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.
Gifford specialists are supported by the most current advanced diagnostic technology and offer a range of specialty services—all conveniently located right in your community, with easy access and parking. Specialty services include:
• general surgery
• sports medicine
• rehabilitative services that include physical, occupational, and speech therapies
New Providers on the Specialty Services Team
General Surgeon Dr. Mario Potvin Born and raised in Quebec City, Dr. Potvin brings nineteen years of experience in general surgery, advanced laparoscopy surgery skills, and extensive knowledge of endoscopy and GERD investigation. He practiced in Canada for six years before accepting a position with the Mayo Health Systems in 1997. He has lived and practiced in Minnesota since then, but wanted to move closer to family in Quebec.
Oncologist Dr. Eswar Tipirneni Board certified in both internal medicine and hematology/oncology, Dr. Tipirneni is now seeing oncology patients one day a week in Randolph. He is also a provider in the UVM Health Network, and so brings the resources of an academic cancer research center to his patients at Gifford, including participation in multidisciplinary tumor boards and current clinical trials.
Anesthesiologist Dr. Anthony Fazzone has worked in several area hospitals, including the University of Vermont Health Care System, Springfield Hospital, and the Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, NH. He has a special interest in regional anesthesia, which uses nerve blocks, spinal taps, or epidurals to help patients avoid high doses of medication and provide pain relief for patients after surgery.
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
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.
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.
The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.
Back (left to right) Linda Morse, Peter Nowlan, Sheila Jacobs, Paul Kendall, Matt Considine, and Lincoln Clark. Front: Jody Richards, Barbara Rochat, Gus Meyer, Dr. Ellamarie Russo-DeMara, Randy Garner, Sue Sherman, Joe Woodin, Carol Bushey, and Linda Chugkowski. Not pictured: Bill Baumann, Fred Newhall, and Bob Wright.
Volunteer board leads Gifford with vision, passion and energy
2014 was a year of great excitement for Gifford, as several projects moved from the planning stage into actual implementation. Our FQHC status, new senior living community, and the much-needed upgrade for inpatient rooms are all visible signs of Gifford’s readiness for quality community care in a larger landscape of changing healthcare reform.
Each of these accomplishments was built on years of behind-the-scenes planning. None of them would have been possible without the dedicated work of our 16 volunteer board members, who last year alone collectively gave more than 2,500 hours of their time to meetings and subcommittee activities. Board members bring passion and energy to the challenge of balancing the work that translates our mission (providing access to high-quality care to all we serve) with anticipating and planning for future healthcare needs.
“Gifford is woven into the fabric of this community. For more than 100 years generations have had the benefit of local access to quality care,” says board secretary Robert Wright, who was born at Gifford and now lives in Brookfield. “Gifford has been able to maintain that identity and also grow with the times, attracting highly skilled people and successfully investing in the equipment and facilities needed to provide the quality of care that people expect.”
Board members are recruited from across the community and have worked in various businesses and civic organizations. This diverse perspective keeps Gifford’s vision grounded in the community it serves, with a distinctive small town commitment to quality.
Board work is demanding, but members say learning about the hospital and participating in decisions that will shape the future of healthcare in their community is rewarding.
“It is by far the most rewarding volunteer activity that I have ever done,” says Randolph resident Randy Garner. “Gifford has shown me the model of being an actively engaged board member, and seeing the results of the board’s actions is extremely gratifying.”
Others want to give back to their community: “I joined the board because Gifford is community focused, a small town hospital that provides excellent healthcare and uses the latest technology,” says Northfield resident Linda Chugkowski. “I feel proud and privileged to be promoting the hospital during these troubled health care times.”
The job description for a Gifford board member might read: part planner, policy-maker, visionary, realist, promoter, cheerleader, and community advocate. It requires the ability to bring a pragmatist’s eye to sustaining robust primary care and a visionary’s openness to future possibilities. When asked what makes the institution unique, you’ll get the clear answer of a realist:
“Gifford is unique in that they are a small Critical Access Hospital and FQHC facility with niches that they do better than anyone else, like primary care, podiatry and sports medicine,” says Brookfield resident Carol Bushey. “They will never compete with the large hospital, but they will continue to do what they do better than anyone long into the future.”
But new possibilities and future community roles for Gifford are always part of the planning:
“I am excited to see the direction Gifford is going with the senior living community and hope that this continues to all levels so Randolph will have a place where folks can comfortably live out their lives,” says Garner. “Gifford will continue to be on the forefront of quality care with a small town feel.”
Podiatrist/sports medicine advocate celebrated for His 12 years at Sharon Health Center
Gifford staff gathered on March 25 to celebrate podiatrist Dr. Rob Rinaldi’s 12 years of service to an expanding community of athletes, and to wish him well as he transitions to new roles in the organization.
The party featured a cake shaped like a foot, lots of foot jokes, and heartfelt stories about Rinaldi’s many contributions and roles at Gifford: as generous mentor, sports medicine advocate, surgeon, and the force behind the very successful Sharon Health Center and sports medicine clinic.
“I flunked the first time I retired!” Rinaldi quipped, explaining that he missed seeing patients when he left a thriving Connecticut practice and retired to his farm in Chelsea in 2000. So when Gifford Administrator Joe Woodin approached him about expanding sports medicine at Gifford, he was receptive: “I didn’t want to sound too anxious, so I said yes!”
Rinaldi helped design the first phase of the Sharon Health Center, which opened in 2005. By 2008 a 2,200 square foot expansion was added to accommodate the thriving sports medicine clinic, and a final planned 2,600 square foot expansion was added in 2014.
Today, athletes come from all over the Upper Valley to the center, which includes 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. The sports medicine team includes: Michael Chamberland, DC (chiropractic/sports medicine); Paul Smith, DPM (podiatry/sports medicine); Nat Harlow, DO; and Peter Loescher, MD (sports medicine); and a team of physical therapists.
“Rob brought years of business experience to the creation of Sharon Health Center,” Woodin said. “But he also brought his pride in what he does, and his entrepreneurial spirit to Gifford.”
The stories Rinaldi’s colleagues told described a generous and compassionate mentor: “Rob was the voice of wisdom, the one people came to when facing some sort of challenge,” said Vice President of Surgery Rebecca O’Berry.
Although he will no longer be seeing patients, Rinaldi will continue to serve on administrative committees at Gifford, and will work with residents at the new Menig Nursing Home when it opens this spring in Randolph Center.
This article was published in Gifford’s Fall 2014 Update Community Newsletter.
In his 50-year career, Sharon Health Center podiatrist Dr. Rob Rinaldi was always pretty certain that his gait analysis skills were spot on.
In his early years in private practice in Connecticut, he analyzed an athlete’s gait through observation. Next came a high-speed Nikon camera. Dr. Rinaldi would take pictures, develop the images, and study them for what the industry calls foot strike and toe off.
A video camera followed, and then most recently the Sharon Health Center had a treadmill, video camera, and monitor set-up. “I really thought we were cutting-edge,” says Dr. Rinaldi.
That is, until the clinic purchased a Noraxon MyoPressure Lab – a state-of-the-art gait and movement performance system – as part of its recent renovations and expansion.
Now providers at the Sharon clinic are using the new technology to diagnose problems, come up with treatment plans, and improve patient outcomes.
The new system includes a treadmill with a force plate that can analyze pressure, show that on a monitor, and immediately print out those results, showing where someone is putting pressure on his or her feet both walking and running, and with and without shoes.
It has two video cameras that can show live images on a computer monitor or be recorded. The health center is also using its original camera, meaning three video cameras are really at work monitoring gaits. And it has a surface EMG to measure muscle activation patterns throughout the body.
Gifford is the only hospital in Vermont with the technology. In fact, one would have to drive to Boston’s Children’s Hospital in Waltham, Mass., or to White Plains, N.Y., to find the closest other such systems.
Dr. Rinaldi is using the new technology for every sports analysis and for individuals at risk of falling. The health center’s other providers – including podiatrists, chiropractors, and sports medicine physicians – are using it as well to look at muscles, joint angles, alignment, and to train athletes.
The results of the Noraxon analysis lead to treatment plans, including sharing information with in-house physical therapists.
“We’ve always felt our success was based on a team approach. Now we’re able to quantify and graphically share information (among the team),” Dr. Rinaldi says.
“What I have found is my outcomes seem to be better,” he says. In some instances, he’s also offering more conservative treatments to surgery.
The Sharon Health Center is a renowned, multi-discipline sports medicine practice located off Route 14 in Sharon. Call the center at 763-8000.
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.
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.