State News

Rutland Physician Marie Pavini, M.D.: Humanitarian, inventor, entrepreneur

As a critical care specialist at Rutland Regional Medical Center, Dr. Marie Pavini always felt that her her work had tremendous positive impact. She was also gratified to be surrounded by colleagues who shared her dedication.

“Intensive care is like a war zone,” said Dr. Pavini in a recent interview. “You get very close to the people who are right around you; you have their back and they have yours. You’ve got a mission.”

Because of that mission, Dr. Pavini became determined to solve a medical challenge that perplexed not only her but many of her colleagues.

She recalled, “I’d be making rounds and figuring out the right medications, but I also was acutely aware that the patient needed to get up, and think and move and remember who they are, and interact with their family and tell us their symptoms or write them down.

“They couldn’t do any of that if they were sedated and restrained,” Dr. Pavini emphasized. “I thought, if only we could keep the patients from getting tangled up in the things that were keeping them alive, then all that sedation and restraint, plus complications, wouldn’t need to happen.”

In addition to being the fierce advocate we would want if we (or a loved one) was seriously ill, Dr. Pavini is a resourceful scientist. She doggedly pursues answers to such questions as, “Why can’t we fix this?” declaring: “We must do this” and “I can make it happen.”

That confidence and tenacity led Dr. Pavini to research, invent, and ultimately obtain worldwide patents for an ingenious device that is now part of a multi-product portfolio marketed as the Exersides Refraint (correct spelling) system.

As described on the website of the Rutland-based company she founded in 2016, Healthy Design Ltd., LLC, the Exersides Refraint system is pioneering “…the way to better patient outcomes by empowering caregivers to safely improve cognition, mobility, and human spirit.”

Her company’s products include the initial patented device — an attachment for the patient’s arm that allows mobility while keeping the patient safe and properly medicated — as well as an “ExerGames” interactive video program, virtual reality exercises, plus a burgeoning education and consulting practice. All are designed to help medical professionals provide the utmost in care to critically ill patients, to help those patients remain properly medicated while retaining some safe movement and improved cognition.

To be clear, Dr. Pavini’s journey was not without tremendous challenges, especially when she sought to implement clinical trials for her prototype at Rutland Regional Medical Center. “I faced a ton of resistance from some RRMC staff,” she acknowledged.

Undeterred, Dr. Pavini took her case to RRMC’s then-CEO, Thomas W. Huebner.

“I went to Tom and said, ‘Look, I’m having a heck of a time here’,” recalled Dr. Pavini. “I said to him, ‘I’ve got this thing; I’ve done all this work. I just want to do a research trial. I can do it, you know’,” she recalled.

Huebner concurred. “Tom turned all the naysayers into believers, urging them to get this done,” Dr. Pavini said.

“The clinical trial involved not sedating the patients but rather, letting them move safely,” Pavini continued. “The patients loved it, the families loved it, the staff and the nurses loved it. When the patient is moving and looking at you and you’re interacting, it’s such a wonderful thing,” she added.

In 2018, two years after she founded Healthy Design, Dr. Pavini assembled a world-class research team and was awarded a National Institutes of Health grant to produce and assess a revised prototype. In 2019, she successfully completed a Phase-I NIH trial and obtained FDA registration, after which she was granted a patent in the U.S. and internationally.

Today, Dr. Pavini oversees over a dozen specialists and experts, operating out of 10,000-square-foot facility on Wales Street in Rutland. She travels extensively to engage administrators and critical care staff at some of the most renowned healthcare institutions in the world.

A Chittenden resident for two de cades, the 60-year-old Massachusetts native’s initial path to the Killington-Rutland region was through skiing. 

“When my dad took our family on a ski vacation, Killington was our favorite destination,” Dr. Pavini said. 

In 2003, when she was at the University of Massachusetts, Dr. Pavini became aware of the opportunity in the critical care unit at RRMC. “I felt I could make a big impact there,” she said.

Dr. Pavini regards her father, Amadeu Pavini Jr., as her chief guiding force. On Healthy Design’s website, he is listed as a key member of her team. 

“When I was growing up, my father always talked about how important it was to do the right thing, stepping up when you needed to step up, and not letting things that are wrong, to continue,” she said.

Regarding the future of Healthy Design, Dr. Pavini indicated she is focused, as always, on what’s the right and best thing to do for patients as well as for the local economy and the community.  

“More people are contacting us now, believing that we have a solution to a problem most people thought was insurmountable,” she explained.

Indeed, Marie Pavini is not like most people. She has taken to heart the physician’s mandates, to “first do no harm,” and “treat the patient, not the disease,” by applying her experience and expertise in the most humane and ingenious way imaginable.

“You have to understand what your role in life is supposed to be and how to change the things you see are wrong,” Dr. Pavini affirmed. “You do what you need to do because you’ve got a mission.” 

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Liz DiMarco Weinmann, MBA, is principal and owner of Liz DiMarco Weinmann Consulting, L3C, based in Rutland, serving charitable and educational institutions:

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