatient care, will allow our primary care provider to help more patients manage mental illness issues,” he said.
Behavioral Health Director Dr. Peter Thomashow says his team looks closely at how biological, psychological, and social factors influence health. They offer individual, couples, and family psychotherapy and education and also collaborate with primary care providers to help them manage depression in patients.
“We are especially interested in helping individuals having difficulty coping with chronic medical illness,” said Thomashow. “Behavioral health needs to be integrated into a primary care plan, especially when treating chronic illness.”
The Behavioral Health clinic services include comprehensive evaluation and treatment for a wide range of psychiatric disorders for adults (age 18 and older) including:
Gifford welcomes experienced primary care physician to community health center team
Dr. Laura Barber
Dr. Laura Barber, MD, has joined the Chelsea Health Center, bringing more than 20 years of experience caring for families as a primary care physician.
When the private primary care group practice she had led in Abilene, Texas recently dissolved, rather than affiliate with a larger healthcare organization, Dr. Barber saw an opportunity to move to New England, where her son and sister live.
“When I visited the Chelsea Health Center, I liked what I saw,” she said. “I like to get to know people over a period of time, to work with entire families. This is the kind of patient-centered care I want to be doing.”
Barber earned a BS from Newcomb College of Tulane University, and an MD at the University of Texas Medical School, San Antonio. She completed her family practice residency at the Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene Texas, stayed on in private practice, and has been president of Abilene Primary Care Associates since July of 1996.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Barber often visited a small rural Eastern Texas town that inspired her first dreams of becoming a physician.
“I loved science and working with people, and medicine combined these interests. As it turned out, I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she said. “My first dream was to set up a practice over the post office in that small rural town I’d come to love as a child.”
That Texan town was later ruined by strip mining, but Barber and her sister, who has owned a cabin in Tunbridge since the early 80’s, say the area around Chelsea brings back memories of the rural community they had loved as children and “feels like home.”
The move cross-country makes sense in other ways as well. One of Barber’s three sons is working with a technology firm in Nashua, NH. And Barber and her husband, avid history buffs, have purchased the historic Federal-style Denison house in Royalton Village.
“I was up until midnight the night we purchased it, rubbing orange oil and bees wax on the dry, old wood paneling!” she said.
Dr. Barber is board-certified by the American Board of Family Practice and a fellow of the American Academy of Family Practice. At the Chelsea Health Center she joins physician assistant and Chelsea native Rebecca Savidge, and is now seeing new patients. Call for an appointment at 802-685-4400.
Podiatrist Jonathan Bjork has joined Gifford Medical Center’s Randolph and Sharon clinics.
A board-certified podiatrist, he received a BS from St. Olaf College, a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine from Des Moines University, and completed his Podiatric Medicine and Surgery Residency at the William S. Middleton VA hospital in Madison, Wisconsin.
While in medical school, Bjork chose to specialize in podiatry because it would offer opportunities for a varied practice: performing surgery, working in a clinic, helping patients with rehabilitation, and treating sports injuries. He brings widespread clinical interests to his work, from rear foot and ankle surgery, flat foot reconstruction, and heel spur resection to diabetes-related infections, sports injuries, and treatment for bunions and hammertoes.
“I like to develop good, ongoing relationships with patients so I can get to know their needs and expectations,” said Bjork. “This allows me to consider a patient’s specific concerns when treating injuries or infections.”
Bjork and his wife have family near Boston and were looking to settle in a small town where they could raise their 4-month-old son. They have purchased a home near the hospital with a yard (space for a golden retriever) and easy access to the outdoor activities they love: skiing, mountain biking, and hiking.
“Randolph is a very warm and welcoming community,” said Bjork. “It is smaller than Platteville, Wisconsin, where I grew up, but it reminds me of my home.”
Bjork is the newest member of Gifford’s team of podiatrists, which includes Dr. Nicolas Benoit (Randolph), Dr. Samantha Harris (Berlin), and Dr. Paul Smith (Sharon). He is now accepting new patients at our Randolph and Sharon locations—call 728-2777 to schedule an appointment.
The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.
Dr. Martin Johns
One evening when I was on duty, a 911-call patient was brought into the emergency room. The patient was unresponsive and unable to communicate.
I pulled up the electronic medical record and was able to see that he had been given a new medication when seen at a Gifford clinic earlier that day.
Clearly he was having a delayed allergic reaction, and because I could see exactly what medication he was given, I could immediately give him the appropriate antidote. If I had not had access to the information in EMR, I would have had to guess and start trying different medicines to counteract the reaction.
When another patient was confused about what medications they were taking, I pulled up their most immediate office note on EMR and made adjustments based on what had been done within the previous 24-hour period.
An important aspect of the new EMR system is that it allows medical information to follow the patient through transitions of care across all Gifford platforms: inpatient care, outpatient care in community clinics, radiology, and emergency room visits.
In the past, important information could be unavailable or even lost during these transitions—a clinic might be closed for the day, or important information not yet added to a patient’s record. Now, anyone caring for a patient can view important information and also update the record (adding a newly developed allergy or immunization) or note changes in clinical status.
Jeffrey Bath and Alan Ericksen integrate medical imaging expertise into patient care
Dr. Jeffrey Bath
With the arrival of two new radiologists, Gifford Medical Center has created its first employee-staffed Radiology Department. Gifford previously contracted radiology services through outside private practices.
Radiologists are physicians who specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases and injuries using medical imaging techniques—X-rays, Computed Tomography (CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Ultrasound, Bone Density, Nuclear Medicine, and Mammography. They work closely with providers to provide accurate diagnoses and treatment recommendations.
“Having everyone on staff allows a seamless collaboration between the radiologists and our providers,” said Director of Ancillary Services Pam Caron. “We offer up-to-date diagnostic technology services to our patients, and having these physicians on staff strengthens our ability provide to personalized patient care close to home, with experts who are part of our community.”
Dr. Jeffrey Bath worked as a locum tenens at Gifford last summer and returned as a permanent employee in March. Previously he had a private practice affiliated with the North Adams (MA) Regional Hospital, which closed in 2014.
“I chose to specialize in radiology because I was attracted to the science side of medicine,” Bath said. “I like to troubleshoot and work closely with other providers to find the best way to deliver patient care.”
Dr Bath earned his BS and MD degrees from Tufts University and began training in Internal Medicine before changing to radiology. He completed a residency in Diagnostic Radiology at SUNY Upstate Medical University.
Dr. Alan Ericksen
Dr. Alan Ericksen joined Bath in Gifford’s Radiology department in May. He was partner and vice-president of Radiology Associates of Bennington (practicing at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Mary McClellan Hospital) before moving with his family to Tennessee in 2003, where he worked in practices that served several hospitals and as a locum tenens.
“After 12 years in Tennessee I really missed the country, so I am very glad to be back in Vermont,” Ericksen said. “I also enjoy meeting and talking with patients, which is possible in a small hospital setting like Gifford.”
Dr. Ericksen earned a BS from Houghton College and an MD from New Jersey Medical School. He completed a residency in internal medicine before deciding to become a radiologist, and then completed a diagnostic radiology residency (both at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School).
A child prodigy whose artwork was displayed in the Met and Louvre, he says that radiology offered him a way to connect his interest in the visual with his interest in medicine. He still paints and exhibits, and also plays the French horn.
To learn more about Gifford’s Radiology department and the services offered visit www.giffordmed.org/Radiology or call 802-728-2214.
Physician Assistant Leslie Osterman has joined Gifford’s primary care team and is now seeing patients in the Randolph and Bethel clinics.
She previously worked for 10 years as respiratory therapist at Fletcher Allen, where she learned about patient care offered by physician assistants (PA). PA’s are specially trained to examine, diagnose, and treat patients under the supervision of a medical doctor (MD).
“I was drawn to the PA’s more holistic approach to patient care, their focus on preventive medicine, and the way they act as a resource for their patients,” she said. “I also liked the PA’s team approach in sharing knowledge and decision making.”
Osterman decided to pursue a career in primary care and returned to school, getting her BA at Johnson State and taking additional classes at CCV before entering Franklin Pierce University. She graduated last spring with masters of Physician Assistant Studies.
As part of her training she completed rotations in area facilities including smaller hospitals in New London, Plainfield, St. Albans, and at UVM and DHMC. She did three rotations at Gifford (in pediatric and adolescent care, surgery, and obstetrics and gynecology), where she was especially impressed by the staff’s friendliness and commitment.
“Gifford takes a great approach to patient care and really seems to care about the community, which is important to me,” she said. “Since I am especially interested in practicing primary care in a rural setting, this is a good fit for me.”
Establishing an ongoing relationship with a primary care provider is one of the best things people can do to stay healthy. Someone who knows your health history and habits can recognize changes in your health and more accurately diagnose and treat serious conditions. Primary care providers can also help find a specialist and coordinate care should you become ill or seriously injured.
The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.
The White River Valley Chamber of Commerce and Gifford once again partner to offer concerts and now a farmer’s market on Tuesday evenings throughout the summer in the Gifford Park. Two community barbecues — one by Stagecoach and one by the Randolph Center Fire Department — also draw a crowd.
Podiatrist Dr. Samantha Harris joins the Gifford Health Center at Berlin, providing full spectrum surgical and non-surgical podiatric care.
Gifford’s midwives hold an open house to introduce their new team to the community.
After working at Gifford since January as a locum tenens physician, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kenyatta Norman makes her position permanent.
A “Heartsaver CPR” certification course is offered to the community.
JP’s Flea Market, formerly the Randolph Antique and Artisans Fair, is held in the Gifford park on Aug. 9. Cars line the street looking for deals and meals.
The ninth annual Last Mile Ride raises a record $60,000 for end-of-life care. This year’s event is spread over two days and attracts a record 386 participants.
Sue Schoolcraft of Randolph gains media recognition statewide for her work to make personalized quilts for Menig residents. Her work is supported by the Last Mile Ride.
Ob/Gyn Dr. Sean Tubens joins the Gifford Ob/Gyn and Midwifery team from his hometown of Baltimore, bringing total laparoscopic hysterectomies to Gifford for the first time.
Dr. Melissa Scalera, an Ob/Gyn, joins Gifford’s women’s health team, providing complete gynecologic and obstetrics care in Randolph.
Colorado couple, sports medicine physician Dr. Nat Harlow and family nurse practitioner Christina Harlow, join Gifford’s Sharon sports medicine and Randolph primary care practices respectively. Dr. Harlow is fellowship trained. Christina holds a doctor of nursing practice degree.
Family nurse practitioner Jeff Lourie joins the Gifford Health Center at Berlin.
Project Independence of Barre officially merges with Gifford.
The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.
Gifford employee Cindy Legacy, who shared her weight loss story in the 2013 annual report, starts a popular “Weight Loss Support Group” at Gifford on Wednesday evenings.
Gifford volunteers are celebrated at a luncheon. In 2013, 120 volunteers gave 16,678 hours to Gifford or 2,085 eight-hour days. Auxiliary volunteers working at the Thrift Shop gave another 6,489 hours or 811 eight-hour days. The celebration’s theme was “Hats Off to You.”
Gifford is named a Top 100 Critical Access Hospital in the nation by iVantage Health Analytics. iVantage used what it calls a Hospital Strength INDEX to compare Gifford against 1,246 Critical Access Hospital nationwide on 66 different performance metrics.
Starr Strong retires from the Chelsea Health Center after 21 years. She was the first physician assistant Gifford ever hired. An open house recognizes both Starr’s contributions and welcomes new providers to the clinic, which is packed for the event.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and officials from the Health Resources and Services Administration release a video holding up Gifford as a national model for primary care.
Sharon Health Center staff members cut a ribbon on their newly expanded health center. Added are 2,600 square feet and a sign beside the front door declaring the building “Casa Rinaldi” in honor of podiatrist Dr. Rob Rinaldi who helped create the vision behind the popular sports medicine clinic.
New technology is also offered, such as a state-of-the-art Noraxon gait and movement analysis system, and a large wall-mounted monitor for a better look at live ultrasound imaging.
Ground is broken on a much-anticipated senior living community in Randolph Center. More than 100 are on hand to witness the start of the first phase of the project — a new, 30-bed nursing home to replace the current Menig Extended Care Facility.
A second “Infant and Child CPR” course is held, along with a second “Home Alone and Safe” course, a second “Babysitter’s Training Course” and another “Quit In Person” group smoking cessation series.
“Low Impact Water Aerobics for Chronic Conditions” is offered at Vermont Technical College’s pool for free for those with an economic need and chronic condition who are struggling to exercise.
Gifford announces that it will merge with Barre adult day program, Project Independence, at the end of September. Project Independence is the state’s first adult day program and serves 23 towns in Washington and northern Orange counties, providing an essential community resource.
The non-profit organization was facing financial struggles following flooding in 2011. A merger with Gifford means shared staff and reduced costs for the organization, allowing it to keep operating. The boards of both non-profits agreed to the merger in May.
Gifford is the first hospital in Vermont to “go live” with the Vermont Department of Health interface for syndromic surveillance. The interface is part of federal meaningful use criteria.
Renovations begin on Gifford’s third floor specialty clinics to group medical secretaries, nurses, and patient waiting for improved efficiency and a modern model of care.
The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.
The first baby of the year is born to Casandra Perry of Bethel. Baby Bryden is welcomed on Jan. 2 at 3:48 a.m.
A “Matters of the Heart” series is offered monthly all year long for heart patients, or anyone looking to improve his or her heart health. Also offered: Chronic Conditions Support Group, Caregiver Support Group, Diabetes Group Education Classes, childbirth classes, and a new Mood Disorder Support Group.
A “Quit In Person” tobacco cessation class helps those addicted to smoking or other tobacco products to quit.
A “Chronic Pain Healthier Living Workshop” is offered at the Randolph House. The six-week free series addresses coping with chronic pain.
Experienced nurse leader Alison White joins Gifford as vice president of patient care services – a role that oversees the Hospital Division, including inpatient care, the Birthing Center, Ob/Gyn and Midwifery, the Emergency Department, Menig nursing home, and Adult Day Program.
After considerable input from providers, staff, and clergy, the Gifford board passes a policy implementing the Patient Choice at End of Life law. The policy allows willing primary care providers to prescribe lethal prescriptions but prohibits use of such prescriptions in the hospital setting.
An educational event shares Gifford’s “Vision for the Future” with Corporators. The vision focuses in part on constructing a senior living community in Randolph
The Gifford Medical Center Auxiliary awards $19,000 to various Gifford departments, including equipment for inpatient units, pulse oximeters for primary care offices, play equipment and furniture for The Robin’s Nest Child Enrichment Center, and a handheld scanning device for Materials Management.
Experienced hospitalist Dr. Robert Cochrane joins Gifford’s hospitalist (inpatient care) team.
An “Infant and Child CPR” class helps new parents and families learn lifesaving techniques.
A “Home Alone and Safe” course teaches children 8-11 how to respond to home alone situations.
A “Babysitter’s Training Course” is held for area pre-teens and teens seeking greater expertise in safe child care.
Chiropractor Dr. Michael Chamberland joins the Sharon Health Center sports medicine team.
A “Healthier Living Workshop” series begins, providing the chronically ill free information on improving their health.
A second “Quit In Person” tobacco cessation class is held, this time at the Gifford Health Center at Berlin.
Gifford’s Health Connections office and Blueprint for Health team partner with Bi-State Primary Care to offer free help signing up for Vermont Health Connect. Help is available each weekday, but on March 6 and March 13 extra “navigators” come to Gifford to help even more people sign-up in advance of a March 15 deadline.
Gifford’s annual Diabetes Education Expo is merged with a Health Fair for all chronically ill and offered on March 14.
Gifford holds its 108th Annual Meeting of its corporators, announcing achievements of 2013, unveiling a new video about Gifford, and hearing a special presentation from Green Mountain Care Board Chairman Al Gobeille. Corporators elected Matt Considine of Randolph to the board and re-elect Lincoln Clark of Royalton. Grants were announced, including $25,000 in William and Mary Markle Community Foundation funds to 10 area towns’ schools to support exercise and healthy eating programs. The Philip D. Levesque Memorial Community Award, in memory of Gifford’s late president, is awarded to the Orange County Parent Child Center.
Gifford staff raise $520 for the March of Dimes by wearing “Blue Jeans for Babies”.
Gifford’s mammography and nuclear medicine departments earn three-year, national re-accreditations from the American College of Radiology.
Certified nurse-midwife and women’s health nurse practitioner April Vanderveer joins Gifford’s 24-hour midwifery team.