SVHC Announces 2011 Honorees

            In September, Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) is honoring two individuals, a physician and a community member, for their efforts to advance the health system’s vision of healthier communities. The honoree for SVHC’s 2011 Health Care Leadership Award is Dr. James F. Keenan and Mrs. Lila Cestone is the recipient of SVHC’s 2011 Distinguished Community Service Award.          
For the awards, SVHC sought nominations from the public, the physician community, health system employees, and SVHC’s board of trustees. SVHC will present the awards at their Second Annual Harvest Ball on Saturday, Sept. 10. The event will take place at the 1768 Hubbell Homestead at Colgate Park. All proceeds will benefit Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC). For tickets or more information, contact PJ Venti in the SVHC development office at (802) 440-4024.
“I’m proud to say that this year’s honorees are outstanding,” said Thomas Dee, the health system’s president and CEO. “Both Dr. Keenan and Lila Cestone are strong examples of how one person can make a world of difference for so many. Both have truly assumed leadership roles that exhibit their dedication to helping others achieve better health in SVHC’s community.”
Dr. Keenan is a radiologist with Radiology Associates of Bennington who has been on the medical staff at SVMC for 13 years. He received a Ph.D. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., in nuclear and radiochemistry and his medical degree from Albany Medical College. He has a fellowship in body imaging from Yale University School of Medicine, is certified by the American Board of Radiology and has taken on a leadership role in SVMC’s Imaging Department.
“He is always there to help,” said Emergency Physician Trey Dobson. “He NEVER refuses to offer a hand, give extra help, or tell a joke to provide levity in a stressful situation. He is extremely trustworthy and dependable. Dr. Keenan inspires us with his persistent integrity and effectiveness. He is a true role model for other medical staff leaders.”
Dr. Keenan is the Department Chair for SVMC’s Imaging Services and is past president of SVMC’s medical staff. He also volunteers to help with several local youth sports teams and church-related activities.
Said Dr. Keenan, “My family and I are blessed to call this community and hospital our home. We came here to enjoy all that this smaller community has to offer both in terms of high-quality medicine and the cultural and outdoor activities. It’s a wonderful place to raise our children.”
For Dr. Keenan, radiology offered him the perfect opportunity to combine his passion for excellence when using science and technology to improve people’s daily lives with his genuine interest in wanting to help others.
“I am humbled and honored to win this award. I can think of many more people I work with who are more deserving of this award.”
There are many in the SVHC community who disagree.
Lila Cestone has been an unwavering volunteer in the Bennington community since she and her husband, an anesthesiologist, moved to the area in 1965.
“My husband and I met when I was going to school at the Mary Fletcher School in Burlington, Vt., to be an X-ray technician.
“I was married and living in Bennington for two years in 1967 when I discovered I had a rare form of cancer,” said Cestone. “Dr. Flood at Putnam Memorial Hospital (now SVMC) got me into a clinical trial in Boston that saved my life. I never forgot what he and the health care system did for me.”
Cestone then dedicated her time and organizational skills to the local schools her two sons attended and to community health initiatives. She was the president of the original Medical Auxiliary for SVHC that disbanded in the 1970s and later served multiple roles for the SVHC Auxiliary, including recording secretary, communications secretary, vice president and president.
She still maintains the role of Auxiliary president, overseeing the many activities and initiatives the SVHC Auxiliary is involved in, including SVMC’s Corridor Art Gallery, the SVMC Gift Shop and the Lifeline Personal Response System. The Auxiliary uses proceeds it raises to support the hospital by purchasing much-needed technology and equipment such as supporting the Woman’s Imaging Center and a new pediatric dental chair for the emergency room.
For 12 years, Cestone was also a board member of the Regional Affordable Housing Corporation, a non-profit organization that was dedicated to finding decent and affordable housing for low and moderate-income families in Bennington County. Organizing their Garden Tour was one of her favorite activities over the years.
In the 80s and 90s she was also involved with a local Alzheimer’s Support Group that was formed to assist families and primary caregivers in coping with the disease and the toll it takes on them. Cestone accepted this challenge after caring for her mother throughout the 80s when her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
In 1995, as president of the SVHC Auxiliary, she became a member of SVHC’s board of trustees, where she served on various committees including those dedicated to development, planning and governance, until she left the board in 2010. She remains a true leader within the health care organization.
“I consider all I’ve done as my response to the opportunity afforded to me,” said Cestone. “If people have benefitted from what I have done, I’m truly grateful. It’s truly been fun for me and I’ve experienced a lot of joy doing it.”
Southwestern Vermont Health Care is an integrated health system providing care for patients in Bennington and Windham Counties in Vermont, Rensselaer and Washington Counties in New York, and Berkshire County in Massachusetts. SVHC includes SVMC, Vermont’s first Magnet Hospital for Nursing Excellence, the VNA & Hospice of SVHC, the Centers for Living & Rehabilitation, and the SVMC Northshire and Deerfield Valley Campuses. To learn more about SVHC, visit