‘Do Right, Stay Well’: Dermatology Committee Inspires Volunteerism
If a colorful, inspirational message catches your eye while walking around the Longwood Medical Area, you may have the Department of Dermatology’s “Do Right, Stay Well” Committee to thank.
Members of the BWH volunteer group – which organizes events and activities for Dermatology staff to support wellness both in the local community and among their colleagues – recently participated in the worldwide “Kindness Rocks Project.” The initiative encourages people to spread kindness and compassion by painting positive messages on small rocks and placing them around public areas to spread positivity and joy.
It is just one of many projects the “Do Right, Stay Well” Committee has undertaken over the years that embodies what the group strives to do each day – bring people together to help others – said committee co-chair Margaret Cavanaugh-Hussey, MD, MPH, director of Public Health and Community Outreach Programs in BWH Dermatology.
“Our committee is composed of people who are passionate about and devoted to improving the community,” said Cavanaugh-Hussey. “It’s incredible to witness the goodwill of so many and how profoundly that spirit spreads out into the world.”
Founded in 2012, the “Do Right, Stay Well” Committee has a multipronged mission. Its members strive to demonstrate a commitment to service through volunteerism, philanthropy and community outreach while also supporting the department’s work to promote skin health in the local community. The group also aspires to inspire goodwill and wellness among Dermatology staff.
“Being a part of the committee has been one of the best things I’ve been able to do during my time at the Brigham,” said Marie Thistle, project manager in Dermatology and a founding member of the committee. “I’ve gained so much, both personally and professionally, from participating in the committee, and I’m grateful for the opportunities I have to give back to others.”
Since the group’s inception, it has organized dozens of events at the Brigham and beyond. Its members, totaling nearly 20 BWHers, include Dermatology administrators, clinical staff, physicians and researchers.
One of the largest ongoing projects the committee manages year-round is scheduling and hosting free skin screenings in the local community in collaboration with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI). Brigham dermatologists, along with BWH and DFCI staff, will visit locations and events around Greater Boston – including beaches and health fairs – to educate people about skin cancer awareness and sun safety. Over the past three years, the teams have performed more than 2,800 skin cancer screenings at various events across the Boston area.
In addition to its dermatology-driven work, members of the committee volunteer at the American Cancer Society AstraZeneca Hope Lodge Center in Boston, which provides free lodging for cancer patients and their caregivers traveling from afar for outpatient care. BWH Dermatology staff come together to cook a meal for families staying at the lodge.
The committee hosts several other annual events, including a winter clothing drive and volunteer days at area nonprofits, such as Cradles to Crayons and Boston Health Care for the Homeless.
Supporting Staff Wellness
Throughout the year, the committee also brings the team together with staff lunches with an interactive component, such as creating the kindness rocks. Other luncheons have featured a healthy-choice potluck and even a lighthearted Star Wars-themed lunch on May 4, also known as Star Wars Day (which commemorates a pun on the series’ iconic catchphrase of “May the Force be with you” as “May the Fourth be with you”).
The committee’s co-chairs emphasized that the team has continued to thrive thanks to the strong support it receives from department leaders and their commitment to staff wellness. Heather Wilder, an administrator in Dermatology and committee co-chair, said that support has been incredibly meaningful.
“It’s wonderful to see how much our colleagues value the committee and everything it does to benefit the community and each other,” she said. “I’ve always had a passion for community service and philanthropy, and doing this work for the Brigham has been very rewarding.”
Anne O’Malley, an administrative supervisor in Dermatology and member of the committee, said she enjoys how the group’s work brings together staff from across the department.
“I love coming to work every day knowing that my colleagues and I are here with two common goals: to help others and to support each other,” she said. “We are all in this together – that means everything to me.”