Ellen Bando, PA-C has joined Gifford’s Pediatrics team, bringing 15 years of experience with pediatric and adolescent patients.
She most recently worked at the Winslow Indian Health Care Center in AZ, where she spent 5 years as part of a medical team providing outpatient care for Native American patients, and working a mobile medical van that brought preventive and screening services to remote communities on the Navajo Reservation.
Bando knew when she graduated from college that she wanted to help underserved rural communities, and first worked in hospital administration.
“I was disturbed by the inequality I saw in access to medical care, and decided that I wanted to make a difference by taking care of patients directly,” said Bando. “I began as a lab technician, and then at age 30 decided to train to be a physician assistant.”
She received a master of Medical Science from the Emory University School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program, completing rotations in pediatrics, family medicine, ob/gyn, inpatient and outpatient internal medicine, emergency medicine, and surgery. She also completed elective clinical service in rheumatology, newborn medicine, and pediatrics, and worked on the Navajo Reservation.
An NCCPA-certified physician assistant, Bando has provided a wide spectrum of primary care services to children and their families, and she has a special interest in pediatric and adolescent care. Other clinical interests include pediatric obesity, adolescent health, and cross-cultural medicine.
Bando practiced at Upper Valley Pediatrics in Bradford VT before accepting her most recent position in Arizona. Wanting to be closer to family in Hartford, VT, she began to look for a position in a rural Vermont community where she could settle with her family. The position at Gifford was a good fit, and she has already purchased a home nearby.
“Patient-centered care is the heart of medicine—I’ve always practiced in a small community where people can get to know you and you can get to know them,” says Bando. “My work with Navajos taught me to be a good listener. I listen to what my patients say and then try to be their advocate.”
To schedule an appointment, please call 802-728-2777.
Two certified nurse midwives have joined Gifford’s Birthing Center team: Ali Swanson, who comes to Randolph from a practice in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Vermont native Susan Paris. Established in 1977, Gifford’s Birthing Center was the first in Vermont to offer an alternative to traditional hospital-based deliveries, and continues to be a leader in midwifery and family-centered care.
Ali Swanson grew up just north of Chicago and received a BA from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her clinical interests include adolescent health and waterbirth.
After working as a midwife in the inner city of Chicago for two years, she was attracted to the Canadian midwifery model (where midwives function as autonomous providers who assist in childbirth in homes, hospitals, and free standing birthing centers) and obtained her Canadian licensure. She most recently was a registered midwife at the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. Wanting to relocate to Vermont, she is excited to have found a community hospital where she can draw on her experiences in both hospital and out-of-hospital settings.
“Birth is a life-changing event and a very unique experience,” says Swanson. “It is all about trust and a woman’s relationship to her body, her family, and her midwife. I want to help a woman experience it in a way that is supportive and comfortable for her.”
Susan Paris, raised in Jeffersonville, Vermont, always knew she wanted to help women with labor and delivery. “Midwifery is in my bones,” she says.
She received a BS from Johnson State College, an Associate in Nursing from VTC, and a Master of Science in Midwifery from the Midwifery Institute of Philadelphia. She most recently worked as a labor, delivery, recovery, and postpartum nurse at Martin Memorial Health Center in Florida, and has also worked at Copley Hospital and the University Medical Center of Vermont. Paris says she brings a supportive and friendly approach to her work, and also a sense of humor—“It’s supposed to be fun too!” Her clinical interests include the prenatal and birthing experience, well-women care, and adolescent care. She is pleased to be back in Vermont and part of a team that offers women a broad skill set and choices in style as well as personality.
“With childbirth you need to have many ‘tools,’ available and consider many options –you never can predict how the process will go,” said Swanson. “I want to help women along the path they’ve chosen, but I’m always prepared to adapt and be ready to move in a different direction when needed.”
The Birthing Center team brings extensive knowledge and skill to their work: four licensed midwives and three board-certified obstetricians/gynecologists with expertise in high-risk pregnancy and birth collaborate when needed to provide compassionate, 24-hour care. At each step of the process they work to personalize the process, helping women choose their best options for a positive and rewarding birth experience.
Ali Swanson and Susan Paris are currently accepting new patients. To learn more about the Birthing Center, please call 728-2257.
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
This article was published in our Fall 2015 Update.
With the unique ongoing relationship primary care providers establish with patients and families, they may be among the first to recognize that someone is struggling with depression, anxiety, or even substance abuse.
This year Gifford expanded the Behavioral Health team (it now includes a psychiatrist, a master’s level psychotherapist, a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, and a psychiatric nurse practitioner) to help primary care providers identify ongoing issues and help patients get the support and care they need.
“There are people in our community who are struggling with sadness, depression, are grieving a loss, or are overwhelmed by money issues. We want them to know that they can get help,” said Gifford’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Martin Johns.
He notes that the new Behavioral Health team will complement the work of the Clara Martin Center, which handles more long term psychotherapy needs, and offers a depth of expertise that is unusual in a small rural hospital.
“Having behavioral health expertise onsite to assist in the emergency room if needed, or to consult on inpatient and outpatient care, will allow our primary care provider to help more patients manage mental illness issues,” he said.
Behavioral Health Director Dr. Peter Thomashow says his team looks closely at how biological, psychological, and social factors influence health. They offer individual, couples, and family psychotherapy and education and also collaborate with primary care providers to help them manage depression in patients.
“We are especially interested in helping individuals having difficulty coping with chronic medical illness,” said Thomashow. “Behavioral health needs to be integrated into a primary care plan, especially when treating chronic illness.”
The Behavioral Health clinic services include comprehensive evaluation and treatment for a wide range of psychiatric disorders for adults (age 18 and older) including:
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!”
This article was published in our Cancer Program 2014 Annual Report.
The providers in Gifford’s Cancer Program regularly visit senior centers, nursing homes, church meetings, and other community gatherings to offer skin cancer screenings, give free talks on cancer prevention and the importance of early detection, and host educational discussions of breast, bladder, prostate, and colorectal cancer.
In talks like “Everyone’s Got One: A Discussion of the Colon and How to Keep it Healthy,” surgeon Dr. Olveto Ciccarelli uses humor to help people learn about the importance of colorectal cancer prevention and screening.
“Everyone has these organs, but people are reluctant to talk about problems with their colon or their rectum,” said Ciccarelli. “Men especially find it difficult to discuss these matters, but this is one area where medical science has proven that cancer can be avoided, lives extended, and quality of life improved.”
This is especially true with colorectal cancer, which was a program focus for 2014. Colorectal cancer is called the only “preventable cancer” because it is the one cancer where regular screenings can help to keep cancer from forming. A colonoscopy detects any slow-growing polyps that may form in the colon so they can be removed before becoming cancerous. Because early colorectal cancer often has no symptoms, screening is even more important because it can detect existing cancer when treatment is most effective.
Still, colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in men and women in the United States. The good news is that deaths from colorectal cancer have decreased as more people take advantage of screening tests like colonoscopies, specialized X-rays, and tests that check for cancer in the stool.
So far, Gifford has had significant success with our efforts to increase colorectal screening rates for our target age group of 50-75 (an increase to 90 percent in 2014 from 59 percent in 2013).
We will continue to spread the word in our community. With colon cancer, it is simple: Regular screening could save your life.
Click here to read our full Cancer Program 2014 Annual Report.
The following article appeared in our 2014 Annual Report.
Adult Day participants at both of Gifford’s locations enjoy many activities: sing-alongs, live performances, arts and crafts, exercise, games — even visits from a therapy dog!
Another senior-health initiative came to fruition in 2014 when the boards of Gifford and Project Independence, an adult day center located in Barre, unanimously
agreed to a merger in May after studying the relationship for more than a year.
The merger took place at the conclusion of Gifford’s fiscal year on September 30.
Project Independence got its start in 1975 when a nursing home activity director, Lindsey Wade, encountered residents who didn’t seem to medically belong there. Wade envisioned a social adult day program, a new concept at the time. An active board and an interested city brought to life Project Independence on Washington Street, and in the decades since, its model has expanded statewide. There are currently 14 adult day programs in Vermont.
Today’s Project Independence serves 23 towns in Washington and northern Orange counties, welcoming an average 38 seniors and the disabled each weekday. The project includes meals, showers, medication management, and ample activities, providing participants with a fun and safe day care experience while also allowing them to stay at home—a far more affordable model than nursing-home care.
But an ongoing struggle for funding—combined with property damage caused by flooding in 2011 and a sewer issue during Barre’s “Big Dig”—prompted small, standalone Project Independence to seek help in the form of a partner. The board was drawn to Gifford because of the adult day program in Bethel, the medical center’s mission of supporting seniors, and its commitment to community.
Under the full-asset merger, Project Independence retains its name, location, and fund-raising dollars. Its board will become an advisory board to provide local perspective and experience, and employees will become part of Gifford, opening the door to enhanced benefits. Project Independence will be helped by Gifford’s staff, from financial to billing to nursing help, as well as its buying power as a larger organization.
“When someone has a humble request for help as it relates to the delivery of health care services, we take that seriously,” said Gifford Administrator Joe Woodin, praising Project Independence’s board, values, volunteers, and hardworking team. “For us, that’s extraordinarily appealing and we’re thankful that they’ve asked us.”
Joining with Project Independence is in keeping with Gifford’s mission and provides support to a needed service that will no doubt grow as the state looks for more affordable ways to care for a growing senior population, said Gifford Board Chair Gus Meyer.
This article was published in our Cancer Program 2014 Annual Report.
Established in 1959, Gifford’s Cancer Program is accredited by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.
A dedicated cancer committee meets regularly to provide leadership for the program, including setting program goals and objectives, driving quality improvements and best outcomes for patients, and coordinating Gifford’s multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment.
Operating out of our relaxing Ambulatory Care Unit, Gifford’s Oncology Department includes:
Cancer care from an experienced oncologist
Specially certified oncology nurses
Planning options for cancer treatment following a diagnosis
Treatments for some hematology conditions
The medical center is home to advanced diagnostic technology, including stereotactic breast biopsies; a breast care coordinator providing education and outreach; a patient care navigator; many surgical offerings; data management and quality oversight; and cancer prevention programs, including a “Prevention into Practice” model that works with patients and their health care providers to bring screenings to the forefront.
Click here to read our full Cancer Program 2014 Annual Report.
Gifford welcomes experienced primary care physician to community health center team
Dr. Laura Barber
Dr. Laura Barber, MD, has joined the Chelsea Health Center, bringing more than 20 years of experience caring for families as a primary care physician.
When the private primary care group practice she had led in Abilene, Texas recently dissolved, rather than affiliate with a larger healthcare organization, Dr. Barber saw an opportunity to move to New England, where her son and sister live.
“When I visited the Chelsea Health Center, I liked what I saw,” she said. “I like to get to know people over a period of time, to work with entire families. This is the kind of patient-centered care I want to be doing.”
Barber earned a BS from Newcomb College of Tulane University, and an MD at the University of Texas Medical School, San Antonio. She completed her family practice residency at the Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene Texas, stayed on in private practice, and has been president of Abilene Primary Care Associates since July of 1996.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Barber often visited a small rural Eastern Texas town that inspired her first dreams of becoming a physician.
“I loved science and working with people, and medicine combined these interests. As it turned out, I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she said. “My first dream was to set up a practice over the post office in that small rural town I’d come to love as a child.”
That Texan town was later ruined by strip mining, but Barber and her sister, who has owned a cabin in Tunbridge since the early 80’s, say the area around Chelsea brings back memories of the rural community they had loved as children and “feels like home.”
The move cross-country makes sense in other ways as well. One of Barber’s three sons is working with a technology firm in Nashua, NH. And Barber and her husband, avid history buffs, have purchased the historic Federal-style Denison house in Royalton Village.
“I was up until midnight the night we purchased it, rubbing orange oil and bees wax on the dry, old wood paneling!” she said.
Dr. Barber is board-certified by the American Board of Family Practice and a fellow of the American Academy of Family Practice. At the Chelsea Health Center she joins physician assistant and Chelsea native Rebecca Savidge, and is now seeing new patients. Call for an appointment at 802-685-4400.
Twelve vibrantly colored abstract paintings by Vermont artist Alan Jacobs are currently on display in the Gifford Medical Center art gallery. The exhibit will run through September 23, 2015, and is free and open to the public.
Jacobs, a retired psychiatrist and psychoanalyst and self-taught artist, describes his process as being “more determined by a conversation between fingers, paint, canvas, and unreflective thought and impulses than by any conscious ideas.”
After moving to Vermont several years ago, he began to paint at the suggestion of his artist daughter. He started working with pastels, but moved on to oil on canvas. Jacobs
says that he trusts the viewer to connect and react to the recurrent colors and images in his work in their own unique way.
Jacobs’ work was displayed earlier this year in VTC’s Hartness Library.