This article was published in our 2015 Annual Report.
Drs. Jonathan Bjork and Robert Rinaldi
When podiatrist Rob Rinaldi first visited Gifford in 2003, he was struck by the energy and passion he encountered as he talked with staff.
“Everyone shared two ideals—to serve their patients in the best way they possibly could, and to make the hospital grow in good ways. Everyone wanted to make a contribution.”
Rinaldi says this first impression hasn’t changed over the years. The hospital has grown: clinics, buildings, and additional staff have been added and new technology brought in. He helped to create a new Sports Medicine program in 2005. Today, athletes come from all over the Upper Valley to the Sharon Health Center, which now has a physical therapy gym space, physical therapy treatment rooms, and a state-of-the-art gait analysis system.
“I’m amazed at how much has changed and happened, but the passion—the focus on the health and well-being of the people we serve—is still here,” he said. “We don’t treat patients with cookie-cutter medicine. People are not just numbers here.”
This focus on personalized care also brought Podiatrist Jonathan Bjork to Gifford last spring.
“I like to develop good, ongoing relationships with patients—not just performing surgery but also helping with rehabilitation, and treating patients in the clinics,” he said. “I saw I could do that here.”
Like Rinaldi years ago, Bjork was impressed by the open and supportive environment created by his colleagues.
“There’s no sense of hierarchy here,” he says. “People offer help and guidance, but it isn’t done with a critical eye.”
Rinaldi says that new providers at Gifford are nurtured by seasoned staff, many who have been at Gifford for years, and that this model transforms the traditional mentoring role.
“It’s unusual because the long-term providers all still have the passion they started with!” he says. “Now they are showing new providers—not how to be a better doctor necessarily, but about the rewards of personalized patient care and how this helps to keep the passion alive.”
This article was published in our Spring 2016 Update.
In late April patients at the Gifford Health Center at Berlin began seeing primary care providers in a new facility, just up the hill from the existing health center offices.
New providers Dr. Kasra Djalayer, nurse practitioner Elizabeth Saxton, and providers from Gifford’s Behavioral Health Team have joined nurse practitioner Jeff Lourie in the new Primary Care building, making it easier for area patients to build a relationship with a local provider. Ob/Gyn services are now available in Berlin, and our team of certified nurse-midwives will provide well-woman and prenatal care from offices in this new location.
The existing Health Center building, which opened in 2007, is now dedicated to specialty practices, including Orthopedics, Physical Therapy, Podiatry, Neurology, and Urology. The vacated primary care space has been renovated for physical therapy services on site. Also provided in the specialty clinic are enhanced lab, X-ray, and diagnostic technology services, which include MRI’s from a visiting mobile unit.
Both buildings are conveniently located off Airport Road, with plenty of open parking spaces. Call today: 224-3200 (Primary Care) or 229-2325 (Radiology & Specialty Clinic).
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
Vision for the Future co-chair experiences first-hand the importance of quality local care
This article was published in our Fall 2015 Update.
Lincoln Clark, Gifford trustee and co-chair of the Vision for the Future campaign, has been actively raising funds for the new Menig Nursing home and the subsequent private patient
room conversion at the hospital.
In an odd twist of fate, the Royalton resident recently experienced first-hand just how important quality local care and private patient rooms can be to both the patient and their family.
While on an annual fishing trip with his son in northern Maine, Clark fell and broke his hip as they were taking their boat to get the motor serviced. After a 178-mile ambulance ride to Portland, ME, he found himself facing surgery by a surgeon he’d never met.
“I spent approximately four minutes with him prior to the operation. I was doped up to the gills, and I couldn’t understand his precise and very technical description of the procedure,” Clark said. “The next day he was off-duty so his partner, a hand surgeon, looked at my wound.”
That same day a care management representative visited to say that he would be released the following morning—they were looking for a rehabilitation facility that could take him.
Clark asked if he could go home to his local hospital, and was told that Medicare would only pay for an ambulance to the closest facility (to pay for an ambulance to Vermont, would cost him thousands of dollars). He was transferred to a facility in Portland the following morning.
“The new room was sectioned off with brown curtains, the bed pushed up against a wall, and there was a 3-foot space at the bottom of the bed for my wife, Louise, to sit,” he said. “It was smaller than most prison cells! My roommate’s family (six of them) was visiting, and they were watching a quiz show on TV at full volume.” This was the low point.
Overwhelmed, the Clarks struggled to figure out the logistics of a long stretch in rehab for Lincoln, and the hours-long commute for Louise, who had to maintain their house in Royalton.
After an unimpressive start in the rehab physical therapy department, they made an unusual but obvious choice: Louise packed Lincoln into the car and they made the 4-hour drive to Randolph.
“I wanted to be at Gifford. I knew the physical therapy team was first rate, and I was confident I would get the kind of therapy I needed to get me out of the hospital,” Clark said.
Fortunately, a room was open and he spent ten days at Gifford this summer. He worked on his laptop in the Auxiliary Garden, met with people in his room, and was even wheeled to the conference center to attend board and committee meetings. Once discharged, he was able to continue his therapy as an outpatient.
“After this experience I really can see how important a private patient room is,” he said. “And I can attest that the letters to the board, the positive comments patients make on surveys, and the occasional letters to the editor don’t begin to describe all that it means to be cared for by Gifford’s staff. This is just a great hospital!”
Steven S. Mustoe, D.C. has joined the Sports Medicine clinic at the Sharon Health Center. A board-certified chiropractor, he has practiced for the last 18 years in Brattleboro, VT and Charlottesville, VA.
Mustoe became a chiropractor because of his own experience with an injured back. “The only relief doctors could offer was through medication. When I went off drugs, the pain returned,” he said. “I eventually found a chiropractor who helped me heal. To be able to relieve someone’s pain like that is an amazing thing!”
Originally from London, England, he received a Doctor of Chiropractic degree at Life Chiropractic West in California after relocating to the States to be with his wife, Gail. The two met 25 years ago when Mustoe was a tour guide on a seven-week bus tour through Europe. They’ve been together ever since, and now have two children.
After years in private practice, Mustoe looks forward to collaborating with a multidisciplinary sports medicine team that includes podiatry, general sports medicine, and physical therapists. He is also excited about the equipment and technology at the Sharon center—a physical therapy gym space; x-ray technology and mounted flat screens for reviewing radiological exams; physical therapy treatment rooms; and a state-of- the-art gait analysis system.
His special interest is in helping people regain the ability to enjoy their life: as an athlete, an injured veteran, or someone unable to perform daily tasks.
“I tend to work gently, to listen to people and then help with function as well as pain,” he said. “You don’t have to be an athlete—maybe what’s important to you is to be able to play with the grandchildren in the back yard.”
Dr. Mustoe is now seeing patients at the Sharon Health Center. Call 763-8000 to schedule an appointment.
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.
Drawn to the region because of the maple industry, podiatrist Dr. Samantha Harris has joined Gifford Medical Center, specifically the Gifford Health Center at Berlin.
A native of Nashville, Tenn., Dr. Harris started her medical career as a physical therapist, attending Tennessee State University in Nashville and working for seven years in the field before deciding to advance her career. “I wanted to be able to do more for patients and looked into medical school,” she said.
She considered a career in orthopedics but after two podiatric surgeries of her own – one on each foot a year apart – her eyes were opened to the field of foot and ankle surgery.
She attended the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine in Independence, Ohio, and then completed her residency in podiatric medicine and surgery at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo.
She returned to Tennessee to work in private practice before love and maple syrup had her looking to Vermont.
Dr. Harris’ significant other, Devin Randall, lives in Upstate New York and has a passion for maple production and farming. For the couple, that meant casting their eyes to Vermont. For Dr. Harris, Gifford, which is home to bustling podiatry practices, was the perfect fit.
“I felt like I had known everyone for years on the interview. It was like, ‘Wow, this place is perfect for me,’” says the personable caregiver. “I loved it.”
Gifford has multiple podiatrists, Dr. Rob Rinaldi, Dr. Nick Benoit and Dr. Paul Smith, practicing in Randolph, Sharon and Berlin. Dr. Harris joins the Berlin practice.
Podiatrists diagnose and treat disorders of the foot and ankle, from ingrown toenails and diabetic foot care to reconstructive surgery. Dr. Harris provides all types of podiatry care. Her physical therapy experience also brings extensive knowledge of the body and she is known for spending time with patients, listening and partnering with patients in their recovery.
“I understand the patient point of view as well as the physician point of view,” she says, recalling her own podiatric surgery experiences. “I can look from the inside out.”
Dr. Harris is accepting new patients. Call her at the Gifford Health Center at Berlin at (802) 229-2325 or schedule an appointment with any member of the podiatry team by calling Gifford’s central scheduling line at (802) 728-2777.
The following is an excerpt from our 2013 Annual Report: A Recipe for Success.
Michael Blood and physical therapist Amy Chiriatti
After undergoing double knee replacement surgery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Michael Blood, 66, of White River Junction had rehabilitation with physical therapist Amy Chiriatti at Advance Physical Therapy in Wilder. Amy provided the “exceptional” care to not just Michael’s knees but to him as a whole person.
“I’ve never had anyone in the medical field I can talk to one-on-one. She’s an excellent listener. She’s just a special person; she really is.” ~ Michael Blood
This article was featured in ourSpring 2014 Update Community Newsletter.
The Kingwood Health Center in Randolph underwent an expansion in the fall that both improved the Route 66 health center and freed up needed space at Gifford’s downtown campus.
The addition was completed in November and over the winter several Gifford departments made the move to the impressive, new space. Those departments included:
Occupational and speech therapies, which joined outpatient physical therapy on the ground floor of Kingwood
The move of occupational and speech therapies creates a full-spectrum, multidisciplinary rehabilitation center at Kingwood. Added is some gym space, six new exam rooms and improved staff areas.
“Everyone loves the new building,” notes Megan Sault, the rehabilitation department’s operations coordinator.
Having all rehabilitation services in one, convenient location has reduced confusion among patients as to where they should go for their appointment and allows for a collaborative approach to care.
“It’s really great to be so close to team members and share this beautiful facility,” says speech therapist Kathy Carver, who on the day we visited was meeting with patient Terry White of Randolph Center. Terry, who had a stroke, had also seen physical therapy that day, allowing him to make just one trip to Kingwood, and allowing collaboration on Terry’s care.
For others the new location near Interstate 89 is just convenient.
Occupational therapy patient Michael Dempsey of Brookfield was recovering from a broken arm that had left him with shoulder pain. “It’s nice, got a lot of room and is closer to my house. It’s convenient,” Michael remarked.
On the top floor is new office space for accounting as well as billing, or what the medical center calls patient financial services. This is where patients can go to pay their bills or make billing inquiries.
To find the billing office, park in the upper drive and use the door on the left. There are signs inside.
Gifford first bought the Kingwood building in 2007 as an opportunity to expand services. Initially the flat-roofed, dark structure underwent renovations. The new addition seamlessly expanded the structure toward the wood-line.
Also located at the health center are Gifford’s Blueprint Community Health Team, mental health practitioner Cory Gould, the Diabetes Clinic and a private practice dentist, Dr. John Westbrook – all on the top floor.
Call the health center at 728-7100 and listen for options for reaching the various departments.
Health Connections caseworker Michele Packard remains at the main medical center. Michele provides patients help accessing insurance and free care options. (Go in the main entrance at Gifford’s main campus and look for signs to find Michele.)
Surrounded by Sharon Health Center staff, podiatrist Dr. Rob Rinaldi cuts a ribbon on the sports medicine clinic’s expansion. Dr. Rinaldi has been with the center since it opened in 2005. This is the second expansion.
When podiatrist Dr. Rob Rinaldi retired to Vermont, he didn’t envision continuing to practice medicine and certainly not for a hospital.
But Dr. Rinaldi found a cause worthy of coming out of a retirement. Working with Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, he helped create not only the vision – but the heart – behind the abundantly successful Sharon Health Center sports medicine clinic.
He has been such a positive influence that on Thursday at a ribbon cutting for an expansion to the health center, Gifford Administrator Joe Woodin unveiled a new sign recognizing Dr. Rinaldi and his Italian heritage. “Casa Rinaldi” reads the sign positioned beside the clinic’s front door.
It brought a surprised Dr. Rinaldi to laughter and tears.
Originally built in 2005, the Sharon Health Center got its start as both a primary care and sports medicine clinic, but quickly the sports medicine practice bloomed. In 2008, a 2,200-square-foot addition was added to the original 2,700-square-foot building.
In October, a third and final planned expansion got under way to better meet patient demand. It was that recently completed expansion, this time 2,600 square feet, that clinic staff and hospital administrators celebrated with a ribbon cutting.
On hand were staff, members of the public, and those involved in the project.
Podiatrist Dr. Rob Rinaldi, right front, reacts to Gifford Administrator Joe Woodin’s, left, announcement that a new sign names the building “Casa Rinaldi.”
Woodin praised the now retired Theron Manning, Gifford’s former director of facilities, as well as the project architect, Joseph Architects of Waterbury, and builder Connor Contracting, Inc.
All three phases of the building have had the same architect and contractor. “The fact that we have a consistent architect and builder, it looks like it has always been there,” Woodin said of the expansion.
“You stand back and look at this building and you can’t tell new from old,” agreed John Connor of Connor Contracting.
And Woodin praised Dr. Rinaldi and the complete Sharon Health Center sports medicine team.
“Thank you,” said Woodin. “You care for patients so well. The stories that come out of here. You save people (from debilitating injuries).”
“This started with a vision,” Dr. Rinaldi explained, noting that since many people have contributed to the health center, but the vision has remained.
That vision focuses on athletes, which Dr. Rinaldi described as “anyone who is doing a consistent exercise to reach a goal.” Sure, he said, the clinic attracts world class athletes on a regular basis. But if someone is walking a dog every day and feeling pain, the clinic is there for that athlete as well.
Overall the goal is to get athletes of all abilities back to the activities they love.
Dr. Rinaldi has been joined in his love of caring for athletes over the years by physical therapists, chiropractor Dr. Hank Glass, sports medicine physician Dr. Peter Loescher, certified athletic trainer Heidi McClellan, a second podiatrist, Dr. Paul Smith, and, the latest addition to the team, a second chiropractor, Dr. Michael Chamberland. A second sports medicine physician is expected to join the practice in September.
The first addition added physical therapy gym space and X-ray technology. This latest expansion adds more gym space, a third physical therapy treatment room, four new exam rooms, a start-of-the-art gait analysis system and wall mounted flat screens for viewing ultrasounds.
Visit the Sharon Health Center, a.k.a. Casa Rinaldi, at 12 Shippee Lane, just off Route 14, in Sharon. Call 763-8000.