Gifford’s 2014 Highlights: October – December

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.


Gifford completes its upgrade to electronic medical records (EMR). Throughout the year, Gifford primary care and specialty care outpatient practices moved from paper to candidates' debateelectronic records as part of a federal initiative.

Gifford and the White River Valley Chamber of Commerce collaborate to hold the only local candidates’ debate for Senate and House of Representatives candidates.

Gifford's Woman to Woman FundGifford employee Teresa Bradley and her niece, Krista Warner, once again hold a bowling tournament in memory of Teresa’s mom and Krista’s grandmother, Ruth Brown. Money raised supports Gifford’s Woman to Woman Fund and brings awareness to the importance of mammograms.

Gifford announces it has met its state-approved operating margin for the 15th consecutive year.

Gifford meets operating margin


Major Melvin McLaughlin

Gifford loses one of the greatest heroes of our time, Major Melvin McLaughlin. Affectionately known as “the Major” and “Major Mac,” he spent the last 40 years volunteering at the hospital, encouraging staff and patients with words of love and friendship. He will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.

Hannaford gift certificate for Project IndependenceHannaford Supermarket in South Barre presented Project Independence with a gift certificate worth $1,500. The gift is used to offset the cost of groceries for the program which provides a daily breakfast, lunch, and snack for roughly 38 participants. When the store manager asked staff which nonprofit they should contribute to, the adult day program was at the top of their list.

Dr. Lou DiNicolaPediatrician Dr. Lou DiNicola receives the Green Mountain Pediatrician Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter. He was acknowledged for over 38 years of service as a Gifford pediatrician. Along with a plaque, Dr. DiNicola was presented a 7-foot-long handwritten scroll describing what makes him special.


Gifford once again invests $40,000 into the regional economy through the Gifford Gift Certificate program.

Gifford’s 2014 Highlights: July – September

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.


Gifford concert seriesThe 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 HarrisPodiatrist 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.


Dr. Kenyatta NormanAfter 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.

Last Mile RideJP’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 Sue Schoolcraftparticipants.

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 TubensOb/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 ScaleraDr. 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.

Dr. Jeff LourieFamily nurse practitioner Jeff Lourie joins the Gifford Health Center at Berlin.

Project Independence of Barre officially merges with Gifford.

Gifford’s 2014 Highlights: April – June

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.


Gifford volunteersGifford employee Cindy Legacy, who shared her weight loss story in the 2013 annual report, starts a popular “Weight Loss Support Group” at Gifford on Wednesday evenings.

Gifford volunteers are celebrated at a luncheon. In 2013, 120 volunteers gave 16,678 hours to Gifford or 2,085 eight-hour days. Auxiliary volunteers working at the Thrift Shop gave another 6,489 hours or 811 eight-hour days. The celebration’s theme was “Hats Off to You.”


Gifford is named a Top 100 Critical Access Hospital in the nation by iVantage Health Analytics. iVantage used what it calls a Hospital Strength INDEX to compare Gifford against 1,246 Critical Access Hospital nationwide on 66 different performance metrics.

Starr StrongStarr Strong retires from the Chelsea Health Center after 21 years. She was the first physician assistant Gifford ever hired. An open house recognizes both Starr’s contributions and welcomes new providers to the clinic, which is packed for the event.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and officials from the Health Resources and Services Administration release a video holding up Gifford as a national model for primary care.

Casa RinaldiSharon Health Center staff members cut a ribbon on their newly expanded health center. Added are 2,600 square feet and a sign beside the front door declaring the building “Casa Rinaldi” in honor of podiatrist Dr. Rob Rinaldi who helped create the vision behind the popular sports medicine clinic.

New technology is also offered, such as a state-of-the-art Noraxon gait and movement analysis system, and a large wall-mounted monitor for a better look at live ultrasound imaging.

senior living facility groundbreakingGround is broken on a much-anticipated senior living community in Randolph Center. More than 100 are on hand to witness the start of the first phase of the project — a new, 30-bed nursing home to replace the current Menig Extended Care Facility.

A second “Infant and Child CPR” course is held, along with a second “Home Alone and Safe” course, a second “Babysitter’s Training Course” and another “Quit In Person” group smoking cessation series.

“Low Impact Water Aerobics for Chronic Conditions” is offered at Vermont Technical College’s pool for free for those with an economic need and chronic condition who are struggling to exercise.


Project IndependenceGifford announces that it will merge with Barre adult day program, Project Independence, at the end of September. Project Independence is the state’s first adult day program and serves 23 towns in Washington and northern Orange counties, providing an essential community resource.

The non-profit organization was facing financial struggles following flooding in 2011. A merger with Gifford means shared staff and reduced costs for the organization, allowing it to keep operating. The boards of both non-profits agreed to the merger in May.

Gifford renovationsGifford is the first hospital in Vermont to “go live” with the Vermont Department of Health interface for syndromic surveillance. The interface is part of federal meaningful use criteria.

Renovations begin on Gifford’s third floor specialty clinics to group medical secretaries, nurses, and patient waiting for improved efficiency and a modern model of care.

Guiding the Future of Rural Health Care

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.

Gifford volunteers

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.”

A Message from Board Chair Gus Meyer

The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.

Gifford Board Chair Gus Meyer

Board Chair Gus Meyer

What a momentous year it’s been! Things we had been planning for years came to fruition in 2014. Even as these fundamental changes in our organization have taken place, Gifford has maintained its remarkable fiscal stability and continued our steady growth in the proficiency, professionalism, and breadth of service that we provide.

In 2015, we anticipate completion of the nursing home, renovation of the space that Menig now occupies, expansion of mental health and dental services associated with the FQHC, and full implementation of the EMR, along with ongoing commitment to fiscal responsibility and improvement in quality of care.

These accomplishments are all the more amazing because they have been achieved in a very uncertain health care environment. While Governor Shumlin has suspended planning for single payer health care, many other aspects of health care reform continue. For example, accountable care organizations are now in development, with the goal of changing from fee-for-service to covered lives reimbursement.

How these changes get implemented will have profound impact on how medical decisions are made, as well as how and where care is delivered. In the coming year, as we pursue the internal strands mentioned above, we will also maintain our active involvement in the health care reform planning process, working to ensure that Gifford’s patients continue to have the highest quality, locally provided health care possible.

Louise Sjobeck and Therapy Dog Jasmine’s Menig Visit

Menig dog therapy

Menig resident Barbara Wright enjoys a visit from Jasmine, a Vermont Therapy dog.

As the sun was lowering on a cold February afternoon, Gifford volunteer Louise Sjobeck and her dog Jasmine walked down a quiet hall toward two Menig residents who were visiting on a bench.

Before she could reach them, a woman in a wheelchair appeared, stretching out her arms to stroke the brown and white Shih Tzu’s silky fur: “What nice ears you have!”

Within minutes more people appeared, filling the space with smiles and stroking hands and conversations: “I love dogs, we used to have two dogs….” “This little doggie is so soft!” “I hope it won’t leak on me—oh, I wouldn’t mind. I‘d just brush it off!”

The visit marked the beginning of a new role for Sjobeck, who had spent nearly a year training and working with five-year-old Jasmine to prepare her for the Therapy Dogs of Vermont certification test. Dogs that are gentle, enjoy being touched, aren’t fearful, and are able to remain calm in new situations are allowed to take the exam, which tests for 48 criteria.

To celebrate their inaugural visit, Jasmine was dressed in a red ruffled dress decorated with Valentine’s Day hearts, bringing some early holiday spirit to Menig.

“I love to see the residents’ faces light up when the pet visits occur,” said Brooks Chapin, director of nursing at Menig. “There is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog.”

Local Crafters Donate Quilts for Gifford Babies

Crazy Angel Quilters donate warm, colorful quilts to Gifford’s Birthing Center

Crazy Angels

Left to right: Gifford Birthing Center Assistant Nurse Manager Kim Summers, Crazy Angel quilter Kayla Denny, and Karin Olson, RN

Gifford Medical Center’s youngest patients can leave the hospital wrapped in warmth and vibrant color thanks to a generous donation of 36 baby quilts, lovingly crafted by a group of “Crazy Angels.”

Kayla Denny, of East Bethel, brought two plastic bins filled with beautiful, carefully folded quilts to Gifford’s Birthing Center on January 20, 2015. She explained that the Crazy Angel Quilters— her mother Bobbie Denny, grandmother Gladys Muzzy, and friends Kitty LaClair, and Maggie Corey—have been meeting weekly for over a year to create the donated baby quilts.

“You don’t know how happy it makes us to be able to offer these to families,” Gifford Birthing Center Assistant Nurse Manager Kim Summers told Denny as she and Karin Olson, RN admired the colorful selection of donated quilts.

Denny, a CAT scan technologist at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center says she learned to quilt after her mother taught her to sew her own scrub tops for work when she finished her X-ray training. She fell in love with the craft and has been creating beautiful quilts ever since.

Crazy Angel Quilts

Baby Lola Alsup wrapped in a quilt donated by Crazy Angel Quilters

Inspired by Project Linus, a national nonprofit that provides homemade blankets to children in need, the The Crazy Angels wanted to do something for local children. “We all loved to sew and enjoyed sewing together,” said Denny. She estimates that each quilt takes five hours to complete. When not sewing with the Crazy Angels, Denny creates quilts to sell through her business, Sew Many Stitches.

Within hours of the donation, Monica and AJ Alsup of Thetford Center, VT, stood before a bed covered with quilts, trying to choose one for their day-old daughter. The happy family left for home with a sleeping baby Lola, warmly enveloped in playful owls, pink hearts, and polka dots.

Fellowship-trained Sports Medicine Doctor Joins Sharon Health Center

Dr. Nathaniel HarlowDr. 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.

A Spoonful of Thanks: Message from the Development Director

The following is an excerpt from our 2013 Annual Report: A Recipe for Success.

spoonful of thanksGifford’s is a story steeped in tradition, and one that has only grown more positive in recent years. As director of fund-raising efforts, telling that story of a small hospital making it and improving year after year despite the odds is such a privilege.

In 2013, that is even more true. We’re celebrating another year of major achievements, including “making” budget, earning Federally Qualified Health Center status allowing us to soon provide enhanced primary care to the community and receiving all approvals needed to move forward with the construction of a Senior Living Community in Randolph Center and private inpatient rooms at Gifford.

In 2014, moving forward on our Senior Living Community and private patient rooms will become a major focus for the Development Office, Development Committee and our new Campaign Steering Committee.

These committees are comprised of hardworking volunteers. The project has already generated much excitement from both donors and from community members hoping to one day make this community home.

Over time, the Senior Living Community will include the Menig Extended Care Facility nursing home, independent living units and assisted living units. This vision allows our friends and neighbors to age in place rather than leaving their community for similar housing.

Constructing the nursing home, building infrastructure for the entire community and creating private inpatient rooms, however, will take community support. This support is already being demonstrated among the Gifford community, including our Auxiliary, Board and Medical Staff, and soon will be an exciting public campaign where community members can help make this project a reality through financial investments.

Ours is a community that supports its hospital and patients. We continue to have remarkable success each year with our annual fund and once again we have raised a record amount in support of end-of-life care through the Last Mile Ride – our charity motorcycle ride held each year on the third Saturday in August. Participants, volunteers and local business sponsors make this event possible and so positive for our hospital and community. We look forward to continuing and growing this (now) Randolph tradition in 2014.

As always, there are many ways to support Gifford – as a donor, as a patient, as an employee and as a volunteer both at the medical center and through the Auxiliary. I welcome your inquiries on how you can become involved in our story of success and in bettering patients’ lives.

~ Ashley Lincoln, Director of Development

A Cup of Compassion: Volunteer Profile

The following is an excerpt from our 2013 Annual Report: A Recipe for Success.

a cup of compassion

During a trip to Hawaii in April of 2000, Irene Schaefer’s husband fell, hit his head, and died two days later at Queens Medical Center in Honolulu. Irene was completely alone, except for the chaplaincy volunteers at the hospital who sat with her during her husband’s final two days.

“It was traumatic and sad, but those people kept me going,” says Irene.

Just a month later, back in Randolph, a local reverend with the help of a team of area churchgoers started the volunteer chaplaincy program at Gifford. It was too soon for Irene, a local resident, but when a second training was scheduled that November, Irene signed up. “I had to get out and give back because of what I had been given in Hawaii.”

In the more than decade since, this now 85-year-old has made Gifford her “second home.” “It’s very rewarding. I get more out of it than I give,” she says.

She comes several times a month to spend a couple of hours visiting with patients. When a patient is dying, Irene offers a prayer “for a calm and smooth transition.” Mostly, though, she listens. “Everybody has a story,” she says.

She is often the person called in the night to comfort a patient or family in the Emergency Department.

For Irene, it is not her first “job” or even her first volunteer job. From New Jersey, Irene was a church secretary for years. Upon moving to Randolph 40 years ago, she worked at DuBois and King as the “girl Friday” distributing mail, developing photos in a dark room and operating the business’ first computer, which was roughly the size of Gifford’s chapel, she recalls. She went on to do computer work for a local accountant, until retiring in 1991. A decade of volunteering at White River Valley Ambulance in billing followed.

At WRVA, Irene chased down patients and insurance companies for payments.

At Gifford, the only payment a soft spoken, elegant and humorous Irene is seeking is peace of mind.

“I think I could write a book. The experiences have been from very humorous to very sad. I have had a marriage proposal,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve also been in the Garden Room (for end-of-life patients). I don’t want to say it’s my favorite place, but it’s a place where I feel comfortable, when some of the other (volunteers) do not, because I have been there personally, and I totally admire our palliative care system.”

That admiration and an ongoing need for a comforting hand and listening ear will keep Irene volunteering with Gifford’s chaplaincy program as long as she’s able.

“I look at it as a need. It’s a need that’s being fulfilled, which doesn’t happen at all hospitals. It’s part of Gifford’s outreach and caring and the reason why patients want to be here.”

Irene Schaefer

Irene Schaefer