Born in New Jersey, Dr. Lou DiNicola moved to Randolph in June of 1976 to become a local pediatrician. Passing up job offers in much larger areas then and since, he chose to stay in Randolph because he’s been able to able to practice medicine as he always envisioned. He has been able to affect change on a state level; create unique, trend-setting models of health care; and demonstrate his love of the community through his work.
Married to his wife Joann for 43 years, the couple has two grown children, two grandchildren, and a third on the way. Dr. DiNicola is an outdoor enthusiast, enjoying hiking, snowshoeing, walking, and gardening. He’s also a photographer and works with his artist wife, framing her paintings.
Dr. DiNicola has spent his entire career in Randolph while also working in Rochester from 1977-1992 with internal medicine physicians Drs. Mark Jewett and Milt Fowler.
Below is his story as told in his own words, as featured in our 2012 Annual Report.
Thirty-six years ago I was fresh out of residency and looking for job opportunities when I saw an ad in a magazine for a pediatrician in rural Vermont. Vermont was where I wanted to work, so I sent in my curriculum vitae, the medical equivalent of a resume, but never heard a word back. I called but the response was less than enthusiastic. I was basically told “thanks, but no thanks.”
I had three job offers in Pittsburgh and was literally sitting down to take a job at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh where I’d just completed my internship and residency when my pager went off. It was Gifford President Phil Levesque’s secretary, wondering if I could come up in a couple of weeks for an interview. “I’ll come this weekend, or I’m not coming at all” was my response. The secretary covered the phone, relaying my message to Phil. “Hell, let him come” was his reply.
Needless to say, I came, and stayed.
More than three decades later I hope I have made a positive impact on the community and my patients, and know they have made a remarkable impact on me – teaching me how to communicate care, respect, and love.
It’s amazing how much you can love your patients. Also amazing is the window being a pediatrician gives you to see the love between a parent and a child. No more clearly is that demonstrated than in the unconditional love between a parent and a special needs child. More than once, parents of special needs children have amazed me and inspired me, as have the children themselves. I’ve seen parents of special needs children go on to adopt more children with special needs. Those are the moments that touch you most; those, and loss.
Dr. DiNicola thumb wrestles with patient Troy Daniels.
There is no greater loss than the loss of a child. Throughout my career, there have been car accidents, disease, malignancies, and newborn deaths. I think of two patients I lost to cancer, both of whom I visited at their bedsides at home as they were dying. As I reflect on my career, I think of them not with tears but fondness because of the relationships I have had with their families.
At Gifford, we are small enough to have that closeness with our patients and courageous enough to get up the next day and reflect on what we did or didn’t do, what we could have done differently, and how we can improve care. This ability to affect change is one of the things that has kept me practicing – happily – in this community and state for so many years.
One of the biggest changes Gifford has been able to enact in health care is around childbirth. When I first came to Gifford, I kept hearing about this guy Thurmond Knight, a local physician who was delivering babies in people’s homes. I met Thurmond at a Medical Staff meeting. He was knitting. I asked him what it would take for him to deliver babies at the hospital. He answered “a Birthing Center”. We opened the Birthing Center (the first in the state of Vermont) 35 years ago in 1977.
I’ve also been fortunate to be part of and help form organizations that were decades ahead of their time, in many ways laying the foundation for today’s medical home and Vermont Blueprint for Health models as well as utilizing computers for communication at the advent of the computer revolution. Additionally, Vermont has provided me with the opportunity to work on important legislation, such as child abuse laws, outlawing corporal punishment in schools, mandatory kindergarten, and the recent immunization law. These opportunities along with the privilege of making a difference in kids’ and families’ lives keep me going.
One of the things I find incredibly rewarding is living and working in the same town. I don’t mind if I run into someone downtown and they ask me a question. And I feel it’s so important that we recognize and talk to kids. One way I have been able to successfully converse and care for kids for so long is through humor. I try to infuse that in my appointments with children and often am treated – sometimes at unexpected moments – to humor in return.
One such humorous moment came from a 5-year-old. I try to end all my appointments by asking if patients have any questions for me. This 5-year-old’s question: “Why do frogs jump so high?” Should I ever write a book, I think this will be the title.
~ Lou DiNicola, M.D.
Above left – Dr. DiNicola in 1979. Above right – Dr. DiNicola with Kim Daniels of Berlin and her adopted son Troy. Troy along with his siblings, Maggie, Ben, and Alex, were patients of Dr. DiNicola’s for years. Dr. DiNicola credits Kim, who had a special needs child and then adopted two more, with showing him the true meaning of love and parenting. Troy credits Dr. DiNicola with seeing him as a person.
Mom Sara Bowen, big sister Cassidy Sedor and dad Shawn Sedor, all of South Royalton, cuddle their newest family member – Kaydence Sedor, born on Jan. 2 at Gifford Medical Center and the Randolph hospital’s first baby of the new year.
RANDOLPH – Sara Bowen and fiancé Shawn Sedor of South Royalton were the first to welcome a baby in the new year at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph.
Bowen gave birth to daughter, Kaydence Sedor, on Jan. 2 at 10:29 p.m. A gorgeous and healthy Kaydence weighed in at 7 pounds 12 ounces and is 20 ½ inches long.
She is the couple’s second child. Two-year-old Cassidy Sedor was also born at Gifford.
The family was excited to have the first baby of the new year. “It’s really cool, actually,” said Bowen, but they were more excited with the newest member of their family, regardless of her birthdate.
“I’m lost for words. I love my kids. They’re amazing. (There’s) nothing better than to have kids,” said Bowen, who was originally due to give birth on Dec. 28.
“We’ve got another little one to add to the family. (Kaydence) has someone to look up to and (Cassidy) has someone to take care of,” added Shawn. “I’m just glad that she’s healthy. We are lucky to have this blessing in our life.”
Married couple Elvira Dana and Jason Kass live and work in Armenia, a developing country once part of the Soviet Union. When it came time to have children, however, Dana and Kass looked outside of Armenia for care.
Elvira Dana and Jason Kass hold 3-year-old Gideon and newborn Natalie at a family home in Northfield. The married couple has come home to Vermont from Armenia – traveling for 36 hours – to have both their children at Gifford Medical Center.
They looked to Dana’s native Vermont, specifically Gifford Medical Center in Randolph.
For each of their child’s births – first Gideon three years ago and then Natalie late last month – the family flew back to Vermont.
“When Gideon came along we decided very quickly we needed to be back in the U.S. for the birth,” says Dana, who grew up in Northfield and was one of Gifford’s early Birthing Center patients nearly 35 years ago.
She got her prenatal care – such that it was – in Armenia and e-mailed test results and information to Gifford’s team of certified nurse-midwives. “They were willing to be flexible about some pretty strange pre-natal care,” says Dana, noting some documents sent had been translated from Russian and Armenian.
At 36 weeks of pregnancy (the latest point in a pregnancy that women are recommended to fly and often the latest point an airline will allow a pregnant woman in the air) Dana, with Kass at her side, traveled the 36 hours home. Gifford childbirth education and lactation consultant Nancy Clark provided the couple a crash course in birthing.
Gideon was born the morning after that final birthing class. He arrived two weeks early and just two-and-a-half hours after Dana made it to the hospital.
Hurricane Sandy this year delayed the family’s flight and Dana ended up flying – a bit nervously – at 37 weeks. But Natalie was patient, arriving on Nov. 26, one day after her due date and about an hour and forty-five minutes after the family made it to the hospital.
In both instances, says the couple, the atmosphere, low-intervention birth experience, and friendliness of staff were exactly what the family was seeking.
“Nobody was stressed. It was so calm. It was just us, a midwife and a nurse with no beeping noises. Everyone we interacted with was so kind, including the cleaning and food services staff,” Dana says.
Pediatrician Dr. Lou DiNicola – Dana’s pediatrician growing up – checked on both babies following their births. The children have both gotten their pediatric care at Gifford while they’re in the state. And in fact, they even called Gifford, reaching Dr. DiNicola as the on-call pediatrician, when Gideon spiked a high fever in Armenia and the couple didn’t know what to do, says Kass, 37 and formerly of Randolph Center.
It is the consistency of the care provided at Gifford, says Dana, that gives the couple the confidence to fly in and give birth with a midwife they may never have met or entrust their child’s care with a pediatrician who may not be a familiar face.
“Mostly we just feel so incredibly lucky,” says Dana, cradling her newborn.
Service through the Peace Corps first took Dana to Armenia in 2005. Putting her master’s degree in teaching English as a second language to work, she taught English and trained teachers. She then was hired as Armenia country director of American Councils, a non-profit that administers U.S. State Department and international educational programs, including student exchanges.
Jason joined her in Armenia in 2008, working in the scant Armenia job market and for meager Armenian wages as a head gardener at a renovated public park.
Presently staying with family in Northfield, the couple and their now two children will fly back to Armenia on Feb. 4. Natalie will need a passport before they can go. Bilingual young Gideon is on his second passport, having already filled one in his three years of life.
The family hopes to make Vermont their permanent home one day again soon – at least by the time Gideon will start school.
The Kass family plays together. They are in Vermont from Armenia to have their latest child, newborn Natalie, at Gifford Medical Center’s Birthing Center.
RANDOLPH – Anne Galante never planned to be a physician.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Upstate New York, Galante graduated from Cornell University and worked in insurance in Los Angeles and then New York City for a decade. While in New York, she began volunteering in the Emergency Department in Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn. “It was very easy to be helpful,” Galante recalls. She cleaned rooms. She held children while they got stitches. She hugged patients newly diagnosed with cancer.
Then she started doing ride-alongs with an ambulance crew, going into to some of the city’s worst neighborhoods.
The experiences gave her stories to tell her friends until one evening during a gathering with those same friends, Galante was suddenly aware that her interest in medicine was more than idle curiosity. “God’s finger thumped my head. I had a calling. I said, ‘I think I’m going to try to go to medical school.’”
“I might as well have said I was going to fly without a plane.”
But soon she found her plane.
She enrolled in medical school at the University of Vermont in 1994, graduating in 1998 and going on to a four-year obstetrics/gynecology internship and residency at Albany Medical Center Hospital in New York.
She initially thought emergency medicine was her calling, but the very first clinical rotation she worked in medical school was in gynecology, and it stuck. “I just loved it, and I loved surgery,” says Dr. Galante, who was intrigued with women’s health.
She went on to work for four years at Porter Medical Center in Middlebury and then worked for an additional four years as a travelling physician filling in where needed. (The industry calls this a locum tenens.) She worked as the “house” ob/gyn on the Rosebud (Lakota Sioux) reservation in South Dakota, at Copley Hospital in Morrisville, at Springfield Hospital and at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph.
She has filled in at Gifford since 2009, but when the opportunity to transition to a full-time, employed provider presented itself this year, Dr. Galante was enthusiastic.
“I’m very happy. I feel like I came home. It’s wonderful to walk into a place where people already know you. They’re confident in you,” she says.
Gifford is renowned for its Birthing Center and midwifery and obstetrics team. In addition to collaborative birth support, Dr. Galante also provides a wide range of well-woman care, including adolescents’ gynecology, care for abnormal pap smears, colposcopies, sexual dysfunction, standard well-woman visits, and perimenopausal help.
Board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, she is a fellow with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and has worked as a volunteer physician with organizations such as Medicine in Action caring for women in Jamaica, Haiti, and Tanzania and at the Open Door Clinic in Middlebury.
A mother of two, Isabelle, 11, and Jackson, 10, Dr. Galante is a New Haven resident, published photographer, sailor, cyclist, and cook.
She sees patients at Gifford Ob/Gyn and Midwifery in Randolph. Call her (802) 728-2401.
Gifford Medical Center’s volunteer Chaplaincy Program welcomed four new members on April 12. The program, which provides non-sectarian counseling to patients and the hospital’s nursing home residents, was founded more than a decade ago.
RANDOLPH – The volunteer Chaplaincy Program at Gifford Medical Center welcomed four new chaplains into its ranks in April.
Majita Miller of Randolph, Christopher Fuhrmeister of Randolph, Deborah Aldrich of Stockbridge and Lydia English of Williamstown joined the hospital’s 19 volunteer chaplains on April 12 after completing a seven-week training program.
The occasion was marked with special certifications presented by The Rev. Timothy Eberhardt, spiritual care coordinator at Gifford, and with music by Islene Runningdeer, a Brookfield music therapist.
While the volunteer chaplains are from numerous congregations in the greater Gifford area, they are carefully trained to present “a non-sectarian caring presence,” responding to the spiritual needs and concerns of all patients, The Rev. Eberhardt noted.
Chaplains visit hospitalized patients daily through all stages of life – from the Birthing Center to the Garden Room for end-of-life patients – and spend considerable time at Gifford’s nursing home, the Menig Extended Care Facility.
Another seven-week training course will be held in the evenings this fall. Anyone who is interested in the program or would like to learn more is encouraged to call Eberhardt at (802) 728-2107.
March of Dimes Vermont State Chapter Director Roger Clapp, right, presents Gifford Medical Center caregivers with a Leadership Legacy award for their support of healthy babies and the March of Dimes. Gifford staff members pictured, from left, are pediatrician and pediatric hosptalist Dr. Lou DiNicola and Birthing Center registered nurses Kim Summers and Karin Olson.
RANDOLPH – The Vermont Chapter of the March of Dimes today honored Gifford Medical Center with a Leadership Legacy award.
The award, presented by March of Dimes Vermont Chapter Director Roger Clapp, recognizes the Randolph hospital for both its commitment to prenatal, birth, and newborn care, and its support of the March of Dimes.
“This award recognizes Gifford’s leadership in newborn care, which has been ongoing for a number of years, as well as Gifford’s support of the mission of the March of Dimes, which is to improve the health of babies,” Clapp said.
The March of Dimes strives to prevent birth defects, premature births, and infant mortality through research, quality initiatives, community services, education, and advocacy. Gifford has been a leader in low intervention births and midwifery and obstetrics for more than 30 years.
The hospital is also a supporter of the March of Dimes’ upcoming March for Babies walks in central Vermont on Sunday, starting at the Montpelier High School at 9 a.m., and the Randolph walk on May 19, starting at the village fire station, also at 9 a.m.
“We’re really proud of what we do. We love what we do. We work with a great team of providers and staff. We have the same goal to start babies on the right foot, and we’re here to support them, I say, until they go to college,” said Gifford Birthing Center registered nurse Karin Olson.
“For more than 30 years I have had the honor of working in Gifford’s Birthing Center caring for more than 5,000 newborns during this time,” added pediatrician and pediatric hospitalist Dr. Lou DiNicola. “There is no better model that I know of to provide excellent, family-centered care for our mothers, families, and newborns. The midwives, obstetricians, nurses, and pediatricians in Gifford’s Birthing Center provide a superb setting that is safe for our newborns.”
This is the second recent award for the Randolph hospital for its work around positive birth outcomes.
Gifford’s midwives were recognized as a “best practice” in the nation by the American College of Nurse-Midwives. The practice looked at 2010 benchmarking data and named Gifford as having the highest success rate with vaginal births after caesareans as compared to similar small-size practices. The midwives were additionally named a “runner-up best practice” for both lowest rates of low birth weight infants and operative vaginal births. Operative vaginal births means births using vacuum or forceps.
Vermont as a whole has also been recognized for having healthy babies. The Vermont Chapter of the March of Dimes was the only in the nation to receive an “A” rating recently from the national March of Dimes organization. The rating, explains Clapp, looked at the state’s reduction in premature births. Vermont’s rate of premature births is 8.4 percent compared to a national average of 12 percent. The March of Dimes has set a 9.6 percent premature birth rate as a 2020 goal – a figure Vermont is already well below.