Two organizations solidify commitment
to the care of area seniors
Project Independence executive director Dee Rollins joins ribbons with Linda Minsinger, Executive Director of Gifford Retirement Community.
On September 30th, Project Independence and Gifford Retirement Community, part of Gifford Health Care in Randolph, officially merged in a ceremony and celebration held at the Barre-based adult day program.
The ribbon joining ceremony was attended by representatives from both organizations, participants and their families, dignitaries, and special guests, including Project Independence founder Lindsey Wade.
The merger comes after years of struggle for the independent adult care program, Vermont’s oldest, which faced flood recovery efforts in 2011 in addition to other facility issues and financial woes.
“It is very hard in these changing times in health care for a stand-alone nonprofit to make ends meet,” says Project Independence executive director Dee Rollins. “Merging with Gifford allows us to be off the island with more supports and resources so we can grow our services for our elders and caregivers. Gifford is the right and best partner Project Independence could imagine.”
While still responsible for their own bottom line and fundraising efforts, Project Independence now has the resources and backing of the financially stable Gifford to help maintain ongoing services.
Gifford CEO Joe Woodin officially welcomes Project Independence to the Gifford family, shaking hands with board president Steve Koenemann and executive director Dee Rollins.
And the center is already experiencing the benefits of being part of a larger organization through savings in expenses and access to a wider range of resources.
For example, Project Independence is now able to utilize purchase point buying for a savings on supplies and groceries while also benefiting from the services of established Gifford departments such as billing, payroll, human resources, marketing, and others.
For Gifford, the merge is an opportunity to expand on its commitment to the region’s seniors. Already home to an award-winning nursing home and a successful adult day program located in Bethel, Gifford has a strong foundation in caring for the aging.
It’s a foundation they are building upon with the creation of a senior living community in Randolph Center. This new community will include a nursing home, assisted living and independent living units.
Construction on the campus began this past spring with work focusing on infrastructure and the building of a new Menig Extended Care facility, the 30-bed nursing home currently connected to the main hospital.
Current Menig residents are expected to transition to the new facility when construction is completed in the spring of 2015, a time that will also see the ground breaking of the first independent living facility.
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.
This article was published in Gifford’s Fall 2014 Update Community Newsletter.
Each year, we ask our friends to consider supporting Gifford. As a nonprofit community hospital, Gifford truly appreciates your gifts. With your support, we are able to provide high quality patient experiences.
But did you know there are other ways to support the hospital that could be more beneficial for you? Gifford has planned giving options that help the medical center while also providing for your financial future. Including Gifford in your will, for example, means you’re leaving a lasting legacy. A charitable gift annuity means you will receive a fixed income for life.
Gifford is a stable, growing organization with a strong infrastructure; in other words, we’re a safe investment. When it comes to charitable gift annuities, the hospital has set aside assets to secure our promise to pay the annuity, and your return is not affected by market volatility.
There are many ways to invest in your community medical center. Please consult with your financial advisor and interested family members about these options before making a gift. It would be my pleasure to provide you more details with absolutely no obligation from you. Please call me at 728-2380 to begin the discussion.
It’s our job here at Gifford to provide the best care possible to patients. It’s my job to help support that outstanding care by connecting community members like you with Gifford. For many, it will be a friendship of shared values and financial security that will last for years to come.
I look forward to beginning that friendship with you.
This article was published in Gifford’s Fall 2014 Update Community Newsletter.
Gifford’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
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.
The White River Valley Chamber of Commerce and Gifford Medical Center are collaborating to bring a local candidates’ debate to Randolph on Tuesday, Oct. 21.
Invited to the debate are Orange County senate candidates and candidates vying for two different House of Representative districts.
In the Senate race are Mark MacDonald, the Democratic incumbent, and challenger Robert Frenier, a Republican. One seat is up for grabs.
MacDonald of Williamstown is a farmer and former teacher who served a term in the Senate in the 1990s and has then held the post since 2003. Frenier is a Chelsea business owner.
Orange-Washington-Addison state representatives Patsy French and Marjorie Ryerson, both Democrats from Randolph, are facing Republican challenger Charlie Russell of Randolph Center. Two seats serving the towns of Roxbury, Granville, Brookfield, Braintree, and Randolph are on the ballot.
French has served since 2003 and is a former teacher and co-manager of rental property with her husband. Ryerson, a poet, writer and editor, was appointed by the governor a year ago following the death of former Rep. Larry Townsend. A former dairy farmer, Russell is running a write-in campaign.
In the Orange-Windsor-1 district, incumbent Democrat Sarah Buxton is facing Republican David Ainsworth, a Royalton dairy farmer who held the seat from 2007-2010. Buxton of Tunbridge, a regional coordinator for the Building Bright Futures Council, has filled the seat since 2011 – twice before beating Ainsworth in incredibly narrow races, including one election that was decided by just one vote. The lone seat represents Royalton and Tunbridge.
Buxton is trying to rearrange her work schedule to attend. All other candidates have confirmed they will be attendance.
Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin will serve as moderator for the debate and Chamber Director Emma Schumann will assist him.
The event starts at 6 p.m. Those in attendance are invited to submit questions and enjoy refreshments from 6-6:30 p.m. The debate will be from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Route 12 hospital’s Conference Center. In addition to audience members’ questions, the debate is expected to focus on business and health care.
“Our state representatives and senator are our voices in Montpelier. As we near the election, it is important to give these individuals who are striving to represent us a chance to share their views and tell us why we should choose them on Nov. 4,” said Schumann. “We hope our communities’ members turn out to ask questions and hear our candidates’ positions on important local and state issues.”
This is the first – and possibly only – debate the candidates will face in Randolph.
The medical center is located at 44 S. Main St. in Randolph. The Conference Center is marked with a green awning. For handicapped accessibility, use the main entrance and take the elevator to the first floor.
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.
Jan Rogers of Williamstown used colored pencils to depict this Brookfield barn. The barn is no longer in use and she has consequently titled the piece “Brookfield’s Past.” It is part of her display in the Gifford Medical Center art gallery in Randolph. (Provided)
Williamstown artist Jan Rogers’ drawings and photography are featured in the Gifford Medical Center art gallery now through Oct. 29.
Working under the name “X-pressions by Jan,” Rogers uses colored pencil, graphite, mixed media and photography to show primarily nature.
“Most of my work is done in the fine line drawing method using a soft touch, subtle elimination of lines and acute attention to detail,” says Rogers. “These skills can turn a drawing into a painting.”
Pheasants sit upon a broken down piece of farm equipment in “Country Freedom” – part of a new show at the Gifford Medical Center art gallery by Jan Rogers of Williamstown. (Provided)
Rogers uses various sizes of compressed paper stumps to apply graphite, pastel and colored pencil to Bristol board, mat board, and pastel and vellum papers. Values, tones and textures are constructed by drawing and blending to create depth and shading, resulting in a combination of lights and darks making the works almost “photo realistic.”
“Graphite is my choice of medium because of the detail that can be achieved,” Rogers adds, noting that she uses pastel and colored pencil with some of her graphite works to enhance a single area.
“Nocturnal Wisdom” features an owl perched on a slim tree branch. The piece is part of Williamstown artist Jan Rogers’ current show in the Gifford Medical Center art gallery in Randolph. (Provided)
Rogers has been drawing and painting most of her life. She attended workshops at the Ashton Art Institute in Connecticut on fine line drawing, and works out of a home studio on commissions and inspirations for upcoming shows.
Her paintings have been exhibited in galleries and shows in Connecticut, Arizona, California and Vermont, where she is a member of the Paletteers art group and also currently has her works on display at the White River Craft Center in Randolph. She additionally designs one-of-a-kind notecards that are sold in Gifford’s Garden Gate Gift Shop.
Her show at Gifford is free and open to the public. Works can be purchased in the hospital’s Garden Gate Gift Shop.
The Gifford Gallery is located just inside the hospital’s main entrance at 44 S. Main St. (Route 12) in Randolph. The Gift Shop is on the south end of the hospital near the entrance to the nursing home and Birthing Center.
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.
Dr. 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.
On her road to becoming an ob/gyn, Dr. Melissa Scalera flirted with Vermont. First there was her undergraduate studies at Williams College just three miles south of the Vermont border in Massachusetts. She crossed the border for Chinese food, antiques, and skiing. Later her residency was at Albany Medical Center in nearby New York.
Now she and her ski enthusiast family are thrilled to be calling Vermont home.
Dr. Scalera has joined Gifford Ob/Gyn & Midwifery in Randolph.
Originally from New Jersey, Dr. Scalera was the first person in her immediate family to attend college.
Her mother made a list of “academically acceptable” schools, starting with Harvard, that her daughter would be “allowed” to attend, Dr. Scalera recalls. Williams was on it. Scalera loved the school and everything about learning. Initially she thought that she’d major in Spanish literature or art history. “Choose something else” was her dad’s reply.
She graduated with a degree in psychology in the middle of a recession and applied for any and every job she could find. She took a position with a direct marketing company that made and sold leather bound books.
Hunched over a budget report one night at 10 p.m. at that long-ago job, she had an epiphany.
Unhappy stuck in a cubical all day, she wanted to be more active, look at fewer spreadsheets, see the sun, and talk to people.
About the same time, she had seen an ob/gyn for a routine exam and blood work. The exam went well, but the follow-up appointment to go over the results of the blood work with a different doctor was less than stellar. He was cranky, didn’t listen, and she left thinking “I can do better than that.”
Twenty-one and full of confidence, she called her mom and said, “I want to be a doctor.” She quit her job, moved in with her parents, and did two years of post-baccalaureate studies in the pre-medical curriculum at nearby Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J.
She went on to the New Jersey School of Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark, earning her doctor of medicine degree in 1997. A four-year ob/gyn residency followed at Albany Medical Center in New York.
She spent the next 14 years working as an ob/gyn physician in the United States, in Washington, Texas, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, and in New Zealand.
Her work in New Zealand was meant to be a six-month adventure. She liked it so much she stayed seven years. Her role in New Zealand was that of a specialist. Midwives in New Zealand provide complete obstetric care for low-risk births. General practitioners’ offices provide Pap smears and routine gynecologic care. Dr. Scalera consequently handled high-risk maternity cases, colposcopy or abnormal Pap smears, and gynecologic surgeries.
“I basically backed up every mid-wife in town.”
“I think Gifford and Vermont are the closest to New Zealand that I’m going to get and still be in the continental U.S.,” says Dr. Scalera, who returned to the States to be near family but looked north for snow.
Dr. Scalera and her family, including her husband of 20 years, Bob Pressey, son Michael, 11, and daughter Catherine, 5, are living in Randolph, where they are loving the community and the school system. They hope to find an older home to buy within walking distance of Gifford.
“I think people are really, really nice, and already kids are coming over to ask if my son would like to come out and play,” says Dr. Scalera, remembering her own childhood of neighborhood children at play and wanting that for her family.
Dr. Scalera is board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
She describes her bedside manner as “friendly.” “I like people and I love to talk,” she says. Her clinical interests include general obstetrics and gynecology.
“Gifford,” she says, is “a really fantastic match for me.”
Dr. Scalera is accepting new patients. Call her at Gifford Ob/Gyn & Midwifery at (802) 728-2401.