Provider Q & A
Our patient-centered approach to health care thrives on trust, mutual respect and open communication between patient and provider. To foster that, we present a growing list of Q&As with our providers that look beyond their resumes and focus on what motivates them inside and outside their medical practices. Get to know your provider, and enjoy the improved health benefits that our patient-centered approach delivers.
In some ways, the midwifery career of Alison Engel, CNM, started when she was 5 years old. “I grew up in a family of women who were nurturers,” Engel says. “My mom was a cook and a caregiver, and my grandmother was a labor and delivery nurse. So it’s no surprise that I’ve been putting bandages and fake poultices on my friend’s booboos since kindergarten. “It was in my nature to be in health care,” Engel says. Engel joined Pen Bay Women’s Health earlier this year as one of five certified nurse midwives providing a full range of care for women of all ages, including birth control, annual checkups, pap tests, breast exams, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, preconception care, abnormal bleeding evaluation and menopausal care. “Alison is an experienced, thoughtful and compassionate caregiver, and we are fortunate to have her on our care team,” said Jennifer McKenna, MD, director of women’s health for PBMC and WCGH. To schedule an appointment with Engel, please call 301-8900. Pen Bay Women’s Health is located on the campus of Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport: learn more here. To learn more about how Engel’s family shaped her choice to become a midwife, read on.
Why did you become a midwife?
I was born with the assistance of a midwife, as was my middle sister, and we grew up hearing our birth stories from my mom. This definitely influenced my decision to become a midwife. When I was 15 years old, my oldest sister had a baby with the assistance of a midwife. I was present for the birth, and it left a big impression on me. I really admired the way the midwife was so calm and quiet but also very involved and present. She wasn’t not there. She wasn’t not doing her job. She just wasn’t intervening and getting in the way of the process. She was there to support my sister in having her baby.
There was a time I thought about medical school, but I decided that the principles of midwifery were more in line with who I am and the holistic care I want to provide. So I went to nursing school. After working for a couple of years as a nurse, I went to midwifery school. I was ultimately guided by the experience with my sister and her midwife to choose this career path.
Do you see midwifery in terms of pregnancy only, or does midwifery address a larger range of women’s health issues?
Popular culture associates midwives with pregnancy and birth, but historically midwives provided health care for the whole family. That piece of our profession got lost over the years, and we were put into the niche of providing just obstetric care. But we provide a full range of health care to women, from birth through menopause and beyond.
Some of my favorite people to work with are young teens. I find great satisfaction helping them get a good start in their lives by teaching them how to respect their bodies and treat them well. Menopause is another transitional time in life, with unique and amazing opportunities to learn about and have confidence in our bodies.
When a patient comes to see you for the first time, what can they expect?
First and foremost, they can expect to come into a safe space for their care. By safe, I mean two things. While we have always offered a clean space for patient care, we have taken extra precautions due to COVID-19. Women coming to my office should be confident that they are coming to a place that puts their safety first. I also mean safe in the sense that our care is non-judgmental and comes from a place of compassion and empathy. Women can expect an open conversation. I’ll start by asking them what’s on their mind and what I can do to help. I encourage women to participate in the decision-making process about their health. We, as midwives, work hard to make women feel comfortable talking about their health in ways that otherwise might be uncomfortable. Listening to women is the center of what we do.
Does listening come to you naturally or is it a skill you had to develop as a midwife?
A little bit of both. I’m not the world’s chattiest person, so I enjoy listening to people and hearing their stories. I feel privileged to be let into a patient’s life, to hear a person’s experiences. As a midwife, there are certain kinds of listening that you do where you pick up on little nuances of what somebody is saying. Those nuances can give me insight into their health and tell me how I can help them.
You grew up in New Hampshire?
I grew up there until I was 14. My mom was from the Newburyport area on the North Shore of Massachusetts. It is a beautiful seaside town. We moved back there when I was 14. I went to college in Boston and met my husband there. I went to graduate school in New Haven, Connecticut, and then practiced and worked in Massachusetts for the first six years that I was a midwife.
Why practice midwifery in Maine?
The town I grew up in was very small and probably had a lot more cows than people. And so I never felt quite at home in cities and suburban spaces. I wanted to settle and raise a family in a more rural setting. And my parents and my sister live in Freeport now, so I wanted to be closer to them. My dad’s family for generations has been coming to Maine in the summer. Maine was definitely a place that feels like home and offers more of the lifestyle that I want for my kids.
Outside of the women’s health offices, what are your passions?
I am a total midwife cliché. I love to knit and garden and do yoga and bake, all those crunchy things that you would imagine a midwife likes to do. I’m a total nester. I’m a homebody, but also we really enjoy the outdoors. We have a dog and two kids, and our favorite thing to do on the weekends is throw the baby in the backpack and hike with the dog and the 7-year-old. My husband is a musician so we sing and make music together as a family.
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The midwives at Pen Bay Medical Center are accepting new patients. To make an appointment with a midwife at Pen Bay Women’s Health, call at 301-8900. The center is located at 3 Glen Cove Dr., Suite 1, Rockport. To make an appointment with a midwife at WCGH, call Waldo County Medical Partners Women’s Health at 505-4332. The practice is located at 16 Fahy St., Belfast.
What is the common thread that runs through a person’s hobbies, fatherhood and the practice of medicine? For Kirk Bernadino, MD, the answer lies in creativity. Dr. Bernadino joined Pen Bay Medical Center in 2018 as director of endoscopy. As a gastroenterologist, he focuses on such conditions as irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, anal fissures, perianal abscesses, anal fistulas, perianal infections, diverticular diseases, colitis, colon polyps and cancer. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Vermont College of Medicine in 1998, Dr. Bernadino served his residency at Maine Medical Center. From 2006 to 2018 he practiced gastroenterology at Essentia Health in Duluth, Minn. He served as chief of gastroenterology at Essentia Health before returning to Maine in 2018. Dr. Bernadino’s office can be reached at 207-301-5970. It is located in the Physicians Building, suite 103, at 4 Glen Cove Dr.
How did you decide to go to medical school?
I was a retail pharmacist for several years and found that it was not as stimulating as I hoped. This was before retail pharmacy became interactive with an emphasis on counseling patients. I started thinking about culinary school, a furniture-making apprenticeship and medical school. I was in my mid-20s and thought I wanted a career that allowed creativity. There are trends in both food and furniture making. It’s the rare person who can step aside from those trends and be truly unique. Although I sought creativity and uniqueness, it was intimidating to imagine a career that I thought demanded them. In medicine there is truth. I can learn it and I can practice it. There’s a structure and a process to medical training that I thought left little room for variation or expression.
Do you find room for creativity in medicine?
Unexpectedly, I did. The creativity I found in medicine is in how I interact with patients. I try to understand their relationship with disease. That often helps me learn how well they cope, whether they are satisfied with how well their disease is controlled, or if they are in need of something more to meet their treatment expectations.
Looking back, is there a moment that affirms your decision to practice medicine?
Much of my career has been dedicated to procedures that evaluate potential cancers. So not infrequently, I am responsible for delivering a cancer diagnosis. It’s always daunting, but I work hard at helping patients and their families understand the diagnosis. It’s a life altering moment to hear that you have cancer but, in the same breath, many people ask, ‘What does it mean?’ Helping patients understand what it means and what to expect is the place where I think I have made the most difference in people’s lives.
You’ve had some interesting hobbies over the years: hiking many of the 4,000-foot mountains throughout New England, piloting hot air balloons, restoring old Land Rovers, collecting lighting fixtures from old Pullman rail cars. What are your passions these days?
Right now, I’m primarily a dad. I have two young boys who I recently brought half way across the country to Maine. So I’ve let go of a lot of hobbies to take on the ultimate responsibility of raising children. But I haven’t relinquished all of my hobbies. Now I embrace my children’s interests. For examples, one of my sons is teaching me to sail and I am learning to play ukulele along with them.
You’ve spoken about creativity. How creative is it being the father of two?
I think creativity in fatherhood has a lot to do with recreating yourself and creating the image your children will hold of you. But there are norms and structure to follow, like trying to raise them in a religious faith or teach them socially acceptable behaviors. There’s not a lot of creativity in what you teach them but there’s a lot of creativity in how you deliver it. I’ve learned approaches that work for one of my sons doesn’t necessarily work for the other.
Why practice in Maine?
In terms of practicing medicine, the idea of following in the footsteps of Dr. Neil Smith (Editor’s Note: Dr. Smith retired in 2016 after practicing for more than 20 years) and carrying on his dream of providing high quality, state-of-the-art gastrointestinal care to this community was very appealing. Dr. Smith pioneered gastroenterology in our community. His superb clinical skills and ever-present grace and compassion are very big shoes to fill.
When some people think of U.S. Army doctors, they think of MASH, the 1970s television comedy-drama about a combat surgical unit in the Korean War. For Robert Grondahl, MD, 17 years in the Army was so much more. The son of a school nurse, Dr. Grondahl entered the Army searching for direction. He returned to civilian life 17 years later with medical degree in hand and years of experience as a family practitioner, obstetrician and gynecologist. Dr. Grondahl joined Waldo County Medical Partners Women’s Health this month and is accepting new patients. His office can be reached at 207-505-4332.
Who inspired you to go to medical school?
Well, my mom was a nurse, so she was probably my first inspiration. She did mostly school nursing, so I got to see a little bit about what she did, and occasionally I would see her helping people who were hurting. That made a deep impression on me. Out of high school, I went into the Army not knowing what else to do and realized, even though it was fun to jump out of planes and do Army stuff, that it wasn’t a good fit. That’s when I really became interested in medicine. So I requested an educational delay to go to medical school in Syracuse, New York. The Army said, “All right, it’s worth it to us to have you as a physician as opposed to an infantry man. Go for it.”
And you continued to serve in the Army after medical school?
I really wanted to practice in a rural setting and do it all. So I did a full residency in Family Practice before re-entering the Army. When I went back on active duty, I went to Fort Campbell in Kentucky and for the next four years I really got to “do it all” in the base hospital there. All kinds of cases - from obstetrics to internal medicine and pediatrics, and lots of them. It was a great experience. But it was a time that medicine was really starting to emphasize specialties, and I felt I had to make a decision about my career. I loved obstetrics. I mean, when I learned the cardinal movements of the fetus in labor, and when I got to see labor progress from start to finish – it was such a natural fit. But I also loved surgery. So, combining the desire to do both surgery and obstetrics, I did a second residency in OB/ GYN in San Antonio, Texas. After that, I went to Fort Bragg in North Carolina and got to really practice my specialty in the base hospital. It was high volume, so we did about 300 deliveries a month. And there was a high GYN surgical volume as well. This is all while I’m still on active duty, so I still got to do Army stuff, because that’s just fun, and then got to practice as an OB-GYN.
How does your military experience inform your practice of medicine?
The idea of flexibility comes to mind. In the Army, we always said, “improvise and overcome,” because you just never knew what was going to get thrown at you. Doing field medicine, moving around, and dealing with all of the unknowns, I think, helps me. It gives me a broad base of knowledge and a calmness.
And then you decided to return to civilian life?
In the Army, they tend to keep promoting you until eventually you’re in charge of something. I have the utmost respect for administrators, but I know myself well enough to know that I’m not one of them. The Army wanted me to take over the department at Fort Bragg, but that would have left me with just a half day of surgery per month and a half day of clinical work. I didn’t want to give those things up. What I love is what happens when I meet a patient for the first time. I have this privilege of being able to listen first, and then problem solve with that patient, and help make a plan that’s going to make a real difference.
So what can a new patient expect when they meet you for the first time?
Very rarely is that first visit just a nonchalant, “Yeah, I’m here for my cough. Do I need an antibiotic?” It’s filled with all kinds of questions, wonders, worries, fears, hopes, dreams. The first thing I do is to make the patient comfortable because it’s natural that they’d be nervous about meeting a new provider, especially one who will be helping them with some of the most important things in their life. I try to listen more than I talk and understand their hopes and dreams. What’s most important to me is that the patient knows they have been listened to.
So you start a successful practice in Indiana but end up in Maine... Once out of the Army, I built my dream practice in Indianapolis. I knew all my patients. New patients would just keep coming in because of word of mouth. But then, as our kids grew up and went out on their own, it became clear to me and my wife that our hearts were Maine. We have friends throughout New England and were visiting Maine every chance we got. We love winter things. We love to put micro spikes on and hike up an icy mountain. We like to snowshoe, we like to cross-country and Nordic ski, we downhill ski, we just love that stuff. But we didn’t want to just come here someday to retire. I’m not tired yet. I’ve got 20 more years of medicine in me, easy. I want to do a good job, and I want to have roots in the community where I practice medicine. I came here for my interview during a Nor’easter and someone apologized for the weather. But to me it was perfect.
How do you define success? As Mario Serafini, DO, has learned, the answer is both complicated and as simple as listening to what matters most to his patients. A specialist in interventional pain management, Dr. Serafini practices out of the Pen Bay Physical Medicine & Interventional Pain Management at Pen Bay Medical Center (PBMC). He helps patients manage pain so they can get back to the activities that matter most to their lives, from gardening to picking up their grandchildren. Specialists in interventional pain management strive for opioid-free pain treatment that includes such procedures as joint injections, nerve blocks, spinal cord stimulation and peripheral nerve stimulation, among others. Dr. Serafini is married to Sarah Serafini, MD, an emergency department doctor at PBMC. Dr. Mario Serafini’s office can be reached at 207-301-3600.
In college, you interned as a bond trader on Wall Street and seemed destined for a career in financial services. What changed your mind?
I have always believed in doing good. At the time, I thought you could have this in the financial industries. It was in the 1980s and a very exciting time. But as I became entrenched in the financial services community, it seemed much less like I was doing good. I became disenchanted. So I applied to medical school. It fit my idealistic view of trying to help people.
Is there a moment that confirms your choice?
I met with a retired lobsterman from one of the islands. He’s 90 and has many medical conditions and he takes care of his wife, who suffers from dementia. So what I had offered him was a very simple, straightforward, non-exciting injection that I thought would bring him some relief to meet his goal of being able to continue caring for his wife at home. So one day he comes in for a follow-up appointment, and I ask him his percentage of pain relief and he says 30 percent, which normally is considered a therapeutic failure. And yet he is so happy because he is able to take care of his wife and some of the pain is gone, and for him that’s awesome! And it really helped to reset my understanding of how I help people. An outcome study would call a 30 percent reduction in pain a failure, and yet from this patient’s point of view, it was an absolute success. It was just this meaningful kind of experience because he made this ferry ride over to thank me for how much better he was doing.
You’ve expressed appreciation for the outdoors. How active are you?
Dramatically less these days with a 4-year-old and an 18-month old at home. We want to take our kayaks out but we’re wondering if a canoe might be better so we can take the children. When I first took up skiing, I wanted to be one of those people who straps the skis to their back, walks up the mountain and skiis back down through the trees. That’s incredibly hard thing to do. I’ll tell you that it pales in comparison to taking a 4-year-old to the Snow Bowl, with all of his gear, and trying to get on the lift.
How does this inform how you work with patients?
It’s relatively easy to measure pain. A patient gives us a number on a scale of 1 to 10 and we write it down. Easy. But when you talk to the patient more, you come to realize that it’s not really about the pain as much as it’s about loss – the loss of things and passions that they can no longer do. Because of the pain, they’re not able to garden, they’re not able to pick up their grandchildren. In that regard, my outdoor activities and my children give me important context; I know how much loss I would feel if I could no longer take my kids up Mount Battie. It fuels empathy. I can stand in a patient’s shoes and imagine their sense of loss. I think that makes me a better doctor.
What will a patient experience when they visit you for the first time?
We’ll sit and talk for a while as we get to know one another. I certainly want to hear about their pain, but I also want to hear about what they value most in their lives and what they want from me as a doctor. As we discuss treatment options, we ask, ‘This pain prevents me from doing this. Will the proposed intervention allow me to do it again?’ It’s a balancing act. We want to help people return to those activities that are most important to them. But we also want to protect them from unnecessary procedures that don’t have a reasonable risk-benefit profile.
How did you come to practice medicine in Maine?
We were living in Appalachia. When my wife finished her medical training, we moved to Burlington, Vermont. After we had our second child, we moved to South Carolina to be near family. But the commute was long which meant we were seeing our children even less. Then my wife tells me, ‘Oh, I’ve applied for a position in Rockport, Maine, and they may have a position for you, too.’ My response was, Where are the boxes? Let’s start packing.
For Lisa Sherwood, MD, joining Pen Bay Medical Center as an internist represents a homecoming of sorts. Her great-grandparents lived in Machias and she visited frequently as a kid. Moreover, her parents now live in South Thomaston. The move also represents a professional homecoming. After several years of teaching medical students at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in State College, Penn., Dr. Sherwood’s move to PBMC is a return to the very reason she became a doctor – to focus on patients. Dr. Sherwood is currently accepting new patients. To make an appointment, please call her office at Pen Bay Internal Medicine at 207-301-5800.
What inspired you to pursue a life in medicine?
Out of high school, I earned bachelor’s degree in physical therapy and worked as a physical therapist for 10 years. I really enjoyed that, but I was very limited with how much care I could provide the people I was working with. I wanted to be more involved in their care. I was fortunate that my husband had gone back to physical therapy school in his 30’s and so he understood what it was to want to pursue a dream. He encouraged me, and I attended Penn State College of Medicine, did my residency in internal medicine there and stayed on there for 15 years before joining PBMC. At Penn State, I served as course director for first- and second-year medical students. I loved teaching them how to be a physician who is empathetic and knows how to listen.
How do you bring empathy and listening in to your own exam room?
I shared with my students studies that show a doctor usually interrupts a patient within eight seconds of the patient talking. I get it. Doctors are on a schedule and they want to keep things moving. But, if you just take the time to listen, you can often get most of the information you need without asking a question or interrupting a patient. I pride myself on getting to know my patients really well. Over the years, I’ve gotten so many nice emails from my patients thanking me for taking the time to know them and remembering little things about who they are as a person, not just who they are in terms of their diabetes or their high blood pressure.
Are you a natural listener?
I’m not a natural listener. It’s a skill I’ve had to develop. I learned from some really powerful teachers who had great relationships with their patients, and I thought to myself, ‘That’s the type of relationship I want to have with my patients.’
What’s life like outside of the hospital?
I really like to be outdoors. I like to garden. We hike and bike and camp. I have two cats who are my babies now that my son is out of the house. And I love to read. Have you ever been to Lobster Lane books? In South Thomaston there’s this little shack that’s open on Saturdays and Sundays. You can get $1.50 softcovers and $2.50 hardcovers. I usually go there and stock up on books to read over the next six months. I really enjoy reading.
What are you reading right now?
There’s a Maine Windjammer Mystery Series by Jenifer LeClair that I’m reading right now. I like all kinds of books, but mostly mysteries, and I like Maine authors.
You worked in a very large academic medical center before coming to PBMC. Why the move to Maine?
My parents live in South Thomaston. So, the fact that I can be closer to them and still practice medicine is important. But Maine has always had a special place in my heart because of my great-grandparents being from Machias. As a kid, I came to Maine every summer to the Downeast Lakes Region around Grand Lake Stream and Big Lake. I wanted to share those type of memories with my own son, and so we’ve been bringing him to Maine every summer since he was 2 years old. I just think there’s a way of life here that is different from anywhere else I’ve ever visited. There’s a focus on quality, a connectedness between people and nature, and I think that’s really important. Of course, in coming to Maine, I won’t be teaching medical students directly, which I loved, but that’s OK. The more I got involved in educating students, the further I got from patient care and, for me, patient care is why I got into medicine in the first place. So coming to Maine reconnects me to all kinds of things that I love.
What does an NBA All-Star and a lobsterman have in common? Jeffrey Rasmussen, MD, knows the answer. Dr. Rasmussen has served on the medical teams for a number of college and professional sports teams – including the Boston Celtics. These days he treats patients, including lobstermen, at Pen Bay Orthopedics, a department of Pen Bay Medical Center. A surgeon who specializes in sports medicine, minimally invasive shoulder and knee surgery, and shoulder replacement, Dr. Rasmussen sees patients from across Maine. For more information, call his office at 207-301-5454 or visit Pen Bay Orthopedics online. To learn what an NBA All-Star and a lobsterman have in common, read on.
Let’s start with congratulations. You and your wife just welcomed your third child.
Yes, we did, thank you. Lucky number three, Emma Rasmussen, was born on October 25th. I also have a little boy, Patrick, who turned 3 this past summer, and a little girl, Allison, who will be 2 in January. It’s is a busy household and a bit crazy at times.
What inspired you to a life in medicine?
My mother had Crohn’s disease when I was young and was in and out of the hospital often. Based on that experience, I always said I wanted to get into medicine to help people. As a kid, I loved sports. All I did was play sports. Becoming a sports medicine doctor was the natural fit. It allowed me to work with patients and athletes of all ages who want to stay active.
As I understand it, you had an interesting start to your medical career.
I was fortunate to have worked with athletes for several teams in the Boston area, including Harvard University and the Boston Celtics. It was a great experience, especially in terms of understanding the expectations of the athletes, coaches, and trainers. I've been lucky to have worked with elite athletes while learning from some very talented surgeons and physicians.
How does having worked with elite athletes influence your work with patients at Pen Bay Medical Center?
Patients get injured and the medical or surgical options are pretty much the same no matter where you live or practice. What elite athletes demand is an orthopedic doctor who takes the time to understand their lives and what kind of outcome they want from treatment. I believe that everyone, from the young high school athlete to older manual laborer, deserves that same kind of care. It's about understanding what the patient wants and how I can meet those expectations. The 16-year-old student athlete who tears their ACL on the soccer field may have different expectations and constraints than the 60-year-old lobsterman who needs to get back to pulling pots the next day. I work hard to understand their needs and expectations and craft a medical response tailored to their lives.
When you meet a patient for the first time, what can they expect?
I start by asking patients to tell me about themselves. Where do you live? What do you do for work? What activities bring you satisfaction? I want to get to know them on a personal level and that, combined with a good history and exam, helps guide the best medical response for the patient.
What has been your most satisfying moment in medicine?
Every time I get a hug after doing a shoulder replacement. Some of my happiest patients are my shoulder replacements. Equally as satisfying is the smile on a young athlete’s face when they are cleared to return to their sport. That's pretty special.
How about outside the hospital?
I spend most of my time with my wife, Chrissy, and the kids. Outside of that, I love to play golf. We have some beautiful courses in Maine, including Samoset Resort right here in Rockport. We fill our summers with family and friends who come to visit Maine. During the winter, I play hockey at the MidCoast Recreation Center.
Why practice medicine in Maine?
I'm from Geneseo, a small town in western New York, south of Rochester. It's a very small town, maybe 10,000 people. After college at Cornell University, I went to medical school at the University of Maryland in Baltimore and then lived in New Jersey and Boston – so a lot of city living. After we had our first child, we asked ourselves, are we staying in Boston or are we looking for something new? We came up to visit Camden and said, let's do this. It’s a great, close-knit community. We can walk to friends’ houses and we can walk downtown. It's just a great place to raise a family.
That Maine native Samuel Madore, DO, is practicing medicine in the state where he was born and raised is the result of two things: A bout of back pain when he was young – and the call of the wild. As a primary care provider at Waldo County General Hospital, Madore focuses on how a patients’ health relates to your nerves, muscles, bones, skull and spine. He is board certified in family medicine, neuromusculoskeletal medicine and osteopathic manipulative medicine. Dr. Madore is accepting new patients. To make an appointment, call Waldo County Medical Partners Primary Care at 207-505-4567. WCMP Primary can be found online here. To learn how Dr. Madore’s back pain led to a career in medicine, and how many of the state’s 4,000-foot peaks he has climbed, read on.
What or who inspired you to go to medical school?
In high school, I was always interested in biology, and chemistry and nature. I went to the University of Maine in Orono as an engineering major, which then changed into biochemistry/microbiology. I was going to get either a master’s degree or a PhD in some lab science. Then I started to have my own back pain in college. I saw a number of different physicians to try to get help with that. I finally found an osteopathic doctor who evaluated me in a way that I found ... useful. The experience helped me realize that I did not want to sit in a lab all day, I wanted to try to help people with pain. That put me on the path to becoming a doctor.
When a new patient expect when the comes in to see you for the first time?
Patients can expect me to ask about their diet, activity level and lifestyle as those things might pertain to their health. I’m always digging into people’s sleep, diet, exercise and stress levels as much as I can. I do my best to sit back and let the patient tell me their story. To me diet, sleep and movement are often the most important things to focus on. Our modern life just predisposes all of us to some ailments. If we keep putting our hands on a keyboard, on the steering wheel, on our phone, we’re always going to get tight shoulders and tight backs. I can make the patient feel better temporarily, but the real solution is the change to way we do these things.
What are your passions outside of the hospital?
I’m pretty outdoorsy. I like to fish, I like to garden, I like to trail run with my girlfriend and my dog and just kind of explore all the places I haven’t been yet in Maine even though I’ve lived here my whole life. I still want to canoe the Allagash and hike all 14 of the 4,000-foot peaks in Maine. I’ve hiked six of them so far.
Craziest outdoor adventure?
In California, we were hiking along the coast and we’re on this ledge, looked down, saw this beautiful beach, and decided we would spend the night down there. We had maybe two hours of light left and we bushwhacked our way down and got to the beach just as high tide was peaking and realized there was only a foot of sand left. So we had to bushwhack our way back up. At one point I was crawling on my stomach underneath shrubs. And then a couple of minutes later I was crawling over shrubs, not even touching the ground.
Nature holds many metaphors for poets. Does it hold any for medicine?
I think so. When you see a river that’s been dammed up for decades, and then it becomes undammed, like the Penobscot River, fish come back. Wildlife comes back. It may take a decade or two, but the habitat regenerates. It reminds us that patients really can truly heal. I think a lot of our chronic medical conditions are us living in a way that contrary to the pace of our evolution. Our way of life has changed drastically in the last 15 years with the internet, in the last 100 years with cars and processed foods. But we need to remember that we’ve been around for 299,000 plus years not living like that and our genes have not adapted. So when I see animals in their own state being healthy, as far as anyone can tell, having good communities and doing what they do best, it reminds me that they are in a place that’s well suited for their genes.
You were a Boy Scout. Did you earn a First Aid Merit Badge?
I earned the Lifeguard and First Aid merit badges and many others. I don’t know if there’s any more medical related ones. But that was a big piece of developing a love for adventure.
Our troop was, I don’t know, 30 kids. There was a lot of adult involvement. We went on canoe trips, hiking trips, biking trips. We got out there, and we did things. It was a great troop. But once you get to 16 years old, a lot of your friends leave the Boy Scouts and so you need a reason to stick with it. Earning Eagle Scout was my reason.
It seems so many young college graduates choose to leave Maine, but you stayed. Why?
My family and friends are here, and there is a big need for health care providers here. And there’s just a lot of fun things to do here. Even when it’s frigid out, I’ll go ice fishing. I’ve visited other states. Other than Northern California, nothing really spoke to me as Maine does.
Pop Quiz: How long does it take a native New Englander living in California to stop being a Patriots fan?
More than 30 years, if Paul Krivitsky, MD, is counting. A board certified surgeon, Dr. Krivitsky recently joined the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) department at Waldo County General Hospital after more than 30 years in private practice in California. ENT treats diseases of the ear, nose and throat including speech and swallowing problems, reconstructive surgery and head/neck cancer. Dr. Krivitsky is accepting referrals. For more information, call his office at 207-505-4367 or visit online. To find out if his allegiance to the Patriots ever wavered during his time in California, read on.
What or who influenced you to pursue a career in medicine?
I have always been interested in medical related things. As a kid, I was a very active model builder. I made hundreds of models. Cars, ships, airplanes and stuff. I also made this model called the Visible Body. It has a clear body and you could see the organs inside the skeleton. I even made a model of a nose, believe it or not. My mother was a big influence on me, too. She had two uncles who were physicians. One was a family practice doctor in Massachusetts and the other was an anesthesiologist. They probably had a small influence on me, but it was my mother steered me in that direction.
Have there been mentors that have shaped you as a physician?
When I was doing my surgery rotation in medical school, I became good friends with one of the chief residents, and he suggested that ENT would be a great specialty. He had a lot of influence on me. As a result, I chose the chairman of the ENT department at Boston University Medical School to be my medical school advisor. There was never any question in my mind that I would be a surgeon. But what kind of surgeon? These mentors are the ones who influenced my decision to specialize in ENT.
What can a patient expect when they meet with you for the first time?
The way I approach patients has been developed over many, many years. I try to make a good impression with a patient on a personal level. I want them to be comfortable. I spend a lot of time getting to know them and understand why they are here. During the exam, I’ll explain what I think the issue is and why I think that and what the next steps are. When they leave my office, I want them to feel that I’ve listened to them and that we have a plan to address their particular situation.
How long have you been in Maine?
About three years now. After medical school in Boston, where I grew up, I did my training in California. I was in private practice in Orange County for 30 years before moving back to New England. My family is still in the Boston area, and I wanted to be closer to them. My grandfather was in the shoe business, and I remember coming to Maine with him to visit shoe factories in all these little towns.
What sparks your interest outside of the hospital?
I am not really the kind of traditional outdoorsman that might want to move to Maine. I don’t hunt, I don’t fish, I don’t really camp. My two main hobbies are bicycle riding, which I do avidly, and motorcycle riding. I also snowboard. In California, my motorcycle buddies and I were sport riders in the canyons and mountains above Los Angeles. We rode in the San Gabriel Mountains in an area called Angeles Crest, at 5,000 to 7,000 feet above sea level. There are very few cars on the mountain roads, and the roads were all curves, nothing straight. These days, I’ve given up the sport bikes and ride a cruising bike. It’s set up so I can still have some fun.
After 30 years on the West Coast, do you find yourself rooting for California teams?
No, I have always been a big Patriots fan and Red Sox fan. Bruins and Celtics, too. I have enjoyed reconnecting with my teams. Even in California, I watched most of the Red Sox and Patriot games – which you might imagine did not go over well with my California friends.
Dayton Haigney, MD, always wanted to be a doctor. And he's always loved fly fishing. But it took time for him to discover how the two intersected. Dr. Haigney joined the Physical and Integrative Medicine practice in Searsport at Waldo County General Hospital (WCGH) earlier this year. As a physiatrist, he has spent more than 40 years treating a wide variety of chronic pain conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons. Before joining WCGH, Dr. Haigney served as chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Togus Veterans Administration Medical Center. For more information about Dr. Haigney, contact his office at 548- 2475 or visit online. To learn how fly fishing keeps his medical skills sharp, read on.
What inspired you to go to medical school?
There was no family member or anything like that pushing me into a career in medicine, and yet I wanted to be involved in health care in some way, shape or form from an early age. We had a family physician who was a good role model, but otherwise I was self-motivated to pursue this career.
Do you recall a moment when you said to yourself, "This is why I went into medicine"?
Part of what attracted me to physiatry was the fact that it takes an integrated, holistic approach. We don't just look at the abnormalities that might be revealed by an x-ray but at other factors that might be contributing to a person's chronic pain, like sleep patterns and diet. So when I got exposed to physiatry, I realized that, "Oh, this is something that makes a lot of sense to me. This is the way I want to practice." I've been very happy with my decision. I've been out of medical school for 41 years. Every day since then I've had an experience that has confirmed that I made the right decision.
What will a patient experience when they meet with you for the first time?
They will quickly realize that I ask a lot of questions about their life in general, what's working, what's not working, what other factors could be contributing to their pain, everything from diet to mental health issues. In chronic care, there are all these other contributing factors that we have to unearth. For instance, is there stress at work or at home? Do you get a good night's sleep? What's your diet like? Is there depression, anxiety, mood swings? Then we talk about functional improvement in terms of the patient's ability to perform their job or their functions as a husband, wife, a parent. When I address chronic pain, I address the whole person to help them get back to doing the things that are most important in their lives.
What are your interests outside of the office?
My wife and I are birdwatchers, and I like to fly fish. I tie my own flies. Being out in nature is important to me. It's the way I recharge my batteries. We relocated from southern Maine to Midcoast Maine about four and a half years ago, and it's a delightful place to be, I think. We like the four seasons. We like the people here, so we're content.
Where do you fish?
I have pretty much fished all over Maine, from the Rangeley area, the Androscoggin River area, Moosehead Lake, the Moose River, the Kennebec River. I fish the St. George River over in Hope and Appleton. And I've done a lot of saltwater fly fishing in southern Maine. Sure, I like catching fish but really it's about getting outside and just trying to be aware of all that you're seeing. That's the reward.
Do you find any lessons in fly fishing that you use in your exam room, or vice versa?
When I'm out in nature, from birdwatching or watching the seasons change, it's just being aware of all of the subtleties because they add up to the big picture. I try to be very observant with my patients and actively listen to them. If they know they've been heard, then I've succeeded.
After your stint at Togus, why did you chose to remain in Maine?
We've been here since 1985. We love the geography. We love the seasons. We love the lifestyle. I think that the pace is appealing. I don't think we ever considered leaving Maine. This is where I wanted to be from a very early age. I had an uncle that lived on Peaks Island. I've been coming to Maine my whole life.
When Joseph Noonan, MD, fractured his femur during a college hockey game, little did he know that the road to recovery would lead him to a career in medicine. Dr. Noonan provides experienced specialized care in sports medicine, diseases of shoulder and elbow, as well as general orthopedics as part of WCMP Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Waldo County General Hospital. WCMP Orthopedics and Sports Medicine offers services from minimally invasive treatments to total joint replacements using the latest technologies. The goal is to provide pain relief, increase function and help patients get back to doing what they love most. Dr. Noonan is accepting referrals. To learn more about Dr. Noonan, call his office at 505-4398 or click here. To learn how a sports injury influenced his career choice, read on.
Is there a person or a circumstance that inspired you to consider medical school?
Yes, I was a freshman hockey player at Williams College and fractured my femur in a game when I was 19 years old. Dr. Arthur Ellison took care of me, and he inspired me. He was an orthopedic surgeon in North Adams, Massachusetts. Then, going through the rehab process to get back to playing strength led me down the road to medicine and to orthopedics specifically. For unrelated reasons, I transferred to a new school after that and played three years of college hockey in Saint Paul, Minnesota at the University of St. Thomas. I was an all-conference player when I was a senior.
Does that experience influence the way you work with patients now?
I never tell patients about this experience but it does help me empathize with not just the athletes but with all my patients. I can better relate to how important their care is to them. I have a strong sense of what it would mean to them to lose physical function because of an injury.
I understand that you worked with several professional sports teams. Tell us more about that.
I did a shoulder fellowship at the Carrell Clinic in Dallas, and the clinic took care of many of the orthopedic needs of the Dallas Cowboys, the Dallas Stars and the Southern Methodist University Mustangs football teams. That experience helped me get a position as a sports fellow at Penn Orthopedics in Philadelphia. This gave me the opportunity to work with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Philadelphia Kixx soccer team. I was the onsite physician at two Eagles training camps, and I evaluated players at the NFL combine for two years.
What is it like when your exam room is the sideline of an NFL team?
It was really exciting to be at the games, but that comes with a lot of responsibility. It changes the way you watch the game. You don’t enjoy the game as entertainment because your too busy watching for the mechanism of injury. The Eagles had two doctors on the sidelines. If somebody was hurt, one of us would take the player into the locker room and do an exam and the other would stay on the field. The main question was, can he go back into the game? And if not, when is he going to be able to play again? And you better be right about it.
Does anything from that experience help you provide better care for patients at WCGH?
No doubt. When I was working with professional sports teams, I was fortunate enough to work with and learn from one of the best sports surgeons in the world. There are 56 players on a football team and 80 players in training camp. To be able to evaluate them day in and day out, I had to develop good skills and habits. You learn how to communicate, and you learn better diagnostic skills. You learn how to come up with a plan and to implement it. Of course, there is a big difference between that population, which has youth on its side, compared to many of the elderly patients that I see at WCGH that have degenerative problems. To me, it’s just as rewarding to help one of my patients be able to reach in the cupboard and get a glass from above. Or to help them sleep better because they don’t have shoulder pain at night. I find satisfaction in improving the quality of their lives.
When patients come into your office for the first time, what will they experience?
I think it’s my job to treat not just whatever is physically ailing my patient but to try to figure out who that person is, what makes that person tick, what kind of a sense of humor they may have, what kind of language they may respond to. To develop some type of a trusting relationship with them goes beyond just taking care of what happens to be wrong with them physically. This means I listen a lot. Of course, you are limited in how much time you can spend with a patient so you learn how to figure out quickly what motivates them, what you may have in common with them.
What has inspired you to practice medicine in Maine?
In some ways it’s like returning home. My family moved to Portland in the early 1960s when my dad got a job here. We moved around the East Coast following his work, and eventually moved out to St. Louis in 1971. I was 15. I went to Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and then, as I said, Williams College for a year and a half. With six kids in the family, the cost was too much, so that’s when I transferred to St. Thomas. Out of medical school, I practiced in Connecticut and Rhode Island. I moved back to Maine to take a position at Franklin Memorial Hospital in 2016. I’ve been here ever since. I really like the coast. People are kind here and very accepting of dogs, which is important to me.
What are your passions outside of the hospital?
My son is a college hockey player, and I try to watch his games. He plays at a Division III school in Providence, Rhode Island. I’ve always liked going to my kids’ competitive events, regardless of the sport. Both of my kids were soccer players. I never played soccer in my life, but you learn about it so you can support them along the way. That’s been important to me.
I have a dog at home, and I like spending time with her. Her name is Lucy and she’s a Black Mouth Cur. They’re bred as hunting dogs, although I don’t hunt. I never knew the term before, but she’s what is called a treeing dog. The dog in the Disney movie “Old Yeller” was a Black Mouth Cur. Just like in the movie, they’re fearless. And yet Lucy doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. She just loves people and other dogs.
Will you tell me something about yourself that I might not otherwise know?
My faith is very important to me and has been since I was a kid. My family is Irish Catholic, two Irish Catholic parents and six kids. We used to take up an entire pew in church. Faith is a struggle. So much stuff happens in the world and you wonder why, but you keep fighting every day. I say the rosary almost every day. I pray for the patients that I take care of. I pray on my way to work, when I have surgery, that I do well that day for the sake of my patients. I know it’s not popular these days to talk about your faith, which is why I’ve hesitated to mention this. I’m not fanatical. I just try to do my best for my patients and hope there is someone else above me who is on my side.