After a five-decades long career in gastroenterology, Dr. Howard Weaver has retired.
Dr. Weaver began his practice in gastroenterology in 1972 when he joined Dr. Pratt and Dr. Cross at the Associates in Internal Medicine, a specialty subgroup in Rutland. This service was in operation for twenty-nine years, at which point Dr. Weaver joined the hospital to begin what is now known as Digestive Services.
Gastroenterology was not his first medical concentration. Initially he was a board-eligible cardiologist. “I kept changing my mind all through my training years and residency years until I decided I was coming to Rutland, Vermont. And at that time, I was a board-eligible cardiologist, but they didn't need a cardiologist here nor did they at Dartmouth,” Dr. Weaver explained. “Cardiologists were a dime a dozen back in those days and so I told Drs. Pratt and Cross to leave me in residency another year. I've taken a new interest in gastroenterology, and I'll take a residency in gastroenterology and then come and join you in Rutland. So, that's how that happened.”
At the time gastroenterology was coming into fiberoptic endoscopy that allowed clear viewing into organs such as the intestines, bile ducts and other areas relating to the gastrointestinal system, which Dr. Weaver found fascinating.
When Dr. Weaver came to Rutland, he was the first gastroenterologist in the area. He was kept quite busy working with various family doctors, internists, and surgeons over his career. “I've had quite an association with the other gastroenterologists that eventually came here. We recruited Dr. Janik and then Dr. Williams and now Dr. Gleason,” said Dr. Weaver. “So, there have been four gastroenterologists over the years that have worked together and that's been a good association.”
The other physicians in the practice share this sentiment and have the utmost respect and appreciation for Dr. Weaver’s contribution to the practice. “He is one of the most dedicated, caring and compassionate physicians that I have ever had the pleasure of working alongside,” said Dr. Joseph Williams. “His patients have always been a top priority and much of our community have benefited from his care. His presence will be sorely missed by his patients and colleagues.”
When asked what stood out for him over his five decades, in terms of patient care, he reflected on one patient from the early 1980s who had AIDs. At the time, AIDs was a new and very deadly infectious disease and treating a patient with AIDs was scary and full of unknowns. Sadly, this particular patient became the first AIDs death in Vermont.
Similarly, the COVID pandemic brought significant fear and uncertainty. Digestive Services was affected considerably when the Endoscopy Unit was closed to regular patients so it could be converted to a COVID-19 patient care area.
Consequently, endoscopic procedures were put on hold which, like many other clinics, created a backlog of patients. Once services were restored, the endoscopy team worked hard to get patients rescheduled quickly and reeducate their patients about the importance of having their routine exams. There was no endoscopy unit when Dr. Weaver started at Rutland Regional so he had to develop the practice from scratch.
Dedicated nurses were key to the success of Digestive Services/Endoscopy and Dr. Weaver speaks with pride and gratitude when reflecting on their impact. “I've always respected them and gotten a lot of support from the nurses of this hospital. And as I say, nurses developed into their own specialties; and we developed the gastrointestinal nurses and there is an Association of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Nurses, and they became certified in it. There are some nurses that stayed with the unit for such a long time – Cathy Ferraro, Meg Labrecque, Cindy Mullin who is still working today. Some of these nurses have been doing endoscopy nursing for a long, long time and have been very supportive and have kept us going over the years.”
He is also quick to recognize the team at the Digestive Services office located at 1 Albert Cree Drive. “The staff here has been wonderful – all the secretaries and the people that schedule our procedures and things like that. Donna Callahan has been a big help to me in the GI nursing field. She kind of took to it and has been with me for a long time, and she has done a wonderful job.”
Dr. Weaver’s official last day at Rutland Regional was Friday, February 26. He will again head south for the month of March, as he has for the past few years, and take some time to relax and, as he puts it, “warm up.” He will continue to live in New England because he and his wife have family in the northeast and, he says, “I've been in practice so long here in Rutland – this is home. So, I'll be staying here.”