Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center Earns National Certification

The American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR) certification

Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center (MAHHC) announced that the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at its Rehabilitation Center has earned a certification from the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). This three-year certification recognizes MAHHC’s commitment to improving the quality of life by enhancing standards of care.

The Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at MAHHC is designed to help people with cardiovascular issues such as myocardial infarction, coronary stent placement or bypass surgery, heart valve repair within a year, and, in some cases, congestive heart failure, to recover faster and improve their quality of life.

The Mt. Ascutney Hospital Cardiac Rehabilitation Program’s AACVPR certification follows a three-year process in which key caregivers at the Hospital developed and implemented an expansion of cardiac rehabilitation capabilities, increasing program hours, while introducing a wealth of educational programming.

According to Dr. Ivan Levin, Medical Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation, MAHHC participated in an application process that requires extensive documentation of program practices. Dr. Levin noted, “three years ago, our cardiac rehabilitation program was staffed by one nurse who did an admirable job. But we saw the opportunity to expand and deepen our services to help more people. It's an important investment for us to make because we know that effective cardiac rehabilitation saves lives.”

Dr. Levin explains, "Studies from AACVPR show that people who attend all 36 sessions have a 47 percent lower risk of death and 31 percent lower risk of heart attack on average than those who attend only one session." He went on to say, "Unfortunately, only 10 percent of eligible patients with heart failure are referred to cardiac rehabilitation, and less than 3 percent of eligible patients attend at least one session." Moreover, women, minorities, older people, and those with other medical conditions are less likely to be referred to cardiac rehabilitation than other groups.

"Our goal is to give everyone who qualifies the opportunity to benefit from cardiac rehabilitation," says Dr. Levin.

MAHHC registered nurse Rita Rice played a key role in the program development that led to the certification. She became a member of AACVPR when she joined the cardiac rehabilitation program, and consulted with programs in Brattleboro, Vermont and Claremont, New Hampshire to build a road map toward certification. Also, RNs Maryanne Lillard and Kristen Frechette of MAHHC system partner Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, which is also AACVPR-certified, provided guidance and helped to develop policies. Dr. Levin says, “We receive many of our referrals from D-HH and the new certification enhances the continuum of care for our patients.”

Others involved in MAHHC program development include Director of Staff Education Amy Visser Lynch, Staff Educator Robin Hakala, Rehabilitation Center Director Belinda Needham-Shropshire, Quality and Compliance Coordinator Kristi Cooper; Community Health Director Jill Lord, Chief Nursing Officer Deanna Orfanidis, and CEO & Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Perras. "It was a true team effort," says Dr. Levin.

Rita Rice says that today the program has gone from three to five days a week, offering numerous classes of up to four people, administered by three nurses: Rita Rice and fellow RNs Claire Krawiec and Emma Solomon, with educational support from Therapeutic Director Michael Denmeade, Diabetic Educator Nancy McCullough, Tobacco Cessation Educator Denise Dupuis, and Dietician Sarah Agnoli.

Participants receive individualized care over 36 sessions, with personalized exercise routines, including both aerobic and strengthening exercise, as well as extensive education on topics such as nutrition, smoking cessation, and basic wellness. The program takes a systematized approach to health assessments, giving each participant regular evaluations, monitoring personal risk factors and helping them to track their physical and psycho-social progress. The program has also added new measures to assess outcomes and provide staff with continuing education.

The program was reviewed by the AACVPR Program Certification Committee, and certification was awarded by the AACVPR Board of Directors. AACVPR-certified programs are recognized as leaders in the field of cardiovascular rehabilitation because they offer the most advanced practices available.


Founded in 1985, the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation is a multidisciplinary organization dedicated to the mission of reducing morbidity, mortality and disability from cardiovascular and pulmonary disease through education, prevention, rehabilitation, research and disease management. Central to the core mission is improvement in quality of life for patients and their families.

About Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center

Founded in 1933, Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center (MAHHC) is a not-for-profit community hospital network in Vermont including the critical access-designated Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Historic Homes of Runnemede, a senior residential care campus, in Windsor, as well as the Ottauquechee Health Center in Woodstock. A member of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health system, MAHHC provides primary care and a comprehensive suite of specialty services, along with 25 inpatient beds, a therapeutic pool and an acclaimed, fully modernized 10-bed Acute Rehabilitation Center. Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center is dedicated to improving the lives of those it serves and is at the hub of a wide network of community resources that have partnered to cover gaps in services, and improve overall population health. One of the largest employers in the area, MAHHC acknowledges its employees as its greatest asset and has been recognized by the Governor’s Office with an Excellence in Worksite Wellness award.

Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), is a recent recipient of Best Practice recognition by the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) for health care quality, and is recognized by the American Hospital Association (AHA) as one of the “Most Wired” hospitals for integration of technology to boost clinical performance. The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) has awarded MAHHC with Level 3 status, the highest level of medical home designation.