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.