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At the Hospitals: Norwich resident to helm Northern Counties Health Care

  • Michael Costa

  • Ilana Cass

  • Michael L. Whitfield


Saturday, March 09, 2019
Norwich resident to helm Northern Counties Health Care

ST. JOHNSBURY — Norwich resident Michael Costa has been named the new CEO of Northern Counties Health Care Inc., a nonprofit organization serving the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont.

He will begin the role on March 25.

Costa most recently worked as Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, which administers Vermont’s public health insurance system. While in state government, Costa led teams that created statewide and local partnerships to improve the health and human services sectors.

These collaborations led to innovations in the way the state pays hospitals, physicians and mental health providers.

“We are fortunate to attract and hire someone like Michael to come to Northern Counties Health Care as he brings a strong connection to the Vermont health care industry and state government network,” Thad Richardson, Northern Counties Health Care chairman, said in a news release. “Under Michael’s leadership, Northern Counties will continue to deliver responsive and high-quality health care to the communities of the Northeast Kingdom while navigating the ever-changing health care industry.”

Costa earned a bachelor’s degree from Bates College and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin School of Law. He recently received a master’s degree in heath care delivery science from Dartmouth College. Costa graduated from the Snelling Center’s Vermont Leadership Institute and the Millbank Memorial Fund Emerging Leaders Program.

Dartmouth to host maternity care focus group

LEBANON — Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology is hosting a maternity care focus group from 1-2 p.m. on Thursday at the Women’s Health Resource Center, 9 Hanover St., Lebanon.

The group will ask women who have recently received maternity care and delivered babies at Dartmouth about autonomy and respect during prenatal care. A light lunch will be provided, and babies are welcome.

For more information, contact Hillary Washburn at mothersvoice2019@gmail.com.

Geisel announces new chairwoman of Obstetrics and Gynecology

LEBANON — Dr. Ilana Cass has been appointed chair of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, a position she will begin in late July.

Cass, who is currently vice chair of OB-GYN at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and professor of OB-GYN at Cedars Sinai Medical Center and at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said in a news release that she is honored and delighted to join Dartmouth-Hitchcock and the Geisel School.

“Besides being an experienced clinician and educator, I have acquired, over the years, the leadership skills that I believe will serve me well as the chair of a busy clinical and academic department dedicated to improving the community that (Dartmouth) serves,” she said.

As a leader at Cedars-Sinai, Cass has served on the board of directors of the medical center and was an elected representative to its medical executive committee, serving at times as secretary, treasurer and vice chief of staff. In her role as vice chairwoman, she led the implementation of a mandatory gynecology call schedule for the emergency room, guided the formalization of a financial incentive plan for the faculty, revised the medical staff’s privileging and proctoring policies to reflect evidence-based guidelines, and restructured the gynecology peer-review process to align with best practices.

“With her reputation as a change agent and as a strong clinical leader, we are confident that Dr. Cass has the skills, background and leadership experience to lead our OB-GYN department and systemwide service line forward into the future,” Dartmouth-Hitchcock CEO and President Joanne M. Conroy said.

Cass is a respected oncologist who has served on several committees of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology. Her research has focused on molecular biology of hereditary gynecologic malignancies and examining cancers that result from hereditary genetic mutations, such as the BRCA and DNA mismatch repair genes.

She is currently the co-chair of the Physician Wellness Task Force and is on the Committee on Ethics at the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Cass graduated from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, went through residency at the Yale School of Medicine and served as a fellow at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

“I am delighted to have Dr. Cass join the Dartmouth community,” said Duane Compton, Ph.D., Dean of Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine. “She is a highly accomplished educator and physician-researcher, who has made significant contributions to our understanding of hereditary gynecologic cancers.”

In her new role, Cass will be leading the ongoing development of OB-GYN services across the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Healthcare system and will work to establish a systemwide OB-GYN care delivery strategy.

Department of Biomedical Data Science names permanent chairman

HANOVER — Michael L. Whitfield, Ph.D., has been named the chairman of the department of biomedical data science at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine.

Whitfield, a professor of biomedical data science and molecular and systems biology, has served as the department’s interim chair since November 2017.

Whitfield is co-director of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Big Data in the Life Sciences Training Program, which promotes integration of computational and experimental sciences, cross-training students to be equally comfortable at the computer as they are at the bench. He also served as director of the Quantitative Biomedical Sciences Program from 2016-18. In that role, he worked with faculty in the Departments of biomedical data science and epidemiology to establish master’s programs in health data science and epidemiology.

“I am very pleased that Mike has agreed to take on this important role,” Geisel Dean Duane Compton said in a news release. “As interim chair, Mike has demonstrated outstanding leadership of a department that is doing very exciting work in the field of data science. I look forward to working with Mike to continue building this department and nurturing its innovative research.”

Since joining Dartmouth in 2003, Whitfield has built a successful interdisciplinary research program focused on the genomics, genetics and mechanisms of systemic autoimmune disease and fibrosis. His lab has brought together experimental and computational scientists, as well as physician-scientists to develop diagnostics based on genomewide gene expression, and to mine big data and genomic networks in systemic autoimmune disease to identify disease mechanisms and novel therapeutic targets.

Much of this research has concentrated on understanding the heterogeneity in scleroderma, a chronic tissue disease, and the interpretation of outcomes in clinical trials. Whitfield was the first to identify molecular gene expression subsets in scleroderma and to develop diagnostics to stratify these patients. Whitfield has actively collaborated across academic disciplines and with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to move discoveries from his lab into implementation in the clinic, making precision medicine a real possibility for patients with scleroderma.

“I am very excited to take on leadership of the Department of Biomedical Data Science at Geisel,” Whitfield said. “Biomedical data science is an extremely important area of growth, both at the institution and nationally. There is a huge demand for scientists with the skills and knowledge to analyze the massive amounts of data being generated in biology, health care and beyond. The department of biomedical data science is poised to lead in these areas. I look forward to further leading and growing the department.”

Whitfield graduated with honors from North Carolina State University with degrees in biochemistry and chemistry in 1994. He received his doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in biochemistry and biophysics in 1999, and then performed post-doctoral training in genomics and bioinformatics in the department of genetics at Stanford University School of Medicine.

— Compiled by Kelly Burch