Maggie Gardner was studying sociology at the University of Vermont when a nurse-midwife came to speak during a class on reproduction.
Gardner’s first thought: “I want to be her.”
Today, she is.
After graduating from the University of Vermont in 2001, Gardner went to work for that midwife’s home birth practice, Welcoming Home Family Nurse-Midwifery in Hinesburg. Gardner was the office manager and assistant, both clerically and clinically, including assisting at births.
She went on help start a midwifery practice in her hometown of Vergennes, Tapestry Midwifery, and returned to the University of Vermont, undertaking the master’s entry program in nursing and earning her registered nurse certificate. Next was nurse midwifery school at the Frontier Nursing University in Kentucky – a master’s degree program.
And now, Gardner, a Vermont native, is working at one of the state’s most coveted certified nurse-midwifery practices – Gifford Ob/Gyn and Midwifery.
Board certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board and a member of the American College of Nurse Midwives, Gardner is seeing patients at Gifford’s clinics in Randolph and Berlin.
“I’m excited,” says Gardner, calling Gifford’s practice on the top of the pedestal when it comes to midwifery. “It has a strong reputation in the midwifery community.
“Many people don’t get to choose where they work. I get to choose to work at a place that’s committed to midwives.”
Gifford’s practice, she notes, takes the best of the home and hospital birth experience, and combines them into a natural, hospital-based midwifery birth.
Gardner will do the same in her practice at Gifford as well as focusing on open communication, equal partnerships with patients and families, and individualized care.
Gardner cares for all types of patients, from women needing routine gynecologic care to women expecting a baby, but has special interests in breast feeding support, Pap test follow-up, testing for and educating women on risk factors for sexually transmitted infections, and sexual health.
Those interests in part incorporate Gardner’s other work experience. In addition to her midwifery experience, Gardner has worked in pediatrics, emergency medicine, and infectious disease at Fletcher Allen Health Care in primarily office assistant type roles, and most recently was a manager at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, where she was responsible for the implementation of a new centralized lab management system for 21 Planned Parenthood health centers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
Gardner lives in the home in which she grew up in Vergennes. She is married and has two children, a 15-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old.
Call Gardner and the midwifery team at Gifford at 728-2401.
Experienced hospitalist Dr. Robert Cochrane has joined Gifford Medical Center’s 24-hour hospitalist team.
Originally from Montreal, Dr. Cochrane’s first career was in engineering. Consulting work in the field brought him to the United States and soon he was considering a major career change.
“Medicine was just interesting to me,” he says, noting that his parents were aging and he found himself wanting to be “part of the solution” for them.
He took a few classes, loved it, and decided to fully pursue it.
He attended the pre-medicine post baccalaureate degree program at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and then the University of Vermont College of Medicine. Dr. Cochrane went on to residency at Fletcher Allen Health Care and quickly found himself drawn to intensive care and sicker patients.
“I wanted to really be involved in more acute, sicker people,” says Dr. Cochrane, who went to work as a hospitalist – a doctor caring for hospitalized patients.
Board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and a member of the American College of Physicians, Dr. Cochrane worked for Apogee Physicians Group launching or working at hospitalist programs in medical centers across the state, including Northwest Medical Center, Springfield Hospital, Copley Hospital, and Porter Medical Center, as well as Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone, N.Y.
The work with Apogee, a physician-owned business focused entirely on hospitalist medicine, meant switching jobs every few years, however. Dr. Cochrane of South Burlington was looking for more stability.
“I wanted to be in a community where I could stay for a long period of time and know the community well,” says Dr. Cochrane, who has now found that at Gifford.
Experienced nurse leader Alison White has joined Gifford Medical Center as its vice president of patient care services – a role that oversees the Hospital Division, including inpatient care, the Birthing Center, ob/gyn and midwifery practice, Emergency Department, nursing home and Adult Day Program.
A graduate of the bachelor’s degree nursing program at the University of Vermont and the master’s degree health care administration program at Independence University in Utah, White has spent her career in nursing and then nurse leadership.
Her nursing career focused on cardiac and dialysis patients – populations she loved because of the relationships formed with patients. “They grow to be your family,” she says.
White went on to serve as director of care management at Central Vermont Medical Center (CVMC), the director of regional care management and quality improvement for the Dartmouth Hitchcock Alliance, the director of clinical outcomes at CVMC and most recently vice president of quality, chief nursing officer and patient safety office at the Berlin-based hospital.
A motorcycle accident in August that nearly took her life left White reevaluating her priorities, however. She was seeking a better work/life balance, and says she has found that at Gifford.
“I felt like I hit the jackpot,” says White, who joined Gifford earlier this year. “The people are so open and warm and helpful and genuine, really genuine. Team comes through. It has a feeling of family. It doesn’t have a feeling of ‘corporateness,’ but at the end of the day the job gets done.
“I’m just so grateful to be here. I look forward every day to coming in.”
White succeeds Linda Minsinger, a long-time vice president who has transitioned to a new role: executive director of Gifford’s retirement community that will soon be under construction in Randolph Center and requires substantial planning.
“I think Alison is a great opportunity for Gifford’s Hospital Division. She comes with expanded current knowledge in the health care field and quality. I feel she will provide the staff and leaders with a new and different view of their roles,” says Minsinger, who is equally enthusiastic about her new role, which in part develops not just a community, but a culture “to ensure the residents and staff are happy and enjoy all the activities and opportunities that are offered.”
White lives in Barre with her husband Paul, a Vermont State Police captain. They have two children, Catie, 21, and Jeffrey, 18. White enjoys photography, volunteering at her church, serving on the Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice board and traveling in her free time.
Free health fair and diabetes expo focuses on chronic illness
Gifford chefs Ed Striebe, left, and Steve Morgan present at a past Diabetes Education Expo. The annual, free event is expanded this year to all with chronic illnesses and includes a health fair as well as presentations, including a cooking demonstration by Morgan.
Gifford Medical Center will hold a free Health Fair and Diabetes Education Expo on Friday, March 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Randolph hospital’s Conference Center and visitors’ entrance.
The fair, redesigned from past years, is open to anyone with a chronic condition, not just those with diabetes. It does not require registration, and puts a strong emphasis on “Creating a Healthy Lifestyle” – the fair’s theme.
Gifford has held a Diabetes Education Expo for eight prior years. While the diabetes epidemic remains, organizers from Gifford’s Blueprint for Health team decided to expand the event this year to other conditions because so much of what is being discussed is applicable, explained Jennifer Stratton, Gifford certified diabetes educator.
“Most people who have chronic conditions have something in common,” Stratton said. “I also wanted to open it up to those with pre-diabetes to help prevent diabetes from actually happening.”
The day includes vendor booths and a health fair open throughout the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. event. Vendor booths are located in the hospital’s visitors’ entrance south of the hospital near the Gift Shop. Vendors this year are local community resource agencies and organizations talking about services and help available locally.
Health fair booths are in one of the hospital’s conference rooms and include blood pressure checks, foot checks, glucose monitoring, goal-setting guidance and guidance on healthy lifestyle choices, physical therapy exercises, tobacco cessation help, diabetes education, information on support groups, and more. The booths are operated by experts from Gifford as well as local dentist Dr. John Westbook and local optometrist Dr. Dean Barelow.
Special presentations will also be offered in a second conference room, including a 10-10:45 a.m. talk by Stratton on “Advances in Diabetes Management;” an 11-11:30 a.m. talk on “Using Herbs to Complement Your Diabetes Wellness Plan” by Sylvia Gaboriault, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator; and a 1-1:30 p.m. cooking demonstration on “Sugar ‘Less’ Baking” with Gifford chef Steve Morgan.
Participants may drop in or stay all day. A couple of raffle drawings will be offered and the hospitals’ cafeteria will be open for those wishing to buy lunch.
Learn more by calling Gifford’s Blueprint team at (802) 728-7710. Gifford Medical Center is located at 44 S. Main St. (Route 12) in Randolph. Drive past the hospital, south on Route 12, and take the entrance just after the medical center to access the visitors’ entrance. The Conference Center is marked with a green awning. For handicapped accessibility, go in the main entrance marked “Registration” and take the elevator to the first floor.
The deadline to sign-up for health insurance through the state’s new online marketplace – Vermont Health Connect – is March 15.
To help more of this region’s residents meet the deadline, Gifford Medical Center has organized two special days – March 6 and March 13 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. – when extra “navigators” will be available to help people sign-up for insurance.
On hand will be navigators from Gifford’s Blueprint for Health team, Gifford’s Health Connections office (which is part of the Vermont Coalition of Clinics for the Uninsured), and from Bi-State Primary Care.
“For those who haven’t already signed up, the deadline is looming, meaning people must act now. We have been signing people up for months and will continue to do so until the deadline, but wanted to make this extra push to help those who haven’t yet chosen an insurance plan,” said Health Connections caseworker Michele Packard.
For Vermonters not offered insurance through their employer, Vermont Health Connect is how insurance is now sold in the state. This includes Vermonters who:
do not have health insurance;
currently purchase insurance for themselves;
have Catamount or Vermont Health Access Program; or
are offered “unaffordable” coverage by their employers.
Signing up for health insurance is a requirement under federal health care reform efforts. Those who do not sign up may face a federal tax penalty.
Appointments at Gifford’s special March 6 and 13 events are preferred, but walk-ins are welcome. Call the Health Connections office 728-2323 to sign up for an appointment. On the day of your appointment or when walking in, use the main entrance. Private one-on-one discussions are being held in the primary care doctor’s office area. Look for signs and ask for directions.
Rochester’s Barb DeHart is quick to sidestep the title “photographer,” but that doesn’t mean she won’t capture your eye.
DeHart is a retired business owner. She had a company that manufactured equipment for the electronics industry for three decades in Burlington, Mass. She retired to Rochester, Vt., and following the death of her husband in 1999 began investing more time in traveling.
“The photography sort of came along secondary,” says DeHart, who with little more than a basic point-and-shoot camera captured penguins on the Falkland Islands of Antarctica, polar bears in the Arctic Circle in Norway and on the Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada, and brown Kodiak bears and cubs in Alaska.
Unexpected visitor (photo provided)
DeHart brought the images of never-seen-in-Vermont, frolicking wildlife home, printed them and hung them on her wall.
Friends took one look and encouraged her to do more with the stunning images.
Last fall, some of her works were part of the Middlebury Arts Walk.
Still DeHart downplays them.
“I’m not a professional at all. My byline is ‘Photos for Fun.’ It’s just to make people smile,” she says self-consciously.
Her nerves stem from presenting her works for the first time in a gallery show. Beginning Wednesday afternoon, DeHart’s images of penguins, polar bears and Kodiak cubs will be in the Gifford Medical Center art gallery in Randolph.
Cubs playing (photo provided)
The show runs two months, until March 26, and is free and open to the public.
“It’s kind of overwhelming,” says DeHart, who in her regular life is a Rochester Budget and Finance Committee member, chairwoman of the Trustees of Public Funds and a justice of the peace.
Going forward, DeHart will continue to travel. She has a trip planned that will mean seeing more polar bears. And she will continue to take photos.
“It’s become a new hobby. Maybe it will become an avocation. But it’s been fun,” DeHart says.
Join the fun. See her show “Penguins, Polar Bears and Kodiak Cubs” from Jan. 29-March 26 at Gifford. The gallery is located just inside the hospital’s main entrance at 44 S. Main St. (Route 12) in Randolph. Call Gifford at (802) 728-7000 or Volunteer Coordinator Julie Fischer at (802) 728-2324 for more information.
The following was published in our 2012 Annual Report.
Reflections on the past remind us of our roots and of how health care has changed in the past decades. Chief among those is the increasing role mid-level providers, such as nurse-midwives, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants, play in health care. Today, we have diverse physician-led health care teams in every area of medicine to encourage and support wellness.
Mid-level providers are extremely instrumental at birth, during hospital stays, in the primary care setting, specialty clinics, and even for our surgical patients. This team approach to care improves provider access and quality of care.
At Gifford, we are transitioning with great success to a team-based approach and are taking steps to ensure continued access to high-quality health care.
In 2012, some of those steps included new radiology services and technology, such as more interventional offerings, an upgraded 64-slice CT scanner, and a fluoroscopy room.
The midwifery team has expanded to the Twin River Health Center in White River Junction. Gifford’s approach to obstetrics and gynecology has grown to include more complicated cases.
The Blueprint Community Health Team has expanded and behavioral health is increasingly a part of Gifford’s offerings. Thanks to a generous gift from the Auxiliary, new CarePoint EKG transmission technology is available between our Emergency Department and ambulance services to identify heart attacks in the field and determine the best and fastest course of treatment.
Urology offerings have also grown and the Cancer Committee continues to expand. The Sharon Health Center sports medicine team has welcomed a nurse practitioner and second chiropractor.
These improvements are examples of the changes and quality upgrades we, as part of the health care team, can affect in an institution of the size and mindset of Gifford for the betterment of the community. Meld these improvements with Gifford’s foundation of patient care and advocacy, and we have a formula for success for decades to come.
Ovleto Ciccarelli, MD, Surgery Division
Martin Johns, MD, Hospital Division
Joshua Plavin, MD, MPH, Medicine Division
Rebecca Savidge grew up in Chelsea, attended the local school and is now the latest health care provider at the Chelsea Health Center.
From her years at the Chelsea Public School, Savidge went on to the University of Vermont where she majored in biology with a chemistry minor. After graduating magna cum laude in 2009, she was part of the inaugural class of the physician assistant master’s degree program at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire.
During her schooling, she completed training rotations at medical centers throughout Vermont and New Hampshire, including Gifford, the South Royalton Health Center, Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin, N.H., Central Vermont Medical Center, Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, Little Rivers Health Care in Wells River, The Health Center in Plainfield, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
Since graduating nearly two years ago, Savidge has worked at The Health Center in Plainfield providing family medicine. She loved the job, but not the drive from Chelsea, where she lives.
A job at Gifford meant not only work close to home, but work at a hospital she respects and in a community she knows well.
“I love that Gifford is a community-based hospital with a range of ancillary patient services and it still feels accessible,” says Savidge, calling the rural medical center both well thought of in the community and among other hospitals.
“Chelsea is a special community because people choose to give back,” she adds. “A huge attraction of working at the Chelsea Health Center is taking care of people you understand and feel connected to.”
Savidge is certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. She has special clinical interest in preventative care, women’s health, chronic care, small procedures and urgent care.
In addition to work in Chelsea, Savidge will work half a day a week in Randolph in the primary care office’s urgent care clinic.
Patients should expect a partner and collaborator in Savidge.
“I like to use shared, informed decision making within a patient-provider team model. Patients active in their care leads to better outcomes.”
In a small community where neighbors are friends, Savidge puts a large emphasis on respecting patients’ privacy.
Savidge is currently building a house in Chelsea with her husband. In her free time she enjoys the outdoors, including cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and pick-up soccer games in town, as well as gardening and reading.
Call Savidge at Chelsea Health Center at 685-4400. The health center, a modern new facility offering family care as well as pharmacy services and mental health, is off Route 110 just north of the village.
Starr Strong was born in Brookfield and still lives there today. Married to John Button of Chelsea, the couple has two grown children. In her free time, Starr enjoys gardening, skiing, kayaking, and hiking.
Starr has been a physician assistant for 31 years, including 19 years at the Chelsea Health Center as well as at Gifford’s Randolph and Bethel practices and Vermont Technical College’s student health center.
Her greatest love, professionally, is the Chelsea Health Center and the long-term relationships she has forged with generations of families there. At a rural practice, she says, people matter and she is able to spend time with her patients. “It is a privilege in life to make a place your own, to grow a life that is bigger than just yourself,” she says.
Below is her story as told in her own words, as featured in our 2012 Annual Report.
“When I was young, it took me a long time to sort out what I wanted to do with my life. Through traveling and experiments with lifestyles, I discovered a new profession – physician assistant – that appealed to me. It fit my personality (rebellious) and, I hoped, my potential. In 1979 I told my potential educators that I wanted to be a family practitioner in a rural health center. Three decades later, that vision has evolved into a challenging and fulfilling life.
Top left: Strong examines a curious Xabian Bring in 2009. Bottom: A 1996 portrait of Strong reviewing a patient chart with a co-worker.
My family’s ancestral home is a humble hill farm in Brookfield. I’ve known all my life that it is my true home. In 1981 when I was completing physician assistant (PA) school, I met with Phil Levesque, Gifford’s president at the time. He told me that Gifford didn’t have a place for me and he doubted that the Medical Staff would accept a PA in the years to come. I kept knocking on the door, and nearly 20 years ago I got an opportunity to “try it” in Chelsea. I was the first PA at Gifford, the first non-physician provider in Chelsea, and the only woman to practice there.
“The door” in Chelsea was opened to me largely by the gracious support of Dr. Brewster Martin who became my teacher, mentor, advisor, very dear friend, and, eventually, my patient. Brewster was the wisest person I have known and his influence on my life is immeasurable. I promised him that I would practice in Chelsea for 20 years and I am nearly there. During our lunchtime chats we shared the deepest thoughts and concerns in our hearts, and we shared funny stories. It was a privilege to be his friend and I miss him every day.
Family medicine is at least as much about relationships as it is about science. The depth of that trust can be built through years of commitment and listening. I am fascinated by the richness of families and individual’s lives, their dignity and fears, joys and sorrows. I am humbled by the courage I witness, and am grateful for the privilege of such trust.
Just like with Brewster, some of my fondest and most challenging experiences are with those I know best. I especially treasure my relationship with Judy Alexander, a woman who is my patient, friend, and co-worker. She has taught me a lot about humor and the joy of sarcasm, and she strengthens my love of play. Her courage in facing the battle of her life keeps me grounded, humble, and ever so appreciative of the fullness of life. I treasure that we will walk this road together as far as it takes us.
I love this place.”
~ Starr Strong, PA-C
Chelsea Health Center physician assistant
Friends and co-workers Judy Alexander and provider Starr Strong share smiles and laughter.
This story appeared in our Fall 2013 Update Community Newsletter.
Lorraine “Lori” Sedor has a myriad of health problems and a healthy fear of the water. So when certified diabetes educator Jennifer Stratton invited Lori to attend a water aerobics class Gifford was offering at the Vermont Technical College pool, Lori thought “no way.”
A retired school driver, 67-year-old Lori of Braintree has diabetes, an enlarged heart, rheumatoid arthritis, injuries from an accident, and uses a walker to get around. She also nearly drowned at age 16 and hadn’t swum since.
But Lori told Jennifer she’d try it, if only to prove her wrong.
“She told me that I could do it and I told her I couldn’t, and she was right, as much as I hate to admit it,” says a good-natured Lori.
The class started back in January and lasted six weeks. She was slow at first, but soon she was doing jumping jacks, twisting, bending, touching her knees, “and I swam.”
“I loved it. I was able to exercise whereas on land it’s harder to exercise. My body felt better. It’s just fantastic.”
After the class, Lori’s daughter bought her a year’s pass to the pool and for a couple months, Lori and a friend went two or three times a week. Health problems have prevented Lori from swimming since, but she expects to soon be back in the pool.
“I can’t wait to go back,” Lori says. “I’d recommend it for anyone who needs to exercise.”
Another water aerobics class is taking place now. If you have a chronic condition, call Jennifer Stratton at 728-7100, ext. 4 to learn about future classes.