An Unlikely Dragonheart Sister

June 7, 2012  
Filed under Health & Wellness

By Phyl Newbeck

Paul Cucinelli (left) smiles as the boat comes into the dock after a race. (Contributed photos)

Paul Cucinelli is proud to be a Dragonheart Vermont Sister. The 66-year-old South Hero man will be the only male on a boat crewed by Vermont breast cancer survivors competing in the World Club Crew Championships in Hong Kong in July. More than 200 teams from across the world will compete in 200, 500 and 2,000 meter races, which will take place in front of at least 50,000 cheering spectators.

Paul’s Story

Cucinelli was teaching counter-terrorism for the U.S. State Department in Brussels in 2003 when he began having difficulty walking up the hill from the Old Town to the New Town. Thinking he was out of shape, he immediately jumped on a treadmill and afterwards, while showering, he noticed a tiny hard lump in his right breast. He had a physical already scheduled for his return to the U.S., so he pointed out the lump to his doctor, who believed it was just a fat deposit from hormonal changes. To be safe, he still made an appointment for Cucinelli at the Breast Care Center, where a biopsy was performed. Several days later, the surgeon called, but Cucinelli didn’t pick up so he left a message. However, when the surgeon called again the next morning, Cucinelli realized there was a problem. “Doctors don’t call on Saturday mornings,” he noted wryly.

On Monday morning, Cucinelli was back in the doctor’s office, discussing the various ways to deal with what was found to be a malignant tumor. He opted for a lumpectomy and 42 sessions of radiation therapy, choosing not to undergo chemotherapy because while serving as the Chief of Police in Northfield, he needed four stents put in his heart after a fight with a heroin addict who tried to stab him. Subsequently, Cucinelli underwent open heart surgery. “All of that within a six month period,” he said. “But here I am laughing and having a good time.”

Linda Dyer of Bolton introduced Vermonters to the sport of dragon boating in 2004. Dragonheart Vermont now has 155 members spread out over several teams, each with 20 paddlers sitting side by side in 41-foot long boats, following the beat set by the boat’s drummer. Cucinelli met Dyer that first year during a rally on the waterfront. He purchased a pink bracelet that says “awaken the dragon,” which he continues to wear. When he told Dyer he was a breast cancer survivor, she asked him to join the dragon boat team. Unfortunately, Cucinelli’s job as an auxiliary trooper on the lake didn’t allow him the time to do so, although he was able to watch the paddlers in action and kept in touch with Dyer. Last summer, he finally had the opportunity to join the group.

As a novice paddler, Cucinelli started on a secondary team, but Coach John Dyer believed he was a natural at the sport and that his strength would be beneficial for the “engine room,” (the center of the boat) so he was soon drafted for the main team.

Linda Dyer wanted to change the name of the boat from Dragonheart Vermont Sisters to be more inclusive, but Cucinelli wouldn’t hear of it. “I wanted to be a sister,” he said. “These ladies are so incredibly strong and courageous. Everyone needs a big brother and this way I can be a big brother and a sister at the same time. I’m so thrilled to be part of this incredibly accepting community. It’s very heartwarming.”

In preparing for the Club Crew World Championship, Cucinelli spent a week in Melbourne, Fla. training with his “sisters.” The group worked hard, training twice a day for 90 minutes at a time. “It was fabulous,” said Cucinelli, “tiring, but fabulous and well worth the effort. Everyone is a breast cancer survivor so there is no pity.”

In his work with the State Department, Cucinelli travelled to 30 countries, but he’s never been to Asia. He hopes to spend some of his time in Hong Kong soaking up the culture. He doesn’t mind the fact that he’s going to be a distinct minority in the breast cancer division, although he has heard anecdotally that one of the Canadian teams has two male survivors.

Cucinelli has only met two other male breast cancer survivors in Vermont. He is very open about being a survivor and hopes this honesty will help others learn about the disease. He remembers speaking to a nursing class at Norwich and being approached afterwards by a man who said he had not been able to talk about the disease for two years, but now realized there was nothing wrong with letting people know. “You just brought me out of the closet,” he told Cucinelli.

In addition to his work with Dragonheart Vermont, Cucinelli is active in Making Strides against Breast Cancer, which sponsors annual walks in Chittenden and Rutland counties. He also takes part in an annual fashion show where all the models are breast cancer survivors.

Cucinelli said what he loves about dragon boat racing is the camaraderie. “We understand where we’ve been,” he said. “We’ve all been through some phase of breast cancer, but when we come together as a team, we’re there to support one another and have a good time. It’s a life changer.”

Cucinelli noted that some paddlers were never athletic before they began the sport, but have become committed members of the team and true athletes. “If you splash somebody or clang paddles, there’s no need for apologies,” he said. “This is what happens and you move on, just like with breast cancer. You have bad days, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Win, lose or draw, we’ll all get there together and that’s the most important thing.”

Debra Dulac: Bringing Fletcher Allen Health Care’s Recordkeeping into the 21st Century

June 7, 2012  
Filed under Health & Wellness

By Phyl Newbeck

Debra Dulac

Debra Dulac had spent her entire career at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center when she decided it was time for a change.

Fletcher Allen Health Care is the lucky beneficiary of her desire to try her hand at a new location. Dulac joined FAHC at the start of the year as their new director for PRISM, the hospital’s electronic health record system. Dulac was excited to make the move to Fletcher Allen. “This is an academic medical center that is very focused on patients and their families,” she said. “I wanted to work for another organization that really cared about their population. This job allows me to use my clinical expertise, but also my IT side.”

PRISM stands for Patient Record and Information Systems Management. The system predates Dulac’s arrival, having been implemented three years ago. What interested Dulac in the project was that the system was already in place, but she would be given the opportunity to move it to the next phase and, in her words, “optimize it so it can be more efficient and provide greater value to those who are using it.”

Dulac sees her job as learning how patients and staff are utilizing the system, getting them more engaged in the process and then helping them use it more efficiently. “Just because a system is in place,” she said “doesn’t mean you know everything about it.”

Dulac has a BS in nursing and MBA certification in Nursing Informatics (a program devoted to the study of modern technology in the nursing field), as well as being a Certified Professional Health Information Technologist. The 51-year-old started at Dartmouth Hitchcock as a staff nurse and within a year was promoted to a leadership role. She found her “true love and niche” in clinical and technological support, joining the team that created the electronic record system at Dartmouth. When the hospital decided to move the system to an external vendor, she led the vendor selection process and then helped with the transition.

Dulac realizes that even though the PRISM system is already in place, it can still be improved upon. “Viewing something electronically is a different way of capturing information,” she said. “You’re shifting how someone works. Now that the system is in place there is time to rethink how it’s done and make it better.”

Options include adding more data sets or changing the order in which the information is provided. “It’s a pretty powerful tool,” said Dulac, noting that electronic record keeping is crucial because patients may be treated at several different locations. “This is better for patients as well as for the care delivery system,” she said.

Through PRISM, patients have the opportunity to look at their records in the comfort of their homes, although Dulac stressed this does not take the place of physician/patient visits. “This has been created from an efficiency perspective,” she said “not to replace conversations with doctors.”

Dulac noted that the system has built-in redundancies and down time procedures which create a safety network in case of power outages. There are also a variety of security measures to prevent anyone from hacking into the system.

Dulac is the mother of four sons, one of whom is a first year student at St. Michael’s College. For now, she continues to live in the Upper Valley and commutes to FAHC because her second son is a junior who plays on his school’s football team. He has been playing varsity since his first year of high school and college scouts have been attending his games, so she is unwilling to uproot him until graduation, even though various friends and neighbors have offered to house him in the interim. After he graduates, Dulac intends to move the rest of her family closer to Fletcher Allen.

The commute is a tough one, made more difficult by the fact that Dulac is determined to attend all her children’s sporting events, but the New Hampshire born woman considers herself very strong willed. “If there’s something worth doing, you do it,” she said, noting that eighteen months of commuting will help her decide exactly where in Chittenden County she would like to put down roots. “I really feel like I was given a gift to work here,” she said. “I don’t think I could have created a better situation for myself.”

Dulac is excited about the opportunity to help improve the PRISM system. “The hard work has been done,” she said “but now it’s gaining momentum and getting people excited. Putting it in was only the beginning. This is a living breathing tool that we need to take care of.” Dulac views her job as one that involves listening skills which will help her foster a better environment for patients and staff and create a partnership between them. “This was a significant investment,” she said. “That’s the exciting part. We’re truly making a difference. If I can’t make things better and move it forward I won’t be successful. My job is to change things for the better.”

Fletcher Allen Ranks in Top 10 Percent of Integrated Health Care Networks in U.S.

June 7, 2012  
Filed under Health & Wellness

Fletcher Allen Health Care is in the top 10 percent of integrated health care networks in the United States, according to a quality survey conducted by IMS Health, a Connecticut-based healthcare data research firm. Fletcher Allen is one of only three hospital systems in New England and one of ten in the northeast to make the list.

“We’re proud of this national recognition of Fletcher Allen’s efforts to deliver the highest quality care in the right place and at the right time with the greatest efficiency,” said John R. Brumsted, M.D., president and CEO of Fletcher Allen. “Going forward, we’re committed to building on the progress we’ve made in strengthening the integrated delivery system in our region.”

An integrated health care network consists of several health care facilities that form partnerships — either through ownership or formal agreements — in an attempt to improve quality and cost. Nearly 600 regional, non-specialty health care systems were analyzed in the survey, which measures the level of integration in organizational operations, quality of care, scope of services and efficiency.

Complete survey results can be found on the IMS website.

Naturopathic Medicine Offers Gentle Alternative

June 7, 2012  
Filed under Health & Wellness

By Stephanie Choate

Dr. Michael Stadtmauer is one of three doctors at Vermont Naturopathic Clinic in South Burlington. (Photo courtesy of Mitchell Kearney. © Mitchell Kearney 2010)

Dr. Donna Powell didn’t set out to become a naturopathic doctor. She was going to be a psychologist.

Shortly after college, she began working with severely emotionally disturbed children. In one of her cases, Powell replaced a reward system revolving around sugary treats to one featuring books and fun trips—dramatically reducing the boy’s sugar intake. Almost immediately, she saw drastic improvements in his behavior.

The experience was a turning point for Powell, making her take a step back from her focus on psychological treatment.

“You can’t just treat the mind, you’ve got to treat the body, too,” said Powell, who has now been in the naturopathic medicine field for 25 years. She runs Health Resolutions in Burlington with Dr. Molly Fleming.

Powell’s revelation illustrates a fundamental goal of naturopathic or holistic health care—taking a step back from mainstream medicine’s focus on curing symptoms and looking at the person as a whole.

Dr. Michael Stadtmauer, one of three doctors at Vermont Naturopathic Clinic in South Burlington, said naturopathic medicine has several basic objectives.

“One is to look at the person as a whole and to consider how their different systems interact,” he said. “Another is to try to approach issues with the least invasive and gentlest treatment possible. Another is to counsel people about prevention and lifestyle and dietary changes, things they can do to take more control.”

Naturopathic medicine—which typically avoids drugs and seeks out natural remedies— can help with a wide range of issues, Stadtmauer said, including insomnia, muscular or skeletal problems, arthritis, menopause and hormone imbalances and gastrointestinal problems.

“Sometimes the solution is very simple,” he said.

Naturopaths are a diverse group of health practitioners, and use a variety of therapies.

Clinical nutrition

Nutrition is not so much a therapy as the foundation for good health.

“Clinical nutrition is something every naturopath uses every day,” Stadtmauer said. “We have a very strong understanding not just that we are what we eat, but that food can really impact a lot of different symptoms that it is not typically associated with.”

Aside from gastrointestinal issues and bowel problems, changes in diet can help resolve issues such as chronic headaches, joint pain and arthritis.

“It’s very modifiable, and a way for a person to take more ownership of their health care,” Stadtmauer said.

Dietary changes can also help with more specific problems, Fleming said.

For example, a patient with spasms might need more magnesium, whereas someone with Charlie horses and twitches could be low on calcium. A patient recently came in with headaches and digestive problems, Fleming said, and after painstaking research, she discovered that the woman was allergic to almonds.

Careful attention to nutrition becomes especially important later in life.

“As we age, our ability to digest foods becomes more inefficient,” Powell said. “It’s very individualized. We have to be a little more tuned in to the patient.”

Nutrition is a vital aspect of overall health, one that practitioners of traditional medicine don’t always have the time to fully examine, she said.

Reiki

Reiki is an energy-based method that helps people “tap into their own abilities to heal,” said Rebecca Trono, who has taught Reiki for eight years and runs South Burlington-based Heavenly Healing. Reiki is a go-to cure for a multitude of problems in Japan, Trono said—as common as aspirin.

“There’s never a situation where Reiki can’t help,” she said. “It’s a great complementary therapy.”

Trono often uses Reiki to help people reduce stress and anxiety, but has also had success managing arthritis and chemotherapy side effects. She volunteers at Fletcher Allen Health Care, helping to relax anxious pre-operation patients and working with oncology patients.

During a Reiki session, a trained practitioner helps channel the person’s own energy, using a light touch or no touch at all.

“It’s not the practitioner who’s doing the healing, it’s the individual themselves who uses that connection,” Trono said.

Reiki is incredibly relaxing, Trono said—clients often promptly fall asleep or go into a light meditative state.

“Reiki is all about balance and that’s the goal, to bring balance to all levels of the being for optimal health,” Trono said.

Trono also holds Reiki sessions with animals at the Humane Society, seeing remarkable improvements in the behavior of traumatized or abused animals.

Frequency-specific micro-current

Frequency-specific micro-current treatment is an up-and-coming form of therapy in the naturopathic field, Fleming said.

Micro-current therapy uses a very gentle electric current, so gentle it does not meet with resistance from the body’s tissue. Though Fleming originally got the machine to relieve nerve and muscle pain, especially pain caused by fibromyalgia, she has also found it useful for inflammation, shingles and sinusitis.

“Sometimes people are afraid to use acupuncture, and this is an alternative,” Fleming said. “It’s a very gentle therapy that I think is useful to people as they get older.

No matter the therapy type, naturopathic doctors agree that holistic medicine is an effective complement to traditional medicine. People of all ages visit naturopaths for a wide range of reasons, whether for general health, specific symptoms or as a last resort.

“We really are a little bit like that old-fashioned doc that is just there for you,” said Powell.

Empowering Those Age 50+ to Continue ‘Looking and Living Forward’

June 7, 2012  
Filed under Health & Wellness

Nancy and John Darling

It’s never too late to jumpstart healthier aging, no matter what one’s lifestyle choices up to now have been. That’s the message of and the driving force behind the resources offered by 50 Moving Forward, created by the Y and Pfizer to improve health and well-being for adults age 50 and older. 50 Moving Forward, at the Greater Burlington YMCA, empowers adults 50 and older with the support, community and tools they need to make healthier lifestyle choices, engage in preventive health measures and achieve personal health goals. Anyone can sign up at the Y or participate online at ymca.net/50MovingForward.

“It’s a fast growing segment —adults 50 and older. They have an interest in improving or maintaining health, and we’re offering an experience about healthy lifestyle choices tailored specifically to this segment’s needs,” says Jan Riordan, Vice President of Healthy Living at the Greater Burlington YMCA. “The CDC suggests that adults 50 and older will have a 70 percent chance of developing at least one chronic condition by 2015, so it’s important they look for preventive measures, like screenings and vaccinations, as well as opportunities to be more active, that can help maintain healthy aging.”

Staying true to its name, 50 Moving Forward encourages adults to live a healthy life that allows them to look forward to and move forward with maintaining health and wellness as they age.

The Greater Burlington YMCA will give members and nonmembers an opportunity to make healthy improvements with their eating habits, physical activity, personal health, and community interaction by:

Providing easy tips and resources to support their health and wellness

Motivating them to make personal health and well-being a priority and helping reduce the risk of disease and other health conditions with small changes in their everyday lives

Encouraging them to take measures to prevent disease, such as screenings and vaccinations

Asking them to share with friends and loved ones the things they’re “looking forward to” in life

“There is so much information out there about personal health, and it’s great to take part in 50 Moving Forward here at the Burlington YMCA that can offer me all the resources I need,” says 50 Moving Forward participant Karin Ericson. “I’m looking forward to sharing what I learn about making healthier choices with my friends and loved ones.”

The Greater Burlington YMCA will offer both offline and online resources to 50 Moving Forward participants so they can customize the program to fit their individual needs. Participants can enjoy group fitness, outings, outdoor and Friday night recreation, health workshops, and weekly newsletters, tips, and assessments, among other resources.

Both Y members and nonmembers are invited to sign up for 50 Moving Forward. For more information, visit www.ymca.net/50MovingForward or call Stuart Offer, Wellness Director at 862-8993 x137 or email SOffer@gbymca.org.

Approaching Summer Season, One Tulip at a Time

June 7, 2012  
Filed under Things to do

Late spring in Vermont is a feast for the senses: lilac bushes undulate in the breeze; crisp fiddleheads and tangy, sweet rhubarb come into season; cool mornings shift to short sleeve weather by midday and sunsets stretch into the late evening. Amidst all this renewal, visitors are already out exploring the robust line-up of events, open doors and unhurried roads. Mark your calendar, the VermontVacation.com Travel Planner  lists these featured events and many more.

June 15-17 • 33rd Annual Quechee Hot Air Balloon, Craft & Music Festival
The skies over Quechee and the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire will be filled with vibrantly colored hot air balloons ushering in the annual Quechee Hot Air Balloon, Craft & Music Festival. The longest continuously running hot air balloon festival in New England, the Quechee Hot Air Balloon Festival is one of Yankee Magazine’s Top 20 Events of summer. Go aloft for an unforgettable view of a beautiful part of the world, www.quecheeballoonfestival.com.

June 16-17 • Vermont History Expo, Tunbridge fairgrounds
Designated by the Vermont Chamber as a Top 10 Ten Summer Event, the Vermont History Expo invites you to walk back in time at this country fair where more than 150 local historical societies, museums, and heritage organizations unite. Some exhibits commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and Vermont’s significant role in that war. In addition to learning opportunities, enjoy crafters, musicians and children’s games. Tunbridge Fairgrounds. View the full schedule at www.vermonthistory.org/expo.

June 21-24 • Wanderlust Vermont, Stratton
Wanderlust is a one-of-a-kind festival bringing together the world’s leading yoga teachers, top musical acts and DJs, renowned speakers, chefs and winemakers — all in a setting of breathtaking natural beauty. Come for fun in the sun and dancing under the stars; hiking on peaceful trails and mountainside yoga. Stratton, Vt. Wander at http://stratton.wanderlustfestival.com.

June 23 • Rockfire, An Elemental Experience, Websterville
This annual summer solstice event honors the immigrant communities that lived and worked at the granite quarries for more than a century, and embraces the recreation and beauty that the space offers today.  Enjoy more than 900 luminaries and 40 bonfires burning throughout the quarry while visitors walk the biking trails to see live performances. 59 Little John Rd., Websterville. www.rockfirevt.com.

June 23-24 • Native American Heritage Festival, Ferrisburgh
Discover the vibrant Native culture of the Champlain Valley Region as members of the Elnu and Missisquoi Abenaki tribes, the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk and Koasek Traditional Band of the Koas Abenaki Nation gather at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for the annual celebration of the region’s Native American Heritage. Tribal members dressed in traditional garments will demonstrate singing, drumming, basket making, bead decoration, food preparation and other life skills. Sign up in advance for “Paddle to Prehistory” and travel by canoe to the site of an ancient Native American village with archaeologist Joanne Dennis.

June 22-24 • 14th Annual Stowe Wine & Food Classic at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe
A benefit for Copley Hospital and the Vermont Foodbank, the Stowe Wine and Food Classic is a one-of-a-kind food and wine experience, taking you from farm to table and vine to glass. Not only will you meet top winemakers and chefs, you will also get to know the farmers and producers these chefs count on for fresh ingredients. Enjoy more than 100 wines and an array of offerings from area restaurants, cheese makers and brewers, all in a casual and vibrant atmosphere. Learn more at www.trappfamily.com.

June 30 • Event in a Tent comes to Brattleboro
Music New England, a new presenting and performing arts organization, debuts its unique music festival model on the grounds of the Vermont Agricultural Business and Education Center in Brattleboro, (Famolare Farm.) The Event in A Tent fuses live music with other performing art genres and audience participation to create a singular entertainment experience under one 1,000-seat tent. Enjoy a family friendly atmosphere that encourages picnicking and socializing. Visit www.musicnewengland.org.

AARP, SBA Partner to Offer Resources to Start, Grow Businesses

June 7, 2012  
Filed under Business

The U.S. Small Business Administration and AARP are launching a strategic alliance to provide counseling and training to entrepreneurs over the age of 50 who want to start or grow a small business. Through SBA’s online training courses and its nationwide network of business mentors and counselors, the two organizations expect to train 100,000 “encore entrepreneurs.”

“No matter what your age, if you have an idea or a business that’s ready to move to the next level, the SBA wants to make sure you have access to the tools you need to start and grow,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills.

SBA has set up a dedicated web page for those over the age of 50 featuring: an online self-assessment tool to help potential small business owners evaluate their readiness to start a business as well as information that will help with business planning, shaping a winning business idea, professional counseling, financial services and information to find local resources in your area. This web page can be found at: http://www.sba.gov/content/50-entrepreneurs.

SBA and AARP also will jointly develop and host a customized online course, self-assessment, and webinar series for older entrepreneurs. SBA already offers a suite of online courses for people who want to start and grow their business. To take a course, go to http://www.sba.gov/training under “online courses.” Course topics include start-up basics, finance strategies, marketing tactics, overseas trade and more.

For more information on SBA’s programs and services, please visit www.sba.gov.