Ob/gyn team provides comprehensive care — and now total laparoscopic hysterectomies

This article was published in Gifford’s Fall 2014 Update Community Newsletter.

Gifford ob/gyn teamGifford’s women’s health team has grown to include two new ob/gyns.

Dr. Sean Tubens and Dr. Melissa Scalera have joined gynecologist Dr. Ellamarie Russo-DeMara, as well as Gifford’s certified nurse-midwife team, in caring for women.

Dr. Sean Tubens
Dr. Tubens is a native of Baltimore who joined the U.S. Marines out of high school. He went on to work in his father’s trade – as a hairdresser – before illness took his parents’ lives just months apart. Dr. Tubens found himself wanting to do more and pursued a career in medicine.

He attended Towson University in Baltimore, graduating magna cum laude in just three years while working full-time. He went on to Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica in the West Indies and New Jersey and completed his ob/gyn residency at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Fla. During his residency, he worked exclusively on high risk pregnancies and performing gynecologic
surgeries.

His work at Bayfront earned him recognitions for excellence in laparoscopic surgery, excellence in reproductive endocrinology and as outstanding resident teacher of the year.

When it came time to look for a job, Dr. Tubens looked for a warm and friendly community where he and his wife could settle with their two huskies.

He has found that in Vermont and at Gifford.

“People are so welcoming. They smile. That’s very attractive,” said Dr. Tubens. “We hope we can spend the rest of our lives here.”

Dr. Melissa Scalera
A native of New Jersey, Dr. Scalera was the first person in her immediate family to go to college. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Williams College located just three miles south of Vermont in Williamstown, Mass. She worked at a direct marketing company that made and sold leather books before deciding that she wanted a change.

“I want to be a doctor,” she decided, quit her job, and moved in with her parents. With no science classes to her credit, she did two years of post-baccalaureate studies in the pre-medical curriculum at nearby Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., before attending the New Jersey School of Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark. She went on to residency at Albany Medical Center in nearby New York.

Since then she has worked for 13 years as an ob/gyn physician in Washington, Texas, Oregon, Pennsylvania, New Zealand, and North Carolina. A love of snow and skiing has brought her and her family to Vermont, and to Gifford.

“Gifford,” she says, is “a really fantastic match for me.”

A new team
Dr. Scalera brings a love of all things ob/gyn to the practice. Dr. Tubens is a new resource in high-risk pregnancies, gynecologic surgery as well as office procedures. Specifically, Dr. Tubens offers urogynecology procedures for uterine prolapse, bladder and rectal prolapse, and urinary incontinence. He also performs total laparoscopic hysterectomies – something not previously offered at Gifford.

Dr. Tubens and Dr. Scalera are currently working exclusively in Randolph. Their skills meld nicely with Dr. Russo-DeMara, who focuses on gynecologic and menopause care. Dr. Russo-DeMara works out of Gifford’s Bethel and White River Junction practices. Joining them are Gifford’s midwifery team, which focus on prenatal care and births as well as well-woman care in Randolph and Berlin.

“This new team is providing comprehensive women’s health medical and surgical services, from contraception to menopause management and everything in between,” explained Alison White, Gifford vice president of patient care services.

BRCA Test Can Help Determine Risk for Breast, Ovarian Cancer

By Dr. Ellamarie Russo-DeMara, Gynecologist

Angelina Jolie’s courageous decision to undergo a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of developing hereditary breast cancer has brought to light an important test done regularly, and promoted, at Gifford.

The reason behind Jolie’s decision was a positive BRCA test. BRCA is a test for hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. It is as pain-free as a test gets; all you have to do is spit in a test tube.

In more scientific terms, the test is of your saliva or, buccal DNA, and is done right in the doctor’s office to check for an inherited mutation or alteration in the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene.

While hereditary breast and ovarian cancer account for only 5 percent of these cancers, knowing your BRCA status can help you and your family make informed decisions and choices.

A woman with BRCA 1 or 2 mutations has a markedly elevated risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, including:

  • Up to a 50 percent risk of developing breast cancer by age 50 (compared to 2 percent in the general population)
  • Up to an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer by age 70 (compared to 8 percent in the general population)
  • Up to a 64 percent risk of developing a second breast cancer
  • Up to a 44 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer by age 70 (compared to less than 1 percent in the general population)

Knowing whether you have this mutation will enable you to have increased surveillance and/or treatment, which can potentially save your life and help your family members make informed decisions. Management strategies may include earlier breast cancer screening with mammography or MRI, risk reducing surgery such as ovary removal after childbearing is completed, and chemoprevention, such as tamoxifen or birth control pills.

Red flags for hereditary breast and ovarian cancers, include:

  • Breast cancer before age 50
  • Ovarian cancer at any age
  • Male breast cancer at any age
  • Ashkenazi Jewish heritage
  • Relatives of a BRCA carrier

If you or a loved one falls into one of these categories, contact your primary care or gynecologist’s office to inquire about testing.

Dr. Ellamarie Russo-DeMara is a gynecologist at Gifford’s Bethel Health Center and Twin River Health Center in White River Junction. She provides BRCA advice and testing. She is also a breast cancer survivor.

‘Aging Together’

Free Gifford evening out focuses on couples’ sexual health

Health experts from Gifford Medical Center are joining forces to offer couples an educational evening out.

Gifford in Randolph is hosting “Aging Together: A special presentation for couples on changing sexual health” on March 27 from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Randolph hospital’s Conference Center.

“Our goal,” says organizer Rebecca O’Berry, Gifford’s vice president of surgery, “is to have people come in to a comfortable environment to talk about how normal physical changes can affect couples’ lives together.”

Dr. Richard Graham

Dr. Richard Graham

Speaking will be experienced urologist Dr. Richard Graham and veteran gynecologist and menopause expert Dr. Ellamarie Russo-DeMara.

Urologists treat male reproductive health conditions, as well as urinary health in men and women, and gynecologists care for female reproductive health. Common conditions like erectile dysfunction, which millions of men in the United States experience, and menopause, typically beginning around age 51 for women, can affect a couple’s relationship – often when those couples are finally able to spend time together.

“This is an important time in your life,” says O’Berry. “Your kids are getting older. You get to be back to being a couple and you don’t want normal signs of aging or medical problems to hinder that time together.

“There are ways that we as medical professionals can help you. There are answers.”

Dr. Ellamarie Russo-DeMara

Dr. Ellamarie Russo-DeMara

Drs. Graham and Russo-DeMara will review common problems and solutions and take questions from participants. Light refreshments will be served as the medical center strives to make the talk a fun “date night” out.

All are welcome to this free event. Those wanting to participate should register by calling Robin Palmer at (802) 728-2284 by March 21.

The Gifford Conference Center is on the first floor of the hospital. Take the elevator from the main lobby and follow signs to the conference center or take the stairs under the green awning from the patient parking lot. The conference rooms are just inside. For directions and more information, visit www.giffordmed.org. Like Gifford on Facebook to receive notices of other upcoming free community talks.

Free women’s health talk addresses menopause, genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancers

Ellamarie Russo-DeMara

Dr. Ellamarie Russo-DeMara

RANDOLPH – Gynecologist and certified menopause practitioner Dr. Ellamarie Russo-DeMara is leading a free women’s health talk on April 10 from 6-7 p.m. in the Porter Community Room at the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich.

Dr. Russo-DeMara, who provides women’s health care in White River Junction at the Twin River Health Center and at the Bethel Health Center, will address menopause, genetic testing for hereditary breast and ovarian cancers and more.

The talk is free. Participants, however, are encouraged to register by calling the Twin River Health Center at 296-7370 by April 3.

The Twin River and Bethel health centers are part of Gifford Medical Center in Randolph. Dr. Russo-DeMara has been providing women’s care for more than two decades. Learn more online at www.giffordmed.org.