Throughout the pandemic, it hasn’t been unusual for Brigham staff to take on additional responsibilities when resources were stretched thin. But even by those standards, colleagues of Rebecca Brooke, MHA, operations manager for Primary Care, say her seemingly superhuman ability to support anyone, anywhere and at any time is nothing short of remarkable.
“Rebecca does more for us than any one person ever could,” wrote one of 10 colleagues to nominate Brooke for a Pillars of Excellence Award, which recognizes individuals and teams for their outstanding contributions to Mass General Brigham’s mission. “She is the pillar who keeps us all going. She cares for patients, providers and staff. She is the backbone of Primary Care Central. Without her, we would be lost.”
Another nominator recalled the day that Brooke, who served in two interim roles last year in addition to her regular duties, helped check in patients at the front desk of the Fish Center for Women’s Health so practice assistants could go to lunch.
“I could not help thinking how lucky we are to have a regional administrative leader such as Becca. Her steady leadership is truly transformational,” the nominator wrote. “She energizes our team to perform beyond expectations in creating a culture of ownership in reaching our region’s vision.”
Brooke was among those honored during the 26th annual Pillars of Excellence Awards virtual ceremony on March 11. This year, awards were presented to 77 individuals and 29 teams throughout the Brigham, Brigham and Women’s Physicians Organization and Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center.
“The Pillars of Excellence Awards ceremony is a special event because it highlights and recognizes the work of the talented and committed individuals and teams who make the Brigham one of the best places to work and receive care,” said Robert S.D. Higgins, MD, MSHA, president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and executive vice president at Mass General Brigham. “What is even more impressive is that this year’s honorees — like so many in our Brigham community — have managed to be bright stars amid another extremely challenging year, as we all continue to face this global pandemic and extremely high demand from our patients.”
Also honored this year was Eric Lindquist, HVAC supervisor for Engineering, who played a key role in creating additional capacity to care for COVID-19 patients by establishing more negative-pressure rooms. And when a car fire broke out in the Hale parking garage in 2021, Lindquist aided the response by using his expertise of HVAC systems to help filter smoke out of the garage.
“Eric has been our go-to for anything HVAC-related,” his nominator wrote.
Marie Innocent Norbrun, a patient care associate in the Neuroscience Intermediate Care Unit on Braunwald Tower 10, was recognized by her colleagues as an “unsung hero” on the unit due to her unwavering dedication and compassion.
“When Marie is in a room working with a patient, her focus and undivided attention is on them,” her nominator wrote. “Marie practices authentic presence and equanimity, providing patients with the calming presence they need while in the hospital. I can tell when Marie has left a room because the patient is clean, comfortable and relaxed. Marie sets the bar high for the standard of patient care.”
In their nomination for Radiation Oncology nurse Pete Meagher, RN, OCN, colleagues noted his calming presence when caring for adult and pediatric patients.
“This is important to Pete, as he understands the tremendous stress that the family is experiencing and wants to ensure that the trust in the medical team is provided,” they wrote. “The children look forward to coming to see him, play a game and have treatment. His ability to adjust to the developmental stages of each age group is unflappable.”
Among the team honorees this year were members of the Brookside Community Health Worker COVID-19 Vaccine Outreach Team, who fanned out into the local community to speak with residents about vaccination and bring resources to underserved areas.
“The team went door to door in the heat of summer to local businesses and restaurants in Egleston Square and Dorchester with flyers and started open conversations with community members about the COVID vaccine,” their nominator wrote. “Our team showed them where and how to get it, explained the facts about the vaccine, dispelled myths, answered questions and addressed fears. Meeting people where they are at, in their native language, was really helpful in building trust. They also gave a presentation about facts and myths of the COVID vaccine to an adult education organization for a largely Spanish-speaking immigrant population. This team is responsible for many of our patients and community members getting vaccinated.”
The Health Promotion Center Food Justice Team at Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center was honored for championing health equity and combatting structural racism in Boston — before and during the pandemic. The team partners with local organizations to support hundreds of families each week with healthy food options.
“The team has found every way possible to get people food by staying late, driving food to people’s homes and mailing gift cards when necessary,” their nominator wrote. “The Food Justice team knows this work is not charity or accommodation. It is about collaboration — the recognition that our community members are not here to be fixed. It is the systems that are doing them harm. With that approach, they have changed the way a food distribution system looks and feels at the health center, even during the hardest of times.”