New faces revitalize team
Drawn to Gifford’s size and dedication to community, two new providers, Victoria Edwards, DO, and Rafael Montecino, MD, joined the General Surgery team in August 2018. The surgeons have broad expertise in areas ranging from burn surgery to breast health, and share a deep commitment to patient-centered care.
“Here we can offer personalized care and practice medicine as it should be, healing patients as human beings,” said Montecino, whose previous experience includes over seven years as a surgeon at the Dwight D. Eisenhower VA Medical Center in Leavenworth, Kan. “I like to get patients involved in making decisions. My main goal is to listen and make time to explain to patients the pathology, complications and outcomes—and answer all of their questions.”
The surgeons also share an appreciation for Gifford’s team approach and commitment to continually improving.
“We work closely together,” said Edwards, who completed her residency at Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey. “We feel heard and part of the solution as we work to make Gifford better. It’s nice that we’re small. When we need changes we can start things right away and not face roadblocks.”
“Gifford is very different, very special,” said Montecino. “If we have an issue, then together we work out a solution. That’s unique [in health care].”
Montecino brings nearly 25 years of experience to Gifford, including in burn surgery, critical care, and hand and microvascular surgery, and has taught clinical surgery at Harvard Medical School and the University of Kansas. His extensive training includes surgical fellowships with Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard University, and Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston, and residencies at the University of Connecticut, University of California San Diego, and in Panama City, Panama. He earned his medical degree at the Universidad de Panamá; is certified by The American Board of Surgery; and is a member of several professional associations, including the American College of Surgeons, Panamerican Trauma Society, and World Society of Emergency Surgery. Before deciding to make a permanent move to Vermont, Montecino, who lives in Randolph, visited the state regularly over the last 16 years. When not working, he enjoys traveling, photography, reading, and experiencing new cuisines.
Edwards brings significant vascular training to Gifford. Her clinical interests also include breast health and surgery and advanced laparoscopic procedures. She earned her medical degree from Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City and a bachelor’s degree from New York University. She was invited to present at the Annual Clinical Assembly of Osteopathic Surgeons in 2014 and 2016. Before medical school, she was part of research teams at York College / City University of New York (CUNY), Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and Sadick Dermatology. When not at work, she spends time with family and gardens at her home in Barnard.
Montecino and Edwards are joined in General Surgery by David Mathies, APRN, who has been with Gifford since 2017. Together they provide a variety of services in both office and operating room settings, from surgery required by diseases of the skin to appendix removal to diagnosis and treatment of all forms of cancer.
“Surgery is a team sport,” Montecino said. “We have close relationships and easily communicate with hospitalists and primary care providers” to deliver the highest-quality care to our central Vermont patients.
In the Community: Free Skin Screenings
The General Surgery team provided free skin cancer screenings to 52 area residents during a series of four clinics throughout the fall of 2018. The private, head-to-toe screenings took place in Randolph, Berlin, Sharon and Chelsea, and were open to both Gifford and non-Gifford patients.
Early skin cancer warning signs can appear on parts of the body that might be difficult to inspect during a self-exam. During the screenings, Gifford surgeons identified areas in need of closer examination or monitoring and suggested follow-up treatment if necessary. They saw an average of 13 patients on each screening day. Of those examined, 35 patients received a recommendation for a six- or 12-month follow-up appointment, and 18 patients received an appointment for a removal procedure within a few months.
“We are pleased to offer free skin screenings to members of our community, as early detection is critical to successfully treating skin cancers,” said Dr. Rafael Montecino. “Screenings are recommended for adults at increased risk, such as older individuals, those with fair skin, people who have a history of sunburns, those who are exposed to UV rays, and individuals who have a family or personal history of skin cancer.”
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States and includes basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, with melanoma being the most dangerous due to its likelihood of spreading if not diagnosed early. Incidence rates continue to rise nationally and in Vermont, and Vermonters, according to the Department of Health, “have significantly higher rates of melanoma (29 per 100,000) compared to the U.S. rates (19.9 per 100,000).”