Care, Collaboration, and Community

Southwestern Vermont Medical Center offers exceptional oncological care through its partnership with Dartmouth Health



Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) offers accessible, high-quality healthcare to communities across Southern Vermont, Rensselaer, and Washington Counties in New York, and northern Berkshire County, Massachusetts. SVMC is lauded as one of the nation’s most exceptional rural healthcare systems. By integrating comprehensive services with a community-minded philosophy that puts patients first, they have built a healthcare program that epitomizes excellence on all levels – as exemplified by the Dartmouth Cancer Center at SVMC.

Dr. Vernon, a Radiation Oncologist at SVMC

In July 2023, SVMC heralded the dawn of a new era with its integration into the renowned Dartmouth Health system. The roots of this partnership run deep, built upon a history of collaboration. For over a decade, SVMC and Dartmouth Health have worked in tandem, building a foundation for effective institutional cooperation. Their new, solidified partnership has led to the continued enhancement of SVMC’s healthcare services, including the oncology services provided by the Dartmouth Cancer Center at SVMC. Patients benefit from a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach, where oncologists (doctors who specialize in cancer treatment), nurses, social workers, and nutritionists work together, creating personalized treatment plans tailored to each patient’s unique needs.

Patients at the Dartmouth Cancer Center at SVMC have access to the Dartmouth Cancer Center in Lebanon, which is one of only three National Cancer Institute-Designated comprehensive cancer centers in New England. Additionally, all nurses at the center are certified in oncology, ensuring the highest standards of care. As a member of the Dartmouth Health System, SVMC has developed a robust oncology team, with two full-time medical oncologists specializing in chemotherapy and hematology treatments. The radiation oncology department at SVMC features a skilled care team that utilizes state-of-the-art technology, including a linear accelerator equipped with on-board imaging and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) capabilities.

As the Chief Medical Officer of SVMC, Dr. Trey Dobson plays a central role in facilitating the partnership between SVMC and Dartmouth Health. With a background as an emergency medicine physician, a respected instructor at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, and the past president of the Vermont Medical Society, he is wholeheartedly committed to advancing healthcare quality and access in the region. Dr. Dobson is grateful to play a central part in the continual growth of the Dartmouth Cancer Center at SVMC, and he is proud to work with a team of dedicated oncologists and medical professionals. “What we have here at SVMC is special,” says Dr. Dobson “We focus on the individual’s well-being, not just their treatment.” Dr. Dobson explains that the partnership with Dartmouth Health is a cohesive integration into a larger system where SVMC plays a pivotal role as a member hospital. The partnership between SVMC and Dartmouth Health streamlines outside referrals, allowing patients to receive specialized care without the burden of extensive travel.

The Dartmouth Health partnership has also presented the opportunity for SVMC patients to participate in groundbreaking research trials. “Access to large-scale trials is paramount for advancing cancer care,” says Dr. Dobson. “With SVMC now a full member of the Dartmouth Health system, patients can participate in experimental treatments without having to travel to distant, academic medical centers.” Dr. Dobson praises the cohesive integration that allows seamless transition of patients between SVMC and Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC). “When a patient goes from SVMC to DHMC and then comes back, doctors collaborate on diagnoses and treatment. Care that was started at DHMC can continue at SVMC.” This ensures that patients receive consistent, high-quality care regardless of where they seek treatment within the Dartmouth Health network.

SVMC’s partnership with Dartmouth Health also expands SVMC’s access to specialized oncology medicines, streamlining availability across their combined healthcare system. Moreover, the integration enhances recruitment efforts, attracting highly-trained and skilled oncologists who provide exemplary care. One of the most skilled and driven members of SVMC’s team is Radiation Oncologist Dr. Matthew Vernon, who joined SVMC in 2013. “What drew me to SVMC was their evolving affiliation with Dartmouth Hitchcock Clinic, which was just starting to come to fruition,” says Dr. Vernon. Ever since Dr. Vernon joined SVMC, their growing partnership with Dartmouth Hitchcock has continually-enhanced the quality of care delivered to patients. In the advent of SVMC joining the Dartmouth Health network, the collaborative partnership has grown stronger than ever before. “The weekly meetings that we hold with Dartmouth Hitchcock physicians ensure collaborative decision-making,” says Dr. Vernon. “The more sets of eyes you’ve got on your case, the better your outcome is likely to be.”

Dr. Vernon is proud to be able to integrate cutting-edge technology and resources, including equipment sourced from their Dartmouth Health partnership, while maintaining a personalized approach to patient care. “Our team is amazing,” affirms Dr. Vernon, reflecting on the positive feedback received from patients. Dr. Vernon praises SVMC’s commitment to providing thoughtful care by prioritizing patient needs and advocating for essential services. SVMC has championed the importance of integrating palliative care, recognizing its impact on patients’ quality of life. Along with palliative care, SVMC integrates additional support services seamlessly into the cancer care journey. Social work, nutrition, and other ancillary services are made accessible to patients within the cancer center itself, reducing barriers to care.

Dr. Vernon underscores the importance of involving various team members, including surgeons, medical oncologists, and social workers, in decision-making processes (called Tumor Boards). By proactively addressing patients’ needs through comprehensive support services, SVMC ensures a more holistic and patient-centered approach to care. Through Tumor Board meetings and early involvement of specialists, SVMC carefully considers every aspect of a patient’s care.

As a patient at the Dartmouth Cancer Center at SVMC, Karen Brescia directly benefited from this personalized approach to healthcare. Brescia’s diagnosis of a benign brain tumor led her to seek treatment at the Dartmouth Cancer Center at SVMC. Despite initial apprehension about moving to a new facility, Brescia was reassured by her doctor at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, who highlighted Dr. Vernon’s expertise at SVMC. “I was assured Dr. Vernon was an excellent radiation oncologist and I would be in good hands,” says Brescia. The seamless communication between specialists at both campuses ensured that she received expert care without the burden of long-distance travel. Karen’s apprehensions quickly dissipated as she experienced the warmth and professionalism of SVMC’s staff. “My appointments became welcoming visits with the receptionists, technicians, nurses, and doctors that embraced and cared for me as if I was family,” shares Brescia. She encapsulates the essence of her experience at SVMC through a reinterpretation of their organizational mantra: “Safe, Valued, Monitored, and Cared for.”

Brescia says that she was treated with dignity and respect, with staff members personally invested in her well-being. “Everyone is treated equally and every staff person knows your name,” says Brescia. “You aren’t just a number or a diagnosis at SVMC. The connection to Dartmouth Health means every case is reviewed by an expert team, so you can be sure you’re getting the top level of care.”

Within the next two years, SVMC will follow through on plans to build a new regional cancer center at SVMC. The new Hoyt-Hunter Regional Cancer Center building will increase the number of treatment areas, allowing for greater participation in oncology trials and the hiring of additional staff. Slated for completion in late 2025 to early 2026, the new cancer center represents SVMC’s commitment to meeting the evolving needs of its community. By integrating services, streamlining access to specialized care, and expanding treatment capabilities, SVMC is poised to lead the way in oncology care in Southwestern Vermont and beyond.