Hospital Notes for Jan. 14: Mt. Ascutney Pediatricians Recognized for Work With Addicts, Babies

  • Phillip Kasten, left, and Jeff Acker are new board members for Health Care and Rehabilitation Services in Springfield, Vt. (Courtesy of Health Care and Rehabilitation Services) —Courtesy photograph

  • Carla Kamel in Mt. Ascutney Hospital's November employee of the month.(Courtesy Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center) Tom McNeill

  • Pediatricians Dr. Mary Bender, left, and Dr. Kim Aakre of Mt. Ascutney Hospital have received an achievement award for their work with mothers struggling with opioid addiction. (Courtesy of Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center)

Published: 1/14/2018 12:19:52 AM
Modified: 1/14/2018 12:43:27 AM
Health Care and Rehabilitation Services Appoints New Board Members

Springfield, Vt. — Health Care and Rehabilitation Services, southeastern Vermont’s community mental health agency, has elected Jeff Acker and Phillip Kasten to its board of directors.

Kasten is the chief of police for the town of Hartford and has more than 20 years experience in law enforcement. He holds a master’s degree in criminal justice and crime prevention form the University of Cincinnati. As chief, Kasten regularly works with the organization. 

Acker is the owner of HP Roofing in White River Junction. He has a background in real estate and construction. Acker received his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College. 

George Karabakakis, chief executive officer of Health Care and Rehabilitation Services, said in a news release that he is delighted about the diverse expertise that Kasten and Acker have. 

“We’re looking forward to the knowledge and value they will bring to our board,” he said.

TLC Launches Home Visits For Expecting and New Moms

Claremont — TLC Family Resource Center has begun offering community nurse visits to to all pregnant women in Sullivan County, regardless of their socio-economic status. 

The visits can take place at the woman’s home or at the TLC office in Claremont. Expecting moms are entitled to one visit in the last trimester of pregnancy and one postpartum visit, where they will meet with Karen Jameson, a registered nurse, to ask questions in a casual environment. 

“I am happy to sit with women for an hour or more and listen to their questions and concerns. Each pregnancy, first-time and subsequent, comes with its own set of questions and concerns. Together we can talk openly and problem solve if that is needed,” Jameson said in a news release.

Moms can ask about breastfeeding, sleep issues, labor and delivery and other concerns. 

Maggie Monroe-Cassel, executive director of TLC, said that she hopes the program will allow TLC to connect with moms who do not typically qualify for services from the organization, which mostly serves at-risk families. 

“We are often required to serve a certain population of women due to state contracts that we carry. The nurse program for pregnant women is for all women regardless of financial means. All moms can benefit from a professional meeting with a nurse outside a medical office,” she said.

The pilot program is funded by the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation. For more information or to register contact Jameson at or 603-542-1848, ext. 320.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hosts Opioid Harm Reduction Seminar

Concord — The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Substance Use and Mental Health Initiative will host a symposium on reducing harm from opioid addiction this Thursday, Jan. 18 from 8:30 a.m.- 4 p.m. at the Kehas Criminal Justice Training Facility, 17 Institute Drive in Concord.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu will make opening remarks at the conference, where health care workers, law enforcement officers, and others will discuss ways to curb the toll of the opioid epidemic. 

“One of the things we need to recognize is that people who are using drugs — opioids in particular — may not be ready or able to stop using at a given point in time,” Dr. Seddon Savage, event organizer and adjunct associate professor at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, said in a news release. “Harm reduction is a set of ideas and strategies aimed at supporting human health and dignity, by meeting drug users where they are in the course of their drug use, and working to reduce the negative consequences of use.”

The symposium is open to the public, although advance registration is required. For more information or to register visit

Mt. Ascutney Pediatricians Receive Award For Work Related to Opioid Addiction

Windsor — Dr. Mary Bender and Dr. Kimberly Aakre of Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center received a Special Achievement Award from the Vermont chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics in recognition of their work to create a system of support for mothers who are in recovery from opiate addiction and their young children.

“The most important action we can take for our young patients’ physical, emotional, and intellectual development is to support their parents’ recovery from addiction,” Bender said in a news release. 

Bender and Aakre worked together to develop protocols for care for families touched by opioid addiction. They also work to connect these patients to community resources and supports.

“As pediatricians, we know that a child's healthy growth and development is vitally dependent on the health and well being of the parent and caregivers,“ Aakre said in a news release. 

In 2015, the project received a $10,000 grant from the national American Academy of Pediatrics’s Community Access to Child Health program. Since then, Bender and Aakre have been refining the program as more families continue to grapple with opioid addiction. 

“Opioid addiction is a health issue with a huge ripple effect, from those who experience it firsthand, to their families, to our communities,” Dr. Joseph Perras, CEO and chief medical officer at Mt. Ascutney, said in a news release. “No town is immune and as healthcare providers, we see it right here in the communities we serve.”

Perras said that Bender and Aakre have gone above and beyond to provide better health outcomes to their pediatric patients and their families.

Mt. Ascutney Names Employee of the Month

Windsor — Carla Kamel, a community care coordinator serving patients at Mt. Ascutney Hospital in Windsor and at the Ottauquechee Health Center in Woodstock, was named Employee of the Month at Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in November. 

“Carla goes the extra mile to address the social circumstances that impact health, and she has built a strong network of agencies to serve vulnerable patients in low income housing,” Jill Lord, director of community health at Mt. Ascutney, said in a news release. 

Kamel, of Springfield, Vt., helps patients with complex medical needs maintain their independence by coordinating community partners and social service agencies in a care management plan.

She provides patients with information on community resources and assists with access to behavioral and medical care, from arranging transportation to identifying sources of financial support.

New Faculty Member Will Advance Cystic Fibrosis Research at Dartmouth

Hanover — James Bliska, PhD, a molecular biologist, joins the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth as a distinguished professor in microbiology and immunology this month. Bliska will also be the senior lead faculty member of the Personalized Treatments for Cystic Fibrosis Cluster, a interdisciplinary group of academics at Dartmouth developing medicine and treatments for cystic fibrosis and lung infections.

“I think Jim’s impact here will be profound in two major ways,” William Green, PhD, the chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Geisel said in a news release. “The first is that he’s an excellent researcher with high-impact publications and a terrific track record of funding from the (National Institutes of Health) as a principal investigator.

“Secondly, he will bring in expertise and knowledge that will leverage some of the great interdisciplinary work being done across Dartmouth — a ‘team science’ approach that is crucial to tackling complex disease processes like (cystic fibrosis).”

Bliska said in the news release that he looks forward to working with the well-respected research team at Dartmouth to develop life-saving treatments. 

“It’s also conceivable that in the near future, it’s going to be possible to take advantage of cutting-edge genome editing techniques to correct the (cystic fibrosis) mutation in patients for the first time, and we’re hoping to be part of that,” he said. 

Bliska was formerly a professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at Stony Brook University where he directed the Center for Infectious Diseases and an infectious disease training program for graduate students.

He completed his doctorate in molecular biology from the University of California-Berkeley and did his postdoctoral training in bacterial pathogenesis at Stanford University, after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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