For the Love of Patients, Families, and the Community – Dr. Lou DiNicola

Dr. Lou DiNicolaBorn 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. Lou DiNicola

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.
Gifford pediatrician

Dr. Lou DiNicola

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.

Experienced Pediatrician Joins Gifford Team

Dr. Robert Smith returns to Northeast after 21 years in U.S. Army

Dr. Robert Smith

Dr. Robert Smith

A native of New Jersey, pediatrician Dr. Robert Smith is returning to the Northeast after 21 years spent as a U.S. Army doctor in Texas, Germany and Afghanistan.

Dr. Smith has joined Gifford Medical Center’s Randolph pediatric practice, bringing his decades of experience, commitment to continuity of care and warm sense of humor to Vermont families.

A graduate of Drew University in Madison, N.J., Dr. Smith went on to earn his master’s degree from the University of Vermont and then his doctor of osteopathic medicine from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, Maine. His pediatric internship and residency were at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu.

Joining the Army helped provide scholarship money for Dr. Smith, then a young husband and father, to attend medical school and also allowed him to serve his country while seeing some of the world. He started his career in Texas and then moved to Germany in 1998, serving the majority of his career there as the head of pediatrics departments, primary care offices and health clinics at various U.S. military bases.

His most recent position was as chief of the Department of Pediatrics at the U.S. Army MEDDAC (Medical Department Activity) in Heidelberg, Germany and as a pediatric consultant to Europe Regional Medical Command.

From 2010-2011, he was in Kandahar, serving as a brigade surgeon. It was actually during down time in Afghanistan that Dr. Smith shopped for and bought his current home in Vermont.

He had maintained residency in Vermont since first going to college here in the 1980s and hoped to return upon his military retirement. That came just this month. He left Germany on July 1 and started at Gifford a week later on July 8.

“It’s a friendly hospital. It’s a great area,” says Dr. Smith with excitement over being able to practice medicine in a small community where he can build relationships with his young patients and their families.

Dr. Smith describes his style as warm and trusting. “The best compliment I’ve ever had is a child who said ‘Mommy, this guy is funny.’”

That humor leads to children being comfortable receiving care.

Dr. Smith provides care to children from birth through adolescents. Of special interest is ADHD, asthma, infectious disease and sports medicine or sports injuries, he notes.

Dr. Smith is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. He is a fellow with the American Academy of Pediatrics and a member of the American Osteopathic Association. He has garnered many awards throughout his career, including the Bronze Star Medal in 2011, an Order of Military Medical Merit in 2004, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Young Outstanding Uniformed Staff Pediatrician Award in 2002, multiple Meritorious Service Medals, the Army Commendation Medal, three Army Achievement Medals and much more.

Dr. Smith lives in Fayston. He and wife Rosemarie have four children, two daughters who are married, a third in nursing school and a 10-year-old son. In his free time, Dr. Smith enjoys the outdoors, including downhill skiing, gardening, camping and hiking.

He is now accepting new patients. Call him at Gifford pediatrics at (802) 728-2420.