Joseph Woodin, Gifford’s administrator, speaks at Saturday’s Annual Meeting of the medical center’s corporators. Woodin outlined a year of success.
If there was any doubt that Randolph’s local hospital – Gifford – stands above when it comes to commitment to community and financial stability, it was wholly erased Saturday as the medical center held its 108th Annual Meeting of its corporators.
The evening gathering at Gifford featured an overview of the hospital’s successful past year, news of spectacular community outreach efforts, a video detailing employees’ commitment to caring for their neighbors and a ringing endorsement from Al Gobeille, chairman of the Green Mountain Care Board and the evening’s guest speaker.
Diane and William Brigham, corporators, arrive at Gifford’s 108th Annual Meeting.
For Gifford, 2013 brought a 14th consecutive year “making” budget and operating margin, new providers, expanded services including urology and wound care, expanded facilities in Sharon and Randolph, a designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center and all permits needed to move forward on the construction of a senior living community in Randolph Center and private inpatient rooms at Gifford.
The Randolph medical center also collected a ranking as the state’s most energy efficient hospital, an award for pediatrician Dr. Lou DiNicola, national recognition for Outstanding Senior Volunteer Major Melvin McLaughlin of Randolph and, noted Board Chairman Gus Meyer, continued national accolades for the Menig Extended Care Facility nursing home.
Al Gobeille, chairman of the Green Mountain Care Board, speaks at Gifford’s 108th annual corporators meeting on Saturday evening at the Randolph hospital.
“In the meantime, we’re faced with an ever-changing health care landscape,” said Meyer, listing accountable care organizations, payment reform initiatives and a burgeoning number of small hospitals forming relationships with the region’s two large tertiary care centers.
For some small hospitals, these shifts cause “angst.” “We like to think it brings us possibility,” said Meyer. “As both a Critical Access Hospital and now a Federally Qualified Health Center, Gifford is particularly well positioned to sustain our health as an organization and continue to fulfill our vital role in enhancing the health of the communities we serve.”
Joan Granter, left, and Irene Schaefer, corporators, arrive at Gifford’s 108th Annual Meeting.
The FQHC designation brings an increased emphasis on preventative care and will allow Gifford to invest in needed dental and mental health care in the community, Administrator Joseph Woodin said.
Gifford is but one of only three hospitals in the country to now be both a Critical Access Hospital and Federally Qualified Health Center.
“Congratulations! You’re a visionary,” said Gobeille in addressing Gifford’s new FQHC status. “It’s a brilliant move. It’s a great way to do the right thing.”
And Gifford is doing the right thing.
Gobeille was clear in his praise for Gifford’s management team and its commitment to stable budgets, without layoffs or compromising patient care.
Marjorie and Dick Drysdale, corporators, arrive at Gifford’s 108th Annual Meeting.
Gifford’s commitment also extends to the community.
In a major announcement, Woodin shared that thanks to the William and Mary Markle Community Foundation, Gifford will grant a total of $25,000 to schools in 10 area towns to support exercise and healthy eating programs.
Gifford annually at this time of year also hands out a grant and scholarship. The 2014 Philip Levesque grant in the amount of $1,000 was awarded to the Orange County Parent Child Center. The 2014 Richard J. Barrett, M.D., scholarship was awarded to Genia Schumacher, a mother of seven and breast cancer survivor who is in her second year of the radiology program at Champlain College.
The continued use of “Gifford Gift Certificates,” encouraging local spending during the holiday, invested about $40,000 in the regional economy in December. “These small stores appreciate it. It really does make a difference,” noted Woodin, who also detailed Gifford’s buy local approach and many community outreach activities in 2013, including free health fairs and classes.
The community in turn has invested in Gifford. The medical center’s 120 volunteers gave 16,678 hours in 2013, or 2,085 eight-hour workdays. Thrift Shop volunteers gave another 6,489 hours, or 811 workdays. And the Auxiliary, which operates the popular Thrift Shop, has both invested in equipment for various Gifford departments and made a major contribution toward the planned senior living community that will begin construction in May.
Outgoing Gifford board member David Ainsworth arrives with wife Peggy to Saturday’s 108th Annual Meeting of the Corporators.
The night also brought new members to the Gifford family.
Corporators elected two new of their own: Matt Considine of Randolph and Jody Richards of Bethel. Considine, the director of investments for the State of Vermont, was also elected to the Board of Trustees and Lincoln Clark of Royalton was re-elected.
Leaving the board after six years was Sharon Dimmick of Randolph Center, a past chairwoman, and David Ainsworth of South Royalton after nine years.
‘Recipe for Success’
“Recipe for Success” was the night’s theme and built around a fresh-off-the-press 2013 Annual Report sharing patient accounts of Gifford staff members going above and beyond. The report, now available on www.giffordmed.org, credits employees’ strong commitment to patient-care as helping the medical center succeed.
Taking the message one step further, Gifford unveiled a new video with staff members talking about the privilege of providing local care and the medical center’s diverse services, particularly its emphasis on primary care. The video is also on the hospital’s Web site.
Gus Meyer, chairman of Gifford’s board, honors retiring board members David Ainsworth and Sharon Dimmick.
Health care reform
Shifting resources to primary and preventative care is a key to health care reform initiatives, said a personable and humorous Gobeille, who emphasized affordability.
“We all want care. We just have to be able to afford care,” he said. “In the two-and-a-half years I’ve been on the board, I’ve grown an optimism that Vermont could do something profound.”
Gobeille described what he called “two Vermonts” – one where large companies providing their employees more affordable insurance and one where small businesses and individuals struggle to pay high costs. “The Affordable Care Act tries to fix that,” he said.
The role his board is playing in the initiatives in Vermont is one of a regulator over hospital budgets and the certificate of need process, one as innovator of pilot projects aimed at redefining how health care is delivered, and paid for, and as an evaluator of the success of these initiatives as well as the administration and legislators’ efforts to move toward a single-payer system.
Audience members asked questions about when a financing plan for a single-payer system would be forthcoming (after the election, Gobeille said), about how costs can be reduced without personal accountability from individuals for their health (personal accountability absolutely matters, he said) and how small hospitals can keep the doors open.
Gobeille pointed to Gifford’s record of financial success and working for the best interests of patients and communities as keys. “I don’t think Gifford’s future is in peril as long as you have a great management team, and you do,” Gobeille said.
Gifford’s Blueprint for Health Team has expanded to include additional mental health and addiction counselors offering one-on-one care at all Gifford primary care locations. In this file photo, from left, care coordinator Keith Marino, Health Connections (financial assistance) case worker Michele Packard and certified diabetes educator Jennifer Stratton discuss a patient at the Bethel Health Center.
In 2012 as part of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Gifford Medical Center completed a Community Needs Assessment.
Less than two years later, the Randolph-based medical center has already made huge strides addressing many of the needs found in that study.
In a survey of Town Meeting attendees in nine communities in 2012 plus feedback from other groups, community members’ described their priorities for a healthy community, perceived health problems and risky behaviors in the community, and their health needs or lacking services.
Among factors for a healthy community were good jobs and a healthy economy, access to health care, good schools, and healthy behaviors and lifestyles. Top health problems listed by survey respondents included addiction, obesity, and unhealthy lifestyle choices. Top health needs, or services community members have tried unsuccessfully to access, within the community were assisted living and nursing home care, alcohol and drug counseling, and dental care.
Today, Gifford is preparing to break ground in the spring on a senior living community in Randolph Center that will, over time, provide a full spectrum of housing options including the relocation of its award-winning nursing home and newly created assisted and independent living. Gifford has earned the coveted Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) designation, making it one of only three hospitals in the country to be both a Critical Access Hospital and an FQHC. This means expanded access to care, including dental and mental health care. And the medical center’s Vermont Blueprint for Health Team has greatly expanded over the past year to include more mental health and addiction counselors, providing services at all Gifford primary care locations.
Among Gifford’s free community services is a chronic illness support group. Here Gifford pharmacist Jane McConnell provides medication advice to past participants.
“Each of these major initiatives, which have taken substantial work, targets an identified community health need. Meeting these needs and addressing the community’s feedback defines the future of Gifford and its expanding role,” says Ashley Lincoln, director of development and public relations at Gifford.
The Community Needs Assessment process is required every three years, but Gifford’s efforts are ongoing. The medical center continually provides community outreach initiatives to meet care needs, many of which are offered for free. These include classes, support groups, and health fairs. Additionally, many initiatives support local economic health, including a buy local approach.
The medical center also continues community outreach daily through a boots-on-the-ground approach that has Blueprint Community Health Team working directly with individuals and community organizations to address health and socioeconomic needs, particularly for the chronically ill.
“The Blueprint for Health is a statewide initiative. Gifford has placed extra focus on meeting community members’ needs so they can successfully manage their health,” says Blueprint Project Manager LaRae Francis. “This approach means not waiting months or years for needs to be determined, but matching resources and needs today to create an ongoing healthier community for all.”
A grant from through the Vermont Department of Health helped support the costs of the 2012 report. The full report is available on Gifford’s website in the “About Us” section under Community Reports.
RANDOLPH – Nonprofit community organizations have an opportunity to apply for a $1,000 grant.
Gifford Medical Center is seeking applications for the annual Philip D. Levesque Memorial Community Award – a grant established in memory of the hospital’s late administrator.
Applications for the $1,000 grant are due to the hospital by Feb. 17.
The grant was established by Gifford’s Board of Trustees in 1994 in memory of Levesque, Gifford’s beloved president and chief executive officer from 1973-1994.
The award is given annually to an agency or organization involved in the arts, health, community development, education, or the environment in Gifford’s service area in recognition of Levesque’s commitment to the White River Valley.
“Phil was an admired leader who was dedicated to community service and improving our area. We’re excited to be able to carry on his legacy through this grant, and encourage community organizations to apply,” said Ashley Lincoln, Gifford director of development and public relations.
The hospital first awarded the grant in 1995. Past recipients include the Rochester Area Food Shelf; the South Royalton School’s Recycle, Compost and Volunteer Program; the Bluebird Recovery Program; Kimball Library in Randolph; Bethel’s Project Playground; Chelsea’s Little League field; the Rochester Chamber Music Society; the Royalton Memorial Library; the Tunbridge Library; the White River Craft Center; Safeline; Interfaith Caregivers; the Chelsea Family Center; the Granville Volunteer Fire Department; the Quin-Town Center for Senior Citizens in Hancock; and The Arts Bus Project.
A committee of hospital staff and Levesque’s family will review the applications and choose a winner. The announcement of the grant recipient will be made at Gifford’s Annual Meeting in March.
Contact Lincoln at (802) 728-2380 or firstname.lastname@example.org for application guidelines, or click here. Send completed applications by Feb. 17 to The Philip D. Levesque Memorial Fund, Gifford Medical Center Development Office, 44. S. Main St., Randolph, VT 05060.
For a 14th consecutive year, Gifford Medical Center in Randolph has completed its fiscal year “in the black” and on budget.
Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin made the announcement to staff on Friday following a detailed auditor’s review of the hospital’s 2013 fiscal year finances. The fiscal year ended Oct. 31.
Specifically, the medical center achieved both its state-approved budget and operating margin. An operating margin is the money the medical center makes above expenses – usually by 2 to 3 percent – to reinvest in programs, staff and facilities.
Achieving the operating margin can be an indicator of an organization’s success. “No margin, no mission” is a saying often used within non-profits. Gifford has made both its budget and margin each of the last 14 years – a major feat among Vermont hospitals. Continue reading →
RANDOLPH – Emergency medicine physician Dr. A. Nicole Thran has joined Gifford Medical Center full-time, providing care in the Randolph hospital’s 24-hour Emergency Department.
A native of New York City, Dr. Than attended Tufts University in Medford, Mass., earning her bachelor’s degree in biology. She went on to medical school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Her internship and residency in emergency medicine were at the University of Massachusetts in Worcester.
Dr. Thran has worked in emergency medicine since 1991 at hospitals in Connecticut, Virginia, Rhode Island, Oklahoma and, since 2012, in Vermont at Rutland Regional Medical Center and Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. There she was what is known as a locums tenens physician. Continue reading →
Gifford ranks first in Vermont for energy efficiency among hospitals
Gifford electricians Stu Standish and Frank Landry, part of the Randolph hospital’s facilities team, replace 250-watt metal halide parking lot lights with 78-watt LEDs. Gifford is the most energy efficient hospital in Vermont and is striving to do even better by becoming the first Vermont hospital to earn the “Energy Star” label. (Provided: Robin Palmer)
Already the most energy efficient hospital in the state, Gifford Medical Center is striving to become the first hospital in Vermont to earn a national “Energy Star” rating by the end of 2014.
The Energy Star label is a program by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that benchmarks energy use. For hospitals that means looking at energy use per square foot and then taking into account factors such as number of hospital beds, number of employees and climates. Hospitals are then ranked nationwide.
No Vermont hospital has achieved the 75th percentile ranking required for the Energy Star rating. Gifford is currently at 65 percent and as such, the most energy efficient hospital in Vermont.
The Randolph medical center would have to reduce its energy usage by 6 percent to reach the 75th percentile. Despite Gifford’s record of energy efficiency, Tim Perrin at Efficiency Vermont and Gifford’s Director of Facilities Tyson Moulton say further reduction is attainable.
In fact, energy efficiency projects are already under way.
Last month, electricians at Gifford changed out parking lot lights from 250-watt metal halide bulbs to more efficient 78-watt LEDs.
Other projects planned include replacing a large kitchen stove hood with one that runs on demand using heat sensors rather than running more constantly. In addition to electricity savings, the hood would remove less air that has already been heated or cooled. Heating and ventilation systems in parts of the building are also being rebalanced to run more efficiently.
The projects, noted Moulton, are part of an ongoing energy efficiency plan at the hospital and relatively small in scale because of work that has already taken place.
“We have a history of energy efficiency,” Moulton said.
Moulton gives a couple of examples. A project in the 1980s focused on recapturing some exhaust heat from the medical center’s inpatient unit to reclaim energy. The building’s pumping system has been simplified to replace many smaller pumps added over time with fewer larger pumps, and domestic hot water and chilled water for coolant systems have also been converted to demand-based systems.
Gifford Director of Facilities Tyson Moulton, right, poses with his predecessor, Theron Manning, on the rooftop of the Randolph medical center. In the background are heating, ventilation and air conditioning units. Over decades of work, Manning set the stage for Gifford to become the state’s most energy efficient hospital. Working with Efficiency Vermont, Moulton is carrying on the tradition as Gifford now strives to earn an “Energy Star” rating. (Provided: Robin Palmer)
Moulton credits former facilities head Theron Manning with the decades-long work that has led to Gifford’s top energy efficiency rating.
The ranking, however, does not include buildings outside of the main medical center, namely older homes that have been converted into office space surrounding the medical center and Gifford’s eight outlying community health centers.
The benchmarking of Vermont hospitals is by Efficiency Vermont, which has been reaching out to medical centers to reduce energy usage. Efficiency Vermont helped Gifford audit and identify lower cost ways to reduce energy consumption last year when the medical center and other large Vermont employers participated in a voluntary “Energy Leadership Challenge.”
Gifford is also part of the national Healthier Hospitals Initiative. Vermont is the first state in the nation to have all hospitals join the initiative, which includes energy reduction.
Efficiency Vermont, Vermont hospitals and the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems worked collaboratively on the Healthier Hospitals Initiative.
“We have been very impressed with the work that Gifford has done to manage energy usage and promote sustainability,” Richard Donnelly of Efficiency Vermont said in announcing that all Vermont hospitals had signed on to the initiative.
“Energy efficiency is always part of projects,” Moulton said. “When we replace fixtures and equipment, we look at what we can do to be energy efficient.”
That look toward energy efficiency is done both from a costs’ perspective to save the non-profit, patient-focused medical center money and to reduce its impact on the environment, particularly when it comes to non-renewable energy.
“Both electricity and oil are very expensive,” said Moulton. “Most of Vermont’s electricity, however, is from a hydroelectric, which is renewable. Oil is a limited resource.”
Gifford Medical Center’s plans to create a senior living community in Randolph Center and renovate the Randolph hospital to have private inpatient rooms cleared a final permitting hurdle Thursday when it earned Certificate of Need approval from the Green Mountain Care Board.
The 5-0 decision was the final approval needed for the project to move forward.
“We’re ecstatic. This project has been years in the making and we’re excited to be moving forward. Our community is in dire need of more senior care and housing options and patients will benefit from the private room model, which is proven to enhance patient safety and satisfaction,” said Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin, who was on hand in Montpelier Thursday to hear the board’s unanimous vote.
As part of the project, Gifford will move its 30-bed, award-winning nursing home, the Menig Extended Care Facility, to 30 stunning acres in Randolph Center. When the new nursing home is built, current nursing home rooms at the downtown medical center will be converted into private hospital rooms.
Independent and assisted living options will be added over time in Randolph Center to create a vibrant senior living community. Up to 150 total units are planned. The project’s first phase calls for the reconstruction of the 30-bed nursing home and a 40-unit independent living facility. Later phases, including 60 more independent living units and 20 assisted living units attached to the nursing home, are spread over 20 years.
Faced with facility constraints and a great number of inefficient older buildings in its downtown location, Gifford has been planning for this project for years. Many options were considered, including rebuilding the entire medical center. Looking at the most affordable, least disruptive option, the hospital finalized its plans in 2011 and filed for Act 250 approval under select criteria on Oct. 3, 2011.
Significant discussions on the use of “prime agricultural soils” for the development delayed discussions and approval on those criteria did not come until Jan. 3 of this year. Full Act 250 approval was sought on April 2, 2013, and awarded Aug. 13. Randolph Development Review Board approval also came earlier this year.
The hospital first filed its Certificate of Need application on Oct. 3, 2012. After the initial detailed review, Gifford resubmitted a revised application in May. A final hearing was held just last month on Sept. 26 and a verbal decision issued on Oct. 10.
A written decision was released late Monday. In it, the board finds the project has met all Certificate of Need criteria, including regarding cost, need, quality and access, and public good. “Gifford has demonstrated that the project serves the public good by enhancing services, improving quality of care and increasing customer satisfaction,” the five-member board wrote.
“We appreciate the Green Mountain Care Board’s thoughtful review and support of this project. The board clearly saw the need and the vision. Due to this decision, we will soon be able to better meet the needs of our community,” said Woodin, who also thanked community members for their support.
“It’s very exciting for all of us, for the staff, for the residents of Menig as well as those who will live in independent and assisted living. Thank you very much for the time, effort and all of the work folks have put into this.”
The hospital plans to begin construction on the Randolph Center nursing home in the spring.
The Stockwell family is ready to ride Saturday at Gifford Medical Center. (Provided: Janet Miller)
RANDOLPH – Nearly 300 motorcyclists, cyclists and runners/walkers participated in Gifford Medical Center’s eighth annual Last Mile Ride on Saturday, raising a record $56,000 for end-of-life care.
Beneath sunny skies, the day juxtaposed heart-wrenching, yet inspiring, stories of loss with a celebration featuring the high tempo sounds of “Jeanne and The Hi-Tops,” food, fun and prize awards.
Earning the top prize for his fund-raising efforts was Reg Mongeur of Randolph, who collected $3,458 from generous friends, family and strangers alike. A much-anticipated Harley/$5,000 cash raffle was won by Carol Bushey of Brookfield. A quilt made by Gifford nursing staff and a patient went to Martha Howe of Randolph.
Runners sprint through the start line of the 5K Fun Run as part of the Last Mile Ride. (Provided: Tammy Hooker)
Palliative care physicians Dr. Cristine Maloney and Dr. Jonna Goulding along with rider/founder and Gifford nurse Lynda McDermott all addressed the crowds, offering thanks for riders’ efforts to make the hospital’s dream of providing alternative therapies, special wishes and more for free for patients in the last mile of life.
“Everyone has arrived here today for unique personal reasons to unite in a larger, common cause. Many are motivated to be here to honor the loss of a loved one and to ensure that future families shepherding someone to the end of life are granted gifts or services … ,” Gifford Director of Development Ashley Lincoln said.
Cyclists leave Gifford Medical Center Saturday for the Last Mile Ride. (Provided: Janet Miller)
“The enthusiasm of this crowd and the building excitement of riders garners more and more sponsors, gives me and the staff at Gifford … not only financial reserves but emotional reserves to walk alongside our friends and neighbors on some of their longest days,” Lincoln continued.
Shelly Pearce knows how long those days can be. Her husband Kevin died in the Garden Room on July 4. On Saturday, Shelly Pearce offered an emotional, personal thanks to riders.
“The Last Mile Ride funds helped us as a family in numerous ways,” said Pearce, describing massages for pain management, meals for the family, a gas card and a special family celebration. “So whether this is your first or your eighth time participating in the Last Mile Ride, I want you all to know what a difference you making in a patient and their family’s life. Keep participating or volunteering even if it seems like a small thing, because it is very important and appreciated.”
Led by Orange County Sheriff Bill Bohnyak, motorcyclists return to Gifford during the Last Mile Ride held Saturday in support of end-of-life care. (Provided: Janet Miller)
The Last Mile Ride began in 2006 when McDermott brought the idea forward to help provide comfort measures for people in life’s last mile. The first ride was held in 2006, and since its number of participants, funds raised and impact have all grown.
The event now includes a 5K and cycle ride in addition to the popular motorcycle ride. And this year’s event featured a Friday night “Kick-Off Rally” of dinner and dancing at the Three Stallion Inn with more than 80 community members and Last Mile participants in attendance.
The Randolph Area Chamber of Commerce made the event possible.
Cyclists and motorcyclists line up for the post-ride BBQ. (Provided: Janet Miller)
The Last Mile Ride was made possible by a huge group of volunteers, who were mostly Gifford employees who gave up their Saturday to support the cause, as well as volunteers from the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, Orange County Sheriff Bill Bohnyak, the Green Mountain Bike Patrol, police support in multiple towns, and Terry Heath and Erin Bianchi of Massage Professionals of Randolph.
Significant community involvement came in the forms of people lining the event routes to show support and many, many sponsors. Among this year’s sponsors were the Frankenburg Agency Inc., Froggy 100.9, Lucky’s Trailer Sales, Northfield Savings Bank, Wilkins Harley-Davidson, Booth Brothers Dairy, Connor Contracting, E-Management Associates, Mascoma Savings Bank, Aubuchon Hardware, Barry T. Chouinard Inc., Dimmik Wastewater Service, Gillespie Fuels and Propane, Infinitt North America, K&R Rentals and Storage, Kleen Inc., Magee Office Products, MetLife, Rain or Shine Tent and Events Company, Schiring Radiographic Imaging, Superior Development and many others.
Next year’s Last Mile Ride will be Aug. 16, or the third Saturday in August.
Shelly Pearce, right, offers her heartfelt thanks to Last Mile riders as her daughter, Samantha Blakeney, provides her comfort. Pearce’s husband, who was Blakeney’s stepfather, died just last month in the Garden Room at Gifford. The ride raises money for patients like Kevin and families like the Pearces. (Provided: Tammy Hooker)
95-year-old Major Melvin McLaughlin warmly celebrated
From left, Patrice Thabault of Home Instead Senior Care presents 2013 Outstanding Senior Volunteer Major Melvin McLaughlin and Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin with a $5,500 in recognition of McLaughlin to support a charity of his choice, Gifford.
Randolph’s Maj. Melvin McLaughlin has spent more than 40 years selflessly volunteering at his local medical center, Gifford. On Wednesday that volunteerism was recognized – big time.
The 95-year-old retired U.S. Marine, fondly known as “Major,” was named the country’s 2013 Outstanding Senior Volunteer by Home Instead Senior Care.
Home Instead is the world’s largest provider of non-medical, in-home care services for seniors. Last year it launched the Salute to Senior Service Contest to recognize senior volunteerism.
Nominated by the staff at Gifford for his daily visits to the hospital, McLaughlin was named the Vermont winner of the contest last month and on Wednesday at noon at Gifford in Randolph was recognized as the national winner.
“Home Instead wants to encourage a positive outlook on aging,” Vermont franchise owner Patrice Thabault noted in presenting the award. “The Major and other (senior) volunteers are really changing the face of aging in the United States.”
With the recognition came a $5,500 check ($500 as the state winner and $5,000 as the national winner) from Home Instead to Gifford, the charity that McLaughlin chose to recognize with his award.
Representatives of VA Medical Center, from left, Chief of Voluntary Services Karen Campbell and Patient Services Manager Wendy DeCoff, present 2013 national Outstanding Senior Volunteer Major Melvin McLaughlin of Randolph with a Courage of Valor award. The award is for World War II veterans who are VA patients.
The gifts didn’t stop at the national recognition, however.
Hearing about McLaughlin’s honor, VA Medical Center Chief of Voluntary Service Karen Campbell attended Wednesday’s presentation to honor McLaughlin, a long-time VA patient, with its Courage of Valor award.
“They don’t necessarily have the time, but they always have the heart,” Campbell said of volunteers, “and, boy, do you have that.”
Fran Keeler of Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL) read a letter of commendation from DAIL Commissioner Susan Wehry. “Your more than 40 years of dedicated service … is appreciated. You’re an inspiration to us,” Wehry wrote.
Sen. Bernie Sanders sent his own letter of congratulations, thanking McLaughlin “for demonstrating such generosity and goodwill over the past four decades.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy sent McLaughlin a flag that had flown over U.S. Capitol.
And Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin unveiled a granite plaque anonymously donated and featuring the words McLaughlin says to each patient, nursing home resident, and staff member he visits at Gifford: “Has anyone today told you that they love you?” McLaughlin then answers, “God does and I do too.”
The plaque of Barre granite now sits in the hospital’s visitors’ entrance as a permanent fixture for all to see.
Major Melvin McLaughlin, the nation’s 2013 Outstanding Senior Volunteer, is surrounded by his three daughters, from left, Sally Truckenbrod of Bethel, Nancy Stevens of Raleigh, N.C., and Audrey Rhoades of Washington, N.H. The daughters surprised him by all attending a July 3 celebration of McLaughlin’s national recognition. It is the first time the family was all together since McLaughlin’s wife’s passing almost four years early to the day. She died on July 4 and was a resident of the Menig Extended Care Facility at Gifford, where McLaughlin still volunteers.
McLaughlin first moved to Randolph in 1967 after retiring from 25 years with the U.S. Marines, serving in World War II, Korea, and the infancy of Vietnam. He built a home and a second for one of his daughters, Sally, and then found himself with free time. He started volunteering at Gifford on Thursdays, delivering the local newspaper to patients.
Later, he took patient meal orders on a clipboard and then several years ago began making general rounds seven days a week, visiting with patients and staff alike, offering his telltale phrase of love, plenty of hugs, a positive attitude, and plenty of gratitude.
Woodin called that gift of love an intangible, but a powerful gift that anyone can afford. The fact that that gift and lesson on experiencing love comes from a tough Marine makes it all the more powerful.
Woodin sought to return the favor by asking the large crowd in attendance at Wednesday award announcement to honor McLaughlin with a warmly and loudly delivered, “We love you, Major.”
“My cup runneth over,” Major said in response, encouraging all in attendance to live each day with only gladness, no shame. “Thank you, Lord, for your blessings. I am a rich man.”
Read much more about McLaughlin on the Salute to Senior Service Web site, www.salutetoseniorservice.com, and look for him in Thursday’s Randolph Fourth of July Parade. He is the grand marshal.
Angelina Jolie’s courageous decision to undergo a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of developing hereditary breast cancer has brought to light an important test done regularly, and promoted, at Gifford.
The reason behind Jolie’s decision was a positive BRCA test. BRCA is a test for hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. It is as pain-free as a test gets; all you have to do is spit in a test tube.
In more scientific terms, the test is of your saliva or, buccal DNA, and is done right in the doctor’s office to check for an inherited mutation or alteration in the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene.
While hereditary breast and ovarian cancer account for only 5 percent of these cancers, knowing your BRCA status can help you and your family make informed decisions and choices.
A woman with BRCA 1 or 2 mutations has a markedly elevated risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, including:
Up to a 50 percent risk of developing breast cancer by age 50 (compared to 2 percent in the general population)
Up to an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer by age 70 (compared to 8 percent in the general population)
Up to a 64 percent risk of developing a second breast cancer
Up to a 44 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer by age 70 (compared to less than 1 percent in the general population)
Knowing whether you have this mutation will enable you to have increased surveillance and/or treatment, which can potentially save your life and help your family members make informed decisions. Management strategies may include earlier breast cancer screening with mammography or MRI, risk reducing surgery such as ovary removal after childbearing is completed, and chemoprevention, such as tamoxifen or birth control pills.
Red flags for hereditary breast and ovarian cancers, include:
Breast cancer before age 50
Ovarian cancer at any age
Male breast cancer at any age
Ashkenazi Jewish heritage
Relatives of a BRCA carrier
If you or a loved one falls into one of these categories, contact your primary care or gynecologist’s office to inquire about testing.
Dr. Ellamarie Russo-DeMara is a gynecologist at Gifford’s Bethel Health Center and Twin River Health Center in White River Junction. She provides BRCA advice and testing. She is also a breast cancer survivor.