Major Gift to SVHC Funds Primary Care Recruitment

BENNINGTON — The third largest gift ever made to Southwestern Vermont Health Care’s (SVHC’s) endowment will fund efforts to enhance primary care physician recruitment and support nursing recruitment and retention within the health system. The gift comes from Helen Dixon Kunzelmann who died in June

“Southwestern Vermont Health Care is extremely grateful to Mrs. Kunzelmann and her family for supporting us,” said Thomas A. Dee, president and CEO. “Recruiting talented clinical personnel in the fields of primary care and nursing is a top strategic initiative for SVHC. Mrs. Kunzelmann wanted to make life better for people in the Bennington area. To her, that meant having quality primary care and nursing care available. By giving to our endowment, Mrs. Kunzelmann’s legacy will continue to help our health system for years to come.”

Mrs. Kunzelmann’s gift will provide ongoing funding to bolster primary care physician recruitment. The gift endows the Helen Dixon Kunzelmann Fellowship that can be used to augment a primary care physician’s salary during his or her first year in the community.

“The fellowship enables us to offer a more attractive package to recruit primary care doctors considering practicing here,” explained Dr. Mark Donavan, SVHC’s chief medical officer who oversees the health system’s physician recruitment efforts. “A physician’s ability to pay off medical school debt is a major consideration in deciding where they will practice. A small boost in their incomes in the early years after medical school can be extremely helpful. Mrs. Kunzelmann’s gift will help SVHC create an attractive recruitment package for new physicians.”

The health system also can use the recruitment fellowship to retain existing primary care doctors or to support other health care providers in years when no new primary care doctors join SVHC.

Kunzelmann’s gift also established the Helen Dixon Kunzelmann Professional Nursing Fund. The fund provides resources to help SVHC recruit, retain, and reward its nursing staff. Nursing leadership from throughout the health system will have access to these resources to recruit highly trained nurses and pay for nursing education and other programming. The fund will help ensure that SVHC continues to maintain the kind of nursing programming that led to its becoming the first Magnet hospital for nursing excellence in the state and the only Vermont hospital recognized three times as a Magnet facility.

“SVMC is a national leader in nursing practice,” said Carol Conroy, chief nursing officer. “Recognition as a Magnet hospital for nursing excellence is not easy to achieve. Mrs. Kunzelmann’s gift will help us maintain this excellence for future generations of nurses.”

Born in 1917 in Boonton, N.J., Mrs. Kunzelmann graduated from the Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Mass., and from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. She moved to Old Bennington in 1954 with her husband, Fabian, who predeceased her. Mrs. Kunzelmann died in 2011 at age 93. She is survived by two grandchildren, Christopher Ely Kunzelmann of Avon, Conn., and Laura Kunzelmann Hastings of New York. She was active in the Bennington Garden Club, the Garden Club of America, and Old First Church.

“Helen was a wonderful woman and very community minded,” said Marny Krause a hospital trustee and longtime friend. “Bennington really was like her family. She loved this town and its people. Her desire to improve physician recruiting in Bennington came from an article she read in the Bennington Banner. She decided at that time to do what she could to help.”

Southwestern Vermont Health Care is a non-profit community health system made up of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center, the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation, the VNA & Hospice of SVHC, the SVMC Northshire Campus, the SVMC Deerfield Valley Campus, and other medical practices. As a non-profit, SVHC exists solely for the benefit of the communities it serves and depends on donations of all sizes to help it achieve its reputation for excellence and provide care for all who seek it regardless of their ability to pay.

For Immediate Release:
19 January 2012
Media Contact: Kevin Robinson