Our Patients and Employees
The Albany Med Health System is about people, our patients – people who come to us for exceptional health care, people who require the specialized care that only we offer, people who appreciate having care closer to home.
It is also about the people of the System, our colleagues – people who care for the entire person and their family, people who set the standard for care and treatment, people who bring hope and healing, people who are compassionate, supportive, innovative, and inclusive, people who are dedicated to our community.
The last thing Lisa Paterniti expected was a tumor inside her lung.
On a June day a few years ago, the Greene County woman had “a weird feeling in her chest that felt weirder as the day went on.”
And so began her journey with the Albany Med Health System, which Paterniti calls “top notch.”
Fearing a heart attack, the mother of two and grandmother of as many headed to the Albany Medical Center EmUrgentCare in Coxsackie, where she was immediately directed to the Emergency Department at Columbia Memorial Health. An overnight stay for best care possible quote observation coupled with X-rays, a CT scan, and an MRI revealed a pulled muscle in her chest wall, not a heart attack. They also revealed a tumor in the upper-left lobe of her left lung.
Later, a biopsy confirmed the neuroendocrine tumor was cancerous. She, her longtime partner, and their families were devastated. Her daughter’s wedding was less than a month away.
Immediately, her primary care physician Dr. Dina Gage contacted Dr. John Nabagiez, a thoracic surgeon who sees patients at Albany Medical Center and Columbia Memorial, and within four days Paterniti underwent a 90-minute surgery at Albany Med followed by a four-day stay. Dr. Nabagiez is one of many physicians who care for patients in multiple locations throughout the System—increasing access to specialized services in more places closer to home.
The connection between her doctor in Coxsackie and the expert surgeon in the Albany Med Health System was instant, she said. “Having that kind of experience available immediately was so important.
“And I lucked out,” she continued. “Dr. Nabagiez was not only an excellent surgeon, but also so lovely and patient. He put us all at ease, gave us confidence, and made a very scary scenario less scary.”
And her stay after the surgery was marked by “amazing nurses and staff,” she said.
Her initial follow-up visits were at Albany Medical Center, a little over an hour door-to-door, but now she sees Dr. Nabagiez at Columbia Memorial in Hudson, an easy 30-minute drive from her home in Earlton, cutting her drive time in more than half. “It’s so convenient.”
And she explained, “I have a team of physicians – my surgeon Dr. Nabagiez, my pulmonologist Dr. (Lymaris) Garcia-Medina, and my oncologist Dr. (Peter) Lamperello. So, it’s important that they can get the full picture when they see me. They’re all connected.”
Now cancer free, Paterniti also notes that in rural Greene County it’s hard to find a physician, but that it’s a gift for the region to have the Albany Med Health System and such close collaboration between doctors at Albany Medical Center and Columbia Memorial Health. “You know you’re getting the best possible care.”
And, yes, three weeks after her surgery, Paterniti celebrated her daughter’s wedding with 120 family and friends.
Dr. C. Wesley Dingman II
“At my age, you expect things to go wrong.”
Dr. C. Wesley Dingman II, 90, was matter of fact about that as well as his treatment by a urology specialist from the Albany Med Health System.
“I needed a specialist. I had prostate cancer 25 years ago and had a radical prostatectomy. And there were significant complications,” he explained. “Less than a year after that surgery, a second surgery was necessary to introduce an artificial urinary valve which now had become leaky. The effectiveness of that valve now had to be improved.”
Enter Dr. Brian Inouye, a surgeon at Albany Medical Center who specializes in reconstructive urology and urological surgery. He practices at both Albany Medical Center and Glens Falls Hospital and is one of many physicians who care for patients in multiple locations throughout the Albany Med Health System—increasing access to specialized services in more places closer to home.
Dr. Dingman was referred to Dr. Inouye by his primary care physician at Hudson Headwaters Health Network, which regularly refers patients to Glens Falls Hospital. Dr. Dingman had two telehealth calls with Dr. Inouye, who prescribed a medication to control the urinary function. He’s also had an in-person appointment at Glens Falls Hospital, far more convenient than driving south to Albany Medical Center.
“It’s very good to have so many specialties and subspecialties nearby and available (at Glens Falls Hospital and through the Albany Med Health System),” Dr. Dingman said. He also pointed to the high prices of gasoline and the length of time it takes to drive from his home in Warren County to Albany Medical Center for a doctor’s appointment, noting he appreciates the option of being seen close to home at Glens Falls Hospital or on a telehealth call.
“Now,” he added, “things are working right.”
That’s important for Dr. Dingman, a retired psychiatrist who moved 22 years ago to North Creek in Warren County from Adamstown, Md., an hour outside of Washington, D.C. He and his wife, Noel, 89, had many fond memories of vacationing in the Lake George region and were easily convinced to move there when they retired. They now live in Queensbury, north of Glens Falls, in a senior community.
There, they continue their hobby of searching for both edible fungi and fungi from which dyes can be extracted to make colorful yarn. They use wool they still have from their 30 sheep on their Maryland farm where Dr. Dingman said he “was an evening and weekend farmhand,” for his energetic wife, who learned to spin, weave, and dye their sheep’s wool. Meanwhile, Dr. Dingman spent his days on the staff of a psychiatric hospital in Rockville, Md.
Active members of the Mid-York Mycology Society, they can frequently be found with fellow fungi enthusiasts in search of those wild foods.
So given Dr. and Mrs. Dingman’s lively lifestyle, they stress that they appreciate having things work out right.
Michelle Wilcox has “looked at life from both sides now,” as folk singer Judy Collins crooned.
Before Wilcox, 53, joined the Saratoga Hospital team in February 2022 and became part of the Albany Med Health System, she was a patient – and witnessed firsthand how successfully the System worked for her.
What began in February 2021 with Wilcox’s routine annual physical and mammogram ended with a series of tests, surgery, chemotherapy, and physical therapy.
Close on the heels of her mammogram came an ultrasound, a biopsy, an MRI, and ultimately, a diagnosis of breast cancer by Dr. Patricia Rae Kennedy, clinical director of the Saratoga Hospital Center for Breast Care.
“When I got the mammogram results almost immediately, I knew no news is good news,” said Wilcox, who today is a patient access specialist and handles scheduling for Saratoga Hospital’s Radiology Department. And then, with the “amazing” Dr. Kennedy at her elbow, she met the “amazing” Dr. Jeff Kim, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Albany Medical Center. She was attracted to Dr. Kim because of his specialty in autologous “free flap” breast reconstruction, the procedure she chose, and one that only he performs in the greater Capital Region.
Not that long ago, Wilcox said she would have had to travel to New York City or Boston for this very specialized plastic surgery, but “I had immediate access to Dr. Kim through Dr. Kennedy and the Albany Med Health System,” she recalled. The System has scores of specialists, experts in their field, who connect with patients through System members, including Albany Medical Center, Albany Medical College, Columbia Memorial Health, Glens Falls Hospital, and Saratoga Hospital, as well as the Albany Med Health System Visiting Nurses.
So, on June 16, 2021, both in the same Operating Room at Albany Medical Center, Dr. Kennedy performed the mastectomy, and Dr. Kim used the tissue from her stomach, rather than an implant or prosthetic device, to reconstruct her breast.
After her surgery and three days in the Albany Med ICU, Wilcox went home to Schuylerville to heal and have chemotherapy in Saratoga every other week for five-seven hours for four months. She continues to have follow-up appointments with Dr. Kennedy at Saratoga Hospital and Dr. Kim at Albany Medical Center. “They are my team, and they couldn’t be better.”
And, she added, that her care through the System “couldn’t have been better either. It’s unbelievable; the doctors, nurses, and staff were so kind, compassionate, and understanding. I can call Dr. Kennedy and Dr. Kim any time. They really are experts, and they really care about their patients. It’s not an act. And they’re available to so many patients in our region through the System.”
At the time of her diagnosis, Wilcox had just lost her job of 22 years at Liberty Travel due to Covid and was mulling the possibility of training in medical billing and coding. Ultimately, she studied remotely at her home in Schuylerville, in Saratoga County, and received her certificate, while she was being treated.
Now, on staff at Saratoga Hospital, Wilcox noted that she sees firsthand the advantages of the Albany Med Health System – the remarkable specialists and the integrated medical records that make care seamless. “It’s really all about the patient,” she said. “They are the center of care.”
That patient-centric attitude is not lost on Wilcox. In her job in the Radiology Department, she interacts with patients day in and day out, and she’s brought a philosophy to her position, one she said she learned through the doctors of the Albany Med Health System.
“I try to bring caring and nurturing, kindness and understanding to all my interactions with patients,” she said. “I may be just a telephone person, but I know health care is serious, and compassion and caring go a long way with our patients. They certainly did for me.”
As the Albany Med Health System’s Chief Nursing Informatics Officer (CNIO), Mike Durling helps bridge technology and bedside care. He had served at Glens Falls Hospital for 10 years, most recently as Director of Informatics and CNIO there.
“Integration of technology to bedside work helps us drive quality, efficiency, and best practice,” Durling said. “Nursing has a central role to play in the overall patient experience. My dual role puts me in a great place to understand the care and culture at each hospital. I am very proud of all the amazing work that our nurses and clinicians do collaboratively to care for our communities.”
When asked about the favorite part of his job Durling said, “I love being able to positively impact nursing practice and patient experience through improvements in our electronic medical record. I am passionate about getting tools in the hands of our nurses to improve their experience and engagement with patients.”
To Durling, the Care One project is at the heart of the patient/clinician experience. “The ability to move unified EMR/ERP products gives us a unique advantage to improve both the patient and clinician experience. The amount of experience that exists at each of our facilities is immense—we are building something new that serves our campuses with world-class tools.”
And Mike loves where we live. He takes advantage of everything our region has to offer. “In the winter you’ll find me skiing; summers I am always on the water or on the hiking trails.
At Saratoga Hospital, Richard Vandell and his laboratory colleagues see the benefits of System integration every day—for the Albany Med Health System and for patients throughout the region. Integration projects have reduced turnaround times for lab results, ensured access to hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 tests Systemwide, and saved over $5 million since 2018.
“That’s $5 million more that we can reinvest in quality and service,” said Vandell, who joined Saratoga Hospital in 2013 as administrative director of laboratory services. Last year, he took on the added role of strategic director of laboratory integration for the System.
It’s a rewarding position for Vandell, who was drawn to lab services by his love for science and the opportunity to improve care by providing caregivers with timely, accurate diagnostic information. Now, via the System, his impact has increased considerably.
Many of the lab-related advantages of System integration stem from the decision to tap Albany Medical Center’s expertise as a regional reference lab. Over 100,000 specimens that would have been sent to commercial labs were analyzed by Albany Medical Center instead. Similarly, System hospitals and their patients now benefit from Albany Med’s capabilities as northeastern New York’s leader in tick-borne disease testing.
Other achievements include sharing inventories, exchanging blood in emergencies, and standardizing transfusion criteria, enabling the System to meet the blood needs of patients despite a national shortage.
Although Vandell is proud of these accomplishments, he is most excited about the Care One project and its single, unified electronic medical record (EMR).
“Lab data makes up 70 percent of a patient’s EMR, so integrating that information will substantially improve patient care throughout the System,” Vandell said. “That’s what matters most.”
Al Palmatier agrees that Covid put the term “supply chain” on the map.
Palmatier, the purchasing supervisor at Columbia Memorial Health, is part of an extensive team of System Supply Chain employees whose job it is to keep the System hospitals stocked with the supplies critical to performing our mission. That means making sure there are IVs, exam tables, defibrillators, bed linens, masks,Columbia Memorial Health Map crutches, surgical gloves, gowns, goggles – thousands of products essential to keep our hospitals running and caring for our patients.
In the last two years, Supply Chain management has become a System-level function, where our four hospitals work together as a single unit for sourcing and purchasing supplies and maintaining adequate inventory.
That entails working with 144 departments and extensive strategic research and collaboration to source vendors that meet the System’s high standards and varying timeframes. Hundreds and hundreds of companies are viewed through the same prism – how much will the supplies cost, will they meet safety standards, how easily and efficiently can they be delivered to our hospitals, clinics, and urgent care offices, can they be provided in a reasonable timeframe, and if not, what’s the back-up plan?
“Before Covid, we were ‘materials management’ and pretty much taken for granted,” recalled Palmatier, who has been at CMH for 31 years. “Now we’re ‘supply chain,’ which is the globally recognized term. It’s also far more precise because our supplies are impacted by every process along the way – raw materials, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, and delivery, not to mention labor shortages.”
Palmatier said that working closely with his System colleagues, they share information, share products when one of the hospitals come up short, conduct strategic research to uncover new vendors, seek efficiencies, and find financial advantages for the System that dramatically reduce costs. They also follow the same best practices, which improve the quality of their services.
“There are still significant supply chain disruptions that aren’t going away. So, we can’t think in a straight line anymore. We have to think out of the box,” he explained. “But in the end, we can’t forget that what we do is helping provide the best possible care for our Albany Med Health System patients.”