Expertise, Personalized Care, and Comprehensive Support Close to Home

This article was published in our Cancer Program 2014 Annual Report.

Brenda CaswellWhen someone is given a cancer diagnosis, their world is turned upside down. Suddenly there is a lot of information to absorb, many tests to take, and hard decisions that have to be made quickly—all when people are feeling most vulnerable.

Travelling to receive treatment and follow-up cancer care can be expensive, exhausting, and complicated to organize. At Gifford patients with cancer have treatment options that can relieve these stresses.

Most cancers—especially breast, colon, prostate, and bladder cancers—can be treated here in our community hospital with caregivers that patients know and trust, close to the family and friends who will support them during treatment.

“Our goal is to make sure people know that they can receive the same quality of care offered at larger hospitals close to home, with a support network they know,” said Rebecca O’Berry, vice-president of Surgery and Operations at Gifford. “Battling a cancer diagnosis is hard enough—I’m thankful that we can provide quality cancer care locally and decrease our patient’s travel time during treatment.”

First accredited by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer in 1965 (we received our most recent 3-year accreditation in December of 2014), our cancer program has been delivering quality cancer care to our community for nearly fifty years. Our oncology services include cancer care from an experienced oncologist, hospital specialists and surgeons, and specially certified oncology nurses; lab and diagnostic services; advanced diagnostic services, including stereotactic breast imaging; outpatient chemotherapy; preventive cancer screenings; and a strong palliative care program. Our multidisciplinary approach to each patient’s care includes identifying social service needs as well as appropriate medical expertise.

Experience, expertise, and compassionate care close to home

“With cancer, making the right diagnosis and getting the right treatment is key,” says Dr. Richard Graham, a Gifford urologist who treats prostate, bladder, and renal cancers. “Experience with specific cancers is also important. We have the expertise and technology to diagnose a lot of rare cancers, but we are small enough to see patients as individuals: You are not a number here.”

Graham notes that he saw an increase in patients whose small cancers were treated with cryosurgery and laparoscopic surgery in 2014.

Personalized support for the cancer care each patient chooses

When a patient chooses cancer treatment that is not offered here, our providers make referrals and collaborate with outside oncologists so things go smoothly. Patients have the option to receive post-operative care and chemo treatments close to home.

Brenda Caswell, a Randolph mother of five, regularly comes to Gifford for medical care and annual mammogram screenings. She missed three years of annual visits because of her pregnancy and the birth of her youngest child, and when she resumed her check-in’s her provider insisted that she get a mammogram.

“My provider didn’t let me out of the office without scheduling a mammogram,” Caswell says. “She knew me, knew that my mom had had breast cancer, and knew that regular screening was especially important for me.”

A small tumor was detected, and after a biopsy and two consultations with Dr. Ciccarelli, she decided to have mastectomy and reconstructive breast surgery through a program offered at a larger hospital. Dr. Ciccarelli’s team made referrals and helped her arrange treatment. When her cancer was found to be more invasive than originally thought, she had to plan for chemotherapy after surgery. Then, when post-operative complications required a week of inpatient care right before the holidays, she knew she wanted to be close to home and with her family.

“I was able to be at Gifford, just down the street from my home,” Caswell said. “The doctors were wonderful—they collaborated with the oncologists who were treating me, sharing blood counts and test results. It was a very smooth process.”

Click here to read our full Cancer Program 2014 Annual Report.

Ob/gyn Dr. Sean Tubens Joins Gifford in Randolph

Dr. Sean Tubens

Dr. Sean Tubens

Dr. Sean Tubens’ path to becoming an ob/gyn physician was anything but direct.

The Baltimore native joined the U.S. Marines out of high school and spent four years as an aviation electrician working on F18s and serving during Operation Desert Storm.

He returned home to Baltimore unsure what he would do next. The idea of becoming a lawyer or psychologist appealed to him but the years of school seemed daunting. His father was a hairdresser and although his first instinct was “no way,” he took up his father’s trade.

“It ended up being a lot of fun, and I was actually really good at it,” he recalls, noting he worked as a hair stylist for 12 years and even owned his own salon.

And then the unthinkable happened. His parents died. Both of them.

His mother was diagnosed with cancer on Dec. 1, 1996. She died that same month on Dec. 31. His father had a lung transplant that same year. He had pulmonary fibrosis. Despite the transplant, he died on Aug. 31, 1997 – exactly eight months after his spouse.

An only child, Dr. Tubens found himself at a crossroads and asking the question “Am I happy with the direction of my life?”

“I just didn’t feel I was making a contribution to other people in a way I was capable of,” he said.

After years of avoiding school, “I decided maybe I wanted to be a surgeon.”

At age 31, he hired a tutor to get through his college entrance exams. “I had no college experience whatsoever.”

He attended Towson University in his native Baltimore, graduating magna cum laude in just three years while still working full-time at his salon. He was accepted to and attended Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica in the West Indies and New Jersey.

Obstetrics and gynecology wasn’t his first choice when it came to medicine – until he assisted with a birth from beginning to end. “It was from that moment that I realized what an honor and a privilege it is to be involved in this process, and that that was what I wanted to do.”

Dr. Tubens went on to complete his obstetrics and gynecology residency at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Fla., working exclusively on high risk pregnancies and performing gynecologic surgeries. “I love gynecologic surgery, specifically laparoscopic procedures,” he says.

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.”

He and his wife, physician assistant Susan Post-Tubens, have bought a home in Bethel.

They have three grown children and in their free-time enjoy golf, skiing, snowboarding, hiking, travel and reading.

For the region, Dr. Tubens, a physician with a calming demeanor who collaborates with patients to improve quality of life, is a new resource for more complicated pregnancies and surgery. His clinical interests include high-risk pregnancies, office gynecologic procedures as well as gynecologic surgery, especially laparoscopic surgery.

His greatest priority is patient safety and care, notes the physician who is a member of both the American College of Physicians and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists. “The most important thing is the patient. That is the number one priority.”

Dr. Tubens is working full-time at Gifford Ob/Gyn & Midwifery in Randolph. Call him at (802) 728-2401.