Posts from the ‘We’re Stronger Together’ category

Audrey Fritzinger, MMSc, PA-C, joined the Brigham three years ago as a physician assistant (PA) in Interventional Radiology and now cares for patients in both Cross-Sectional Interventional Radiology as well as the Division of Angiography and Interventional Radiology. In addition to her clinical work, she leads several diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) activities for PA Services.

Fritzinger recently spoke with Brigham Bulletin about her work as a PA and her commitment to expand opportunities for more PAs of color.

What’s your career path been like so far?

Audrey Fritzinger

AF: I was introduced to the PA profession through federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) in Philadelphia. I always knew I wanted a career with an intersection of medicine and public health, seeing the PAs in practice helped me solidify the decision to pursue a career as a PA. As a student at Yale, I did a rotation in the ICU at Yale New Haven Hospital, learning to practice critical care medicine in an urban environment. This helped guide me toward a position in the ICU after graduation, I loved practicing critical care medicine and performing procedures, and I really enjoyed utilizing ultrasound as a means to perform bedside procedures and evaluate progression of critical illness. When my time in the ICU came to an end and family brought me to Boston, I found my calling in interventional radiology, a specialty which is the perfect intersection of critical care, procedural and outpatient medicine.

Let’s talk more about your involvement in DE&I. What inspired you to become engaged in this work?

AF: My involvement DE&I work started when I was in high school. I attended predominately white high school and college and was involved in many extracurricular activities in this realm. This continued as I transitioned to PA school at Yale.

Yale is a predominantly white institution, and the PA profession is occupied predominantly by white females. So, early on, I saw there weren’t a lot of providers, preceptors or faculty who resembled me. I had to look outside of the program for mentors.

I was lucky enough to work with Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith and a group of medical students and nursing students to create an elective course called U.S. Health Justice. We felt that there were a lot of gaps in the curriculum in terms of things that were happening in New Haven and more broadly — things that we never discussed but saw in our rotations.

For example, we partnered with community organizations — including, but not limited to, the Needle Exchange Program and the Community Health Care Van — and we delved deep into other social determinants of health that we were not really discussing in medical lectures. The course is still ongoing, and it’s now been integrated into the curriculum.

It excited me to be involved in this great work, but in my post-graduate period of starting a new job in the ICU, other Yale students continued this work while my focus shifted for a brief period. I didn’t really do anything extracurricular just because of the crazy hours, so when I came to the Brigham, I realized that was something that I needed fulfilled.

What kinds of initiatives are you working on now?

AF: I read about a PA student at Morehouse College, Calbeth Alaribe, who participated in the MIT Healthcare Hackathon and whose group won an award. After an exciting conversation with her, bells went off that there might be an opportunity for the Brigham to partner with a historically black college and university (HBCU) and potentially positively influence the community here.

Stronger Together Brigham Values LogoI find it a privilege to be around Black people and to have that celebrated. Boston is not a historically diverse city. In a lot of spaces where I occupy, it’s not celebrated. I’m also not frequently around a lot of Black people, especially here at the Brigham. I wanted to see if we could diversify the PA workforce here at the Brigham.

Jess Logsdon [senior director of PA Services] and Rosann Ippolito [manager of PA Education] were very excited about this collaboration and how we can foster a relationship with an HBCU — potentially opening the doors for more PA students who might want to work here at Brigham.

The plan is to start with a cohort of students this spring to offer clinical didactics and mentorship, including one-to-one mentors of color aside from their preceptors.

Other training programs in medicine have a visiting period, whether it’s residency or fellowship, or they get paid opportunities to visit a program. As PAs, we don’t have that, so when you’re considering whether to take a job somewhere, you don’t get to have an extended visit at the institution beforehand. I think what we’re doing with this rotation is unique and will allow students to experience the culture firsthand and see how we practice medicine here at the Brigham.

What do you find most rewarding about this work?

AF: I’m not the only PA doing it. There are so many other PAs who are active in DE&I work at the Brigham. I had an idea, I asked for help and people came running to support it.

I get excited when others are just as enthusiastic about this work as I am — that this is as close to their heart as it is to mine. That makes me feel like I’m at the right institution and in the right community. It also makes me want to invite others to join, which is why I’m so excited and confident about opening the Brigham up to more PA students of color, because it’s a great place to be. I want them to be here and learn alongside us.

Physician Assistant Week is held annually Oct. 6–12 to honor physician assistants’ substantial role in improving health. In celebration of Brigham PAs and their involvement in nearly every facet of the care across the institution, Brigham Bulletin has highlighted one of the many exceptional physician assistants to cap off PA Week this year.

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Members of the Equity Response Team virtually “join hands” during a meeting last year.

Last April, a multidisciplinary group of equity leaders at the Brigham came together to develop strategies for addressing emerging equity issues in the pandemic and, when needed, escalating key concerns through the institution’s COVID-19 Incident Command structure.

With the support and engagement of leaders across the Brigham, the Brigham Health COVID-19 Equity, Diversity and Community Health Response Team became a driving force behind a number of initiatives during the height of the pandemic, including helping to establish community-based testing sites, advocate for equity in the state’s Crisis Standards of Care and conduct more than 100 COVID-19 information sessions for vulnerable populations of employees. As a reinvigorated racial justice movement swept the nation last summer, the group’s twice-monthly meetings also provided a haven for employees to express their concerns and organize actions to help dismantle structural racism.
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Nearly one year after its formation, the Equity Response Team continues to meet and mobilize to address health equity issues at the Brigham and beyond. Most recently, the group has focused its efforts on equitable vaccine distribution, virtual care access and the dramatic rise of food and housing insecurity.

“We had a big opportunity to connect in an integrated way that hasn’t been done before,” said Cheryl Clark, MD, ScD, a hospitalist in Division of General Internal  Medicine and Primary Care, health equity researcher in the Center for Community Health and Health Equity (CCHHE) and a leader of the Equity Response Team. “Clinical departments, community health, employee wellness, the diversity, equity and inclusion team — all of these different workstreams came together under one umbrella to work together on health equity.”

As the crisis evolves, the team remains energized and continues to advance its mission, Clark said.

“We have a very inclusive way of thinking about health equity, and, because of that, the community that continues this work is very cohesive,” she said. “We have a lot to accomplish in vaccine equity, and I think we also have the potential to provide support for burgeoning health equity efforts in the hospital, as well as the United Against Racism work that’s happening MGB-wide.”

‘Inequities Thrive in Silence’

Comprising approximately 90 members, the Equity Response Team formed in response to the recognition last year that local neighborhoods with large communities of color were experiencing significantly higher rates of infection, hospitalization and mortality from COVID-19. These communities also have experienced immense economic and social stress due to job loss, food insecurity and housing instability.

To address these issues, members have focused their work on five equity workstreams: community health, patient access, employee equity, health equity data, and proactive engagement and policy development on key community health issues.

“This group has been a voice and a force for the community — patients, staff and those outside of the hospital walls,” said Tracy Sylven, director of Community Health & Wellness at BWFH and a leader of the team’s community health workstream. “We helped to drive the equity agenda and need to the forefront of the institution during this time of crisis, including the pandemic and the racial inequality and protests we saw during the past year. The group, with the variety of workstreams and leads, has a voice across many aspects of the institution and helps to incorporate equity into the planning and process of work.”

RonAsia Rouse, MPH, project manager for the team, said the group’s diverse makeup sparks innovation and inspires progress.

“The Equity Response team offers a space for employees to collaborate and have their ideas and opinions heard in a way that is unlike any other meetings I’ve been a part of,” said Rouse, who also serves as program manager for Health Equity in the CCHHE. “Our members include clinicians, researchers and administrators, and having the ability to get everyone’s direct feedback and input on equity-focused topics has propelled projects and strategies that otherwise may not have been thought of or initiated.”

Michelle Keenan, senior director for Health Equity and Social Innovation in the CCHHE, agreed.

“What I have valued the most is that it is a multiracial, multidisciplinary group with a deep commitment to be the change we want to see in the world,” Keenan said. “As we have built our equity response to COVID, we have also built trust and understanding among staff. Inequities thrive in silence, and what has been most important is breaking this silence and taking collective action.”

‘We Know the Goal’

In the realm of community health, the group worked closely the Ambulatory Services team, led by Kelly Fanning, MBA, vice president of Ambulatory Services, and leaders from Brookside Community Health Center and Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center to support testing sites in four Boston neighborhoods. At these sites, staff conducted approximately 19,000 COVID-19 tests, distributed over 12,000 food boxes and 18,700-plus hot meals, handed out more than 20,000 care kits and performed about 15,000 social-determinants-of-health screenings.

In the area of patient access, members created a virtual care equity committee and advocated along with Interpreter Services leaders for increasing access to iPads to better support patients who communicate in languages other than English. In an effort led by Bernie Jones, EdM, vice president of Public Policy, and Wanda McClain, MPA, vice president of Community Health and Health Equity, and supported by Equity Response Team members, the group reached out to state lawmakers to advocate for an eviction moratorium and developed resources to support patients facing eviction.

“We know the goal — breaking down unequal systems, not people,” Jacqueline Rodriguez-Louis, MPH, M.Ed., a member of the Equity Response Team and programs leader for Community Outreach at the Partners Asthma Center in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. “That’s what this group endeavors to do. Together, we are making a real and measurable difference in the organization and in the community we serve. This work is not only rewarding, but it is also soul-healing for me as a person of color during this incredibly difficult time.”

The team has also worked in close coordination with colleagues across Mass General Brigham (MGB). More broadly, MGB has led a systemwide commitment to incorporate an equity lens into every aspect of pandemic response and other initiatives, including the United Against Racism campaign.

“I’m just so excited by the work everyone has done,” said Clark, who also serves as director of Health Equity Research and Intervention in the CCHHE and a multi-principal investigator for the All of Us Research Program. “Those of us who are engaged in health equity work, including health equity research, understand this is a multidisciplinary proposition. It has been really rewarding to be able to operationalize our workstreams and build partnerships to create an infrastructure where that kind of multidisciplinary, systemwide work can happen.”

Finding Community amid ‘the Crisis of Our Time’

Contributing to these efforts has been an empowering experience, especially during such an uncertain time, say the team’s members and leaders.

“When this crisis hit and research paused, I thought it was important to ‘redeploy’ myself and raise my hand to guide these efforts,” Clark said. “It really is the crisis of our time.”

Rodriguez-Louis said the team’s regular meetings were an essential source of support after the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

“This group has been a lifeline,” she said. “Our meetings have allowed us to put our feelings someplace safe. We cry together, scream when we need to and put our hands to work.”

Christin Price, MD, program director of Medicaid ACO for Brigham Care Strategies & Innovation, who led several of the team’s community health-related initiatives, said being part of the group has been both professionally and personally rewarding.

“For me, the greatest part of this experience was the opportunity to participate in work that I otherwise would perhaps not have the opportunity to be involved in, such as being site lead at the new testing site or being a part of the vaccine trial group,” Price said. “The other part has been being able to work closely with colleagues across Brigham that I had not known or not worked closely with before. I have made very close connections with new colleagues.”

The Brigham Health COVID-19 Equity, Diversity and Community Health Response Team meets virtually twice a month, Thursdays, 5–6:15 p.m. All members of the Brigham Health community and MGB system are welcome to attend. To learn more or become a member, contact

Collage of photos from COVID-19 vaccine clinics

As of March 1, the Brigham has completed about 8,600 patient COVID-19 vaccination appointments, including both first and second doses, at the Hale and Pembroke clinics.

Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series recognizing the extraordinary efforts of staff who made the Brigham’s employee and patient COVID-19 vaccination programs possible. Click here to read part one, which highlighted members of the employee vaccination team.

As the first patients age 75 and older began receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at Brigham and Women’s Health Care Center, Pembroke, on Feb. 3, an unexpected sound caught the attention of Julie Owens, BSN, RN, one of the site’s clinical leads.

What she heard was cheers and applause.

“I soon realized that the patients were celebrating this moment and the joy of being able to get a vaccine,” said Owens, who normally serves as professional development manager for Brigham and Women’s Harbor Medical Associates in South Weymouth.

The emotions in the room — happiness, relief and excitement — were contagious, Owens recalled.

“Several patients commented on how grateful and happy they were to be one step closer to hugging their children and grandchildren again,” she said. “This touched me personally, as a daughter and mother of two young children who long to hug their grandparents again.”

That celebratory evening kicked off the Brigham’s patient vaccination program, which in its first week delivered approximately 1,700 vaccinations in total at the Pembroke site and the Hale Building for Transformative Medicine on the main campus. As of March 1, the Brigham has completed about 8,600 patient vaccination appointments, a measure that includes both first and second doses. Brookside Community Health Center will also begin providing vaccines for local residents starting March 4.

Stronger Together Brigham Values LogoThe program’s successful launch was made possible by the efforts of a large multidisciplinary team who worked tirelessly behind the scenes — and in close collaboration with colleagues across Mass General Brigham (MGB) — to provide a seamless, safe experience for patients and clinic staff alike.

“I am always looking for the silver lining to this challenging COVID experience. When I think about a silver lining now, I am grateful for the wonderful people across Brigham Health Ambulatory,” said Kelly Fanning, MBA, vice president for Ambulatory Services and Patient Experience. “Consistently, clinical and non-clinical leaders have stepped up to the plate to go above and beyond and deliver for our patients. What it has meant for patient vaccination efforts is that we have been able to run clinics daily, nightly and weekends to care for our patients and serve the broader public health need.”

Kali Kearns, senior project manager for Ambulatory Services, said she cherished the opportunity to contribute to such a historic and important moment.

“When we first started planning, I don’t want to say it seemed impossible, but we’ve never really done this and didn’t know what to expect,” Kearns said. “But once all was said and done, our first night in Pembroke was full of joy and relief. I was a little bit tearful myself because my grandpa just got the vaccine, and our patients coming in reminded me of him. It was so touching. They were so vocally thankful and said things like, ‘This is the best day,’ ‘This is going to change my life’ and ‘You’re helping me see my family again.’”

Pam Cormier, MSN, RN, AHN-BC, who led strategic planning efforts for the Brigham’s patient vaccination program and collaborated with leaders at the system level, described being part of this team as “a highlight of [her] career.”

“It’s been a lot of work, but when you can get this vaccine into people, it’s the best feeling in the world,” said Cormier, professional development manager in Primary Care. “Everybody has been willing to step up and do whatever it takes to help. I’ve yet to encounter anyone who’s said, ‘No, I’m not interested’ or ‘I don’t have time for this.’ The minute we reach out, people drop what they’re doing and ask, ‘How can I help?’ It’s the Brigham way.”

Complex Challenges, Creative Solutions

In planning a strategy for setting up and running patient vaccination sites, the team drew from their experiences with the patient flu shot clinics held last fall.

Nurse Cassandra Kelly unpacks vials of the COVID-19 vaccine in preparation for the first patient clinic at Pembroke.

“We knew the model of standing up in existing clinic spaces — using the exam rooms, physical structures and staff who could work an extra shift — worked really well for the flu,” Cormier said. “We did have to pace it differently with the COVID vaccines, as we had to factor in the 15-minute observation period, but the bones of the model were pretty much the same.”

The employee COVID-19 vaccination clinics were also an important learning opportunity for understanding how a patient clinic would work.

“Starting with employees gave us a big window into some of the challenges we were going to face when we moved to patients,” Cormier said.

But the patient vaccination also presented new challenges — including different scheduling needs, additional staffing and location demands, alternative communication and outreach strategies — in addition to the ongoing uncertainties around vaccine supply.

Because demand for the vaccine greatly outweighed supply, the Brigham and other MGB institutions were unable to allow patients to self-schedule their appointments. Instead, the team began the meticulous process of proactively identifying eligible patients through Epic, formulating a strategy for inviting patients in waves and developing an efficient cadence in the clinic.

“It’s really about knowing how many patients we can vaccinate per hour and making sure that we build schedules that reflect that,” said Bill Guptill, director of Ambulatory Capacity Management, whose team developed the complex scheduling templates for the vaccine clinics.

On-site teams also worked around the clock to ready the clinics in Pembroke and Hale. In addition to setting up the sites’ various technology needs — from wireless networking to electrical engineering to software applications — a dedicated team of Information Systems (IS) staff provided at-the-elbow support for clinic staff before and after the vaccine clinics launched, said Michael Sweet, MBA, executive director of Clinical Systems in Brigham Health IS and Digital Innovation.

“Trying to see and touch base with everybody is a little more challenging in some of the ambulatory locations,” Sweet said. “By comparison, Hale is one big room, so we can see the vaccinators and check-in and check-out staff. But in Pembroke, staff operate on two floors and are more cordoned off, so it’s a little more difficult for them to see us, and for us to see them, when they need help. It was a collaborative effort to figure out how we could best support them in that space.”

Exceptional Teamwork

Those who contributed to the patient clinics in February said they were grateful to make a difference and be part of this dedicated team.

“This was truly an endeavor where we operated as one system,” Cormier said. “For me, it was a very tangible way to show and leverage the power of an entire health care system. If you normally get your care at the Brigham but live closer to Newton-Wellesley, then you could go to the Needham site — no questions asked. That’s really powerful for patients. They see and know they’re part of a larger system that takes care of them.”

The amount of planning that occurred behind the scenes was a sight to behold, Owens said.

“Operationalizing these vaccine clinics has taken the work of so many people. Through countless hours and attention to every detail, our staff have made the process as smooth and streamlined as possible while maintaining our Safe Care Commitment,” she said. “I am especially thankful to our staff for their dedication to our patients.”

Two staff members at an attestation table

From left: Victoria Glassman and Marlee Anne Jean Philippe staff an attestation table at the 15 Francis St. entrance.

When Courtney Callahan, a medical assistant at Brigham and Women’s Harbor Medical Associates in Scituate, learned that a new COVID-19 testing site at Brigham and Women’s Health Care Center in Pembroke needed staff support, she didn’t hesitate to volunteer.

“I wanted to do something — I wanted to help,” said Callahan, who was among the thousands of staff members who accepted temporary reassignments during the pandemic.

As hospital operations shifted to address the rapidly evolving demands of COVID-19, entirely new categories of staffing needs emerged. In response, the Brigham community heeded the call to serve wherever help was needed. At the same time, maintaining a flexible workforce enabled staff whose normal duties were temporarily suspended to remain employed during the pandemic.

After valet service was halted in March, valets helped distribute face masks to employees, patients and visitors at hospital entrances. Nurses from clinical areas whose services were scaled back, such as procedural and perioperative areas, went to inpatient floors to care for COVID-19 patients in specialized units. Administrators, physical therapists, practice assistants and others helped run attestation sites at employee entrances, where staff were required to report their wellness upon entering the building.

A Rewarding Experience

For Callahan, supporting the team in Pembroke, where she helped prepare and swab patients for COVID-19 testing, was more rewarding than she ever anticipated.

Courtney Callahan

Courtney Callahan

“I remember my first day. I was very nervous, but the nurses there were so helpful and supportive, and they always made sure we were safe,” she said. “I’m going to attend nursing school in the fall, and I’m so glad I experienced this because it has shown me I’m on the right path.”

Robb Ponder, RMA, practice operations lead for Neurosurgery in South Weymouth, learned that the attestation team needed supervisor coverage for overnight shifts. Despite the personal sacrifices it entailed, he eagerly offered to help.

“I had just returned in February from parental leave, so I hadn’t even been back in the swing of things for long before the pandemic hit. I also hadn’t worked an overnight shift in 20 years, and personally it was challenging to adjust to that schedule and sacrifice the time with my daughter during the first months of her life,” he said. “That said, it was very inspiring to see so many people from across the organization come together for this important job. We all understood the value of what we were doing and did it with purpose.”

The experience also gave Ponder a new appreciation for the many, and sometimes unseen, contributions of departments across the Brigham.

“You can work your whole career in a place and not know half of what goes on in areas you aren’t directly working with,” he said. “Through this role, I got to know many new colleagues from other areas of the organization, and it gave me an appreciation for their work and all the elements that make a hospital function.”

Supporting At-Risk Patients

Other members of the Brigham community shifted the focus of their work to support the unprecedented needs around caring for COVID-19 patients.

Prior to the pandemic, Lynne O’Mara, PA-C, a physician assistant in the Center for Geriatric Surgery, spent much of her time providing consults for geriatric surgical patients. But that work paused in March when the hospital canceled all elective surgeries in preparation for a surge of COVID-19 patients.

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O’Mara began working from home full-time — often balancing a toddler in her lap — and collaborating with on-site colleagues Rachelle Bernacki, MD, a palliative care specialist and geriatrician, and Shoshana Streiter, MD, a geriatrician, to establish a program for identifying older, at-risk patients with COVID-19 in the Emergency Department (ED).

Because older adults are at higher risk for the most severe symptoms of COVID-19, and the disease often progresses rapidly, there was an urgent need to establish a proactive model and remove the burden of arranging consults from their ED colleagues, the team said.

Each day, O’Mara would pore over the ED track board — a digital database of patients in Epic — and search for patients age 70 and up who had signs of frailty, a complex syndrome characterized by physical decline and increased vulnerability to stressors.

“Once Lynne identified a patient, she would call me, and I’d run down to the ED quickly to see them,” Bernacki said. “Because of this, we were able to have important conversations with patients and their families early in their care. Intubating a 90-year-old patient or sending a really frail patient to the ICU is different from a younger, healthy patient, and it’s vital that everyone understands what it means.”

Although the work in some ways familiar, O’Mara said much of it was new territory for her. Even so, it was immensely gratifying.

“I’m used to seeing patients in person, so I was adjusting to a new virtual world, and the number of patients was overwhelming at times,” she said. “But I always had Shoshana and Rachelle as backup, and I never met a patient or family member who wasn’t deeply thankful for every single person caring for them. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how many times people said thank you.”

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Hazel Carleton unpacks carton of gloves

Hazel Carleton, a member of the Supply Support team, unpacks a carton of nitrile gloves.

When Mustapha Khiyaty joined the Brigham’s Supply Support team 10 years ago, the importance of his contributions as a supply supervisor for Labor and Delivery and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit became apparent to him almost immediately.

“It makes you feel like you’re making a difference when you see a new mom with a smile on her face,” said Khiyaty, now an inventory controller on the 42-person Supply Support team.

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Part of Materials Management, Supply Support oversees the procurement, stocking and distribution of clinical supplies — such as bandages, gloves and syringes — throughout the hospital. At an institution as large and busy as the Brigham, this is no small feat. The team maintains 90 supply areas, and at any given time manages a total inventory of about 1,300 items.

To accomplish this, members of the team work closely with staff and distributors to ensure clinical areas have the supplies they need to deliver safe, high-quality care.

A tight-knit unit with a shared passion for helping others — and each other — the team emphasizes that their close bond is key to their success.

“On our team, it’s easy to care about the people you’re working with,” said Dave Shelton, a Supply Support manager.

Always on the Lookout

On a typical day, the first shift arrives and evaluates the status of current supplies, places orders as needed and responds to supply requests or concerns. When the team’s second-shift staff arrive, they unload any newly delivered supplies, put together orders for different areas of the hospital and make deliveries. Staff on the third shift assist with any remaining supply deliveries for the day.

Even getting a single box of disposable gloves to an individual hospital room takes a great deal of care and coordination, team members say, and everyone works together to ensure nothing gets left behind or lost in the process.

“No task is too small for anyone on our team, no matter your role,” Khiyaty said.

Mustapha Khiyaty examining shelves with supplies

Mustapha Khiyaty examines the stock of clinical supplies in one of the team’s main inventory areas.

Supply Support staff work to anticipate future needs. They track and analyze previous records and data to plan and account for a variety of situations so that they can anticipate supply needs for whatever may come their way. They maintain a robust backup inventory in case an unexpected event — including everything from snowstorms to supply shortages — interrupts regular deliveries.

If an unavoidable supply disruption does occur, they pivot quickly to identify and procure alternatives.

“We have to look at the news and be proactive,” Khiyaty said.

Like a Family

Supply Support staff say one special component about the team is its retention rate, with many members being part of the Brigham for 10 to 20 years.

“We get to see the people we started with getting married and having kids,” Shelton said.

In addition to creating a family feel, the prevalence of long tenures on the team has resulted in a wealth of institutional knowledge and given staff the opportunity to support their colleagues’ growth and development.

“Brigham has always been nice to me. I’ve been here for almost half my life. I care about the people who work for me and whom I work with,” said Benjamin Wallace, operations team manager.

“Behind the Scenes at the Brigham” is a monthly series in Brigham Bulletin that provides a glimpse of the people whose everyday contributions help make the Brigham a world-class institution. Is there a team you’d like to see featured? Send your ideas to

On Feb. 7, the Brigham community came together to offer support to one another in the aftermath of a shooting that took place outside of the hospital that morning and injured a member of the Valet team. His condition has improved, and he was listed in good condition as of Feb. 13.

Within hours of the incident, hospital leaders organized a forum in Bornstein Amphitheater and via webcast, during which they encouraged attendees to both care for one another and practice self-care. Faculty, staff and trainees were also invited to access support and resources at the Kessler Library in the Bretholtz Center for Patients and Families, where counselors, chaplains and social workers were available 24/7 for several days.

“There’s no extra credit for feeling brave through this,” said Ron M. Walls, MD, executive vice president and chief operating officer. “It’s normal to feel frightened and vulnerable, and it’s natural to wonder what might happen next. But please know that we are a community. We need to bring our arms out around one another — our whole community — including our valets, our Police and Security team, our patients and their families, and our co-workers.”

Sejal Shah, MD, director of the Division of Medical Psychiatry, amplified the message of self-care and offered additional insight into common reactions after a traumatic event. She explained it’s normal to experience a range of emotions, some of which may be new or unexpected.

“We all react in different ways — accept that in yourself. Make sure you are looking out for yourself,” Shah said. “The most important thing you can do is try to return to a routine that seems normal and recognizable to you.”Stronger Together Brigham Values Logo

Shah noted that if someone is not able to return to a normal routine, and is scared to leave his or her house or return to work, those are signs that additional support, such as talking to a counselor or therapist, would be beneficial.

She added that, for some, it can also be helpful to take a break from social media and other news sources after an incident like the Feb. 7 shooting, explaining that rewatching and rereading coverage of the event often increases distress without offering any benefit.

“I’ll end by saying this: We are a community. We are a family,” Shah said. “I think of this place as my second family. Reach out to each other. Give each other a hug. Check in with each other.”

In addition to the Feb. 7 forum, the Emergency Preparedness team hosted two more on Feb. 13 for the Brigham community to share feedback about how the hospital responded to and communicated about the incident. Staff were also invited to share their feedback via an online form.

In a message to staff on Feb. 7, Brigham Health President Betsy Nabel, MD, and Walls expressed their appreciation for the “utmost care, professionalism and compassion” demonstrated by all, despite the trying circumstances.

Among the many groups that rapidly responded were the Employee Assistance Program, Psychiatry, Spiritual Care Services and the Center for Community Health and Health Equity’s Violence Intervention and Prevention programs, whose clinicians and advocates provided in-person counseling in the Kessler Library.

“Like many of you, we experienced a range of emotions in response to today’s terrible events: disbelief, sadness, worry and uncertainty,” Nabel and Walls wrote. “Upon witnessing how quickly and skillfully our Brigham family came together during and after this emergency, another feeling soon surfaced: immense pride in the extraordinarily expert and supportive way you comforted and cared for our patients, their loved ones and each other.”

Resources for Support

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Free, voluntary and confidential support, available 24/7

Spiritual Care Services

Chaplains are available to counsel individuals and teams.
617-732-7480 or pager #11724


For emergencies, call 911 or go to the Emergency Department. For non-emergency acute distress, contact EAP at 866-724-4327 or Psychiatry Triage at 617-732-6753. Staff should identify themselves as an employee and indicate they would like to speak with someone in relation to the Feb. 7 events.

Learn more at

Four staff members singing

From left: Patty Lee, Monique Cerundolo, Holly White and Stephen Nicholson perform a song during the service.

Uplifted by solidarity and song, the Brigham community came together to show its support for the people of Puerto Rico during a service on Jan. 29. Since December, the island has been devastated by hundreds of earthquakes and aftershocks, leaving many regions and cities there in disarray.

Organizers of the event, hosted by Spiritual Care Services and held in Bornstein Amphitheater, said they sought to not only acknowledge the recent natural disasters but also celebrate and honor Puerto Rico and its culture. The bilingual service featured scripture readings, a candle-lighting ceremony, a photo slideshow depicting scenes from the island, live and recorded performances of Puerto Rican music and remarks from staff who shared stories about what Puerto Rico means to them.

“The ceremony was very beautiful. I feel very grateful for the thoughtfulness towards our people. It was a beautiful gesture,” said Nelly Pardo, an Environmental Services employee and native of Puerto Rico, who contributed to the event planning and music selection.

Patty Lee, a chaplain in Spiritual Care Services, expressed her gratitude for all who came to collectively celebrate Puerto Rico and mourn its many losses.

“It was an honor to be part of such a moving prayer service and to feel the warmth and love that is present at the Brigham in our community of strength and solidarity,” she said. “We join together in prayer and hope as Puerto Rico continues to rebuild its beautiful island together.”

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George Player, CPE, FMA, vice president of Facilities and Operations, was among those who saw a need to bring the Brigham community together and helped organize the service to support colleagues affected by the earthquakes.

“I want our employees to know that we are family at the Brigham, and we are here to support each other — always,” Player said. “There are events that happen every day all over the world, and it can be difficult to have family living in an area affected by a natural disaster, deal with the unknown and wonder if everyone is safe.”

For Monique Cerundolo, MA, BCC, a staff chaplain in Spiritual Care Services, it was vital that the event centered on the themes of family and hope. As a member of the Hispanic community herself, Cerundolo, who is Uruguayan, also felt a personal and special connection to the service.

“We want people to know that they aren’t alone,” Cerundolo said. “In Puerto Rican culture, there is a tremendous sense of community. The concept of familia is very vivid. We hope those who attended found the event to be comforting and unifying.”

Small prayer cards were handed out during the event that included various prayers and blessings in Spanish. By the event’s conclusion, all 150 cards had been distributed. Many attendees told organizers they were going to hold on to the cards and share them with loved ones. For Kevin Long, MEd, operations project coordinator in Spiritual Care Services, it was a touching symbol of community.

A Message of Hope

Cerundolo said the event’s organizers — who also included Kathleen Gallivan, SNDdeN, PhD, director of Spiritual Care Services, Mikhala Heil, MDiv, chaplain, and John Kearns, MDiv, BCC, staff chaplain — wanted to ensure that music played a pivotal role in the ceremony. The event featured live performances of the Spanish-language songs “Color de Esperanza” and “Dios Milagroso Asi Eres Tú,” performed by Spiritual Care Services staff. Singers included Cerundolo, Lee and White, who were accompanied by chaplain Stephen Nicholson on acoustic guitar and members of the audience who sang along.

During one especially moving part of the program, organizers played a recording of “Almost Like Praying,” a song written by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is of Puerto Rican descent, and performed by him and more than 20 Latino musicians. Written in 2017 to support the victims of Hurricane Maria, the lyrics individually reference all 78 of Puerto Rico’s cities and towns.

“We wanted to make sure the music we played during the ceremony was something that our Puerto Rican employees could identify with,” Cerundolo said. “That song is very comforting, unifying and supportive for the Puerto Rican people.”

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Robert Livingston and Normella Walker standing behind podium

From left: Robert Livingston and Normella Walker

After spending two years as a professor in England, Robert Livingston, PhD, returned to the U.S. in 2015 and found himself facing a personal challenge that would tie into his professional focus — diversity, leadership and social justice — in an unexpected way.

While living in the U.K., Livingston quickly discovered that he preferred to walk as much as possible. His physical fitness improved, and he lost weight. But after moving back to the States for a new job opportunity, he settled back into a more sedentary routine. Within six months, he regained the weight he had lost and more.

Livingston knew exactly how to address his issue — diet and exercise — yet he also struggled to come to terms with the changes he would need to make to achieve his goal. The thought of spending hours on a treadmill and giving up chocolate was demoralizing. But he soon found a healthier way to satisfy his sweet tooth and rekindled a childhood love of bike riding. Thanks to his continued efforts, the pounds dropped off.

This journey mirrors what many organizations experience when they seek to advance diversity, inclusion and equity in a profound and sustainable way, said Livingston, a lecturer of Public Policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, who shared his reflections during Brigham Health’s annual tribute to the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 24.

“Strategy is the easiest part of this whole model,” Livingston told attendees in Bornstein Amphitheater during the event, which was hosted by the Brigham’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “If an organization really wants to make progress on diversity, equity and inclusion, I can give them any number of strategies that are guaranteed to work — just like you can give someone a diet or a gym membership. But it gets down to that big question: Are you actually willing to do what needs to be done in order to see the change that you say you want to see?”

Split Perspectives

That question — how to transform a desire for progress into meaningful cultural change — was central to the theme of the Brigham event, “Bringing the Dream to Life,” a callback to Dr. King’s celebrated “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. During that historic address, Dr. King articulated his vision for a world free from racism, inequity and discrimination.

Pointing to a 2011 study from Harvard Business School and Tufts University, Livingston noted that the public’s perception of how much progress society has made in fulfilling Dr. King’s dream appears to be subjective, depending on whom you ask.

Researchers asked black and white Americans to indicate, on a scale of one to 10, how harshly they perceived each of the two groups to be the target of racism, decade by decade, from the 1950s to 2010. Both groups agreed that anti-black racism was at its worst in the 1950s and has decreased over time. But researchers were surprised to learn that white Americans perceived themselves as the primary targets of racism in 2010, and they believed anti-black racism had declined faster and more substantially than black respondents did.

Livingston said the findings reflect one of the biggest contemporary challenges in achieving equity.

“There’s a problem, which is we cannot agree that there is a problem,” he said. “So, if you’re an organization that adopts diversity and inclusion policies, and people don’t understand why you’re doing that, then at best they are going to be apathetic to these policies and at worst actively resistant to them.”

‘The Perfect Trifecta’

Livingston explained that achieving real progress in diversity and inclusion requires change on three levels: values, culture and policy.

Using the example of an unattended bicycle on the street, he noted that these three areas dictate whether someone would steal the bicycle. Some people would never take something that doesn’t belong to them because that goes against their values, Livingston said. Others might steal the bicycle if no one was watching, but they otherwise refrain from doing so because theft is culturally unacceptable. Lastly, some might not care about values or cultural norms but don’t steal the bike because they don’t want to face legal repercussions.

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“Those three things are the perfect trifecta,” he said. “Organizations have to create policies that promote diversity, equity and inclusion; build a culture that creates greater belonging; and hire individuals who believe in the tenets, or values, upheld by the organization.”

These principles are closely aligned with the Brigham’s ongoing work to create a more transparent, diverse, inclusive and innovative culture, said Normella Walker, MA, CDP, director of Diversity and Inclusion.

“Each of us plays an essential part in shaping the Brigham Experience in our day-to-day decisions and actions. As individuals, our behaviors should reflect our shared values, contribute to an inclusive culture and be consistent with our policies,” Walker said. “Dr. Livingston’s remarks echo our own journey of cultural transformation and our vision for who we are — and where we want to be — as a community.”


Attendees, including Nadia Raymond (center left) and Jennifer Goldsmith (center right), join hands and sing in Haitian Creole.

For Nadia Raymond, MSN, MHA, RN, the memory of returning to her home country of Haiti days after the island’s 2010 catastrophic earthquake is still painfully vivid. One of the worst natural disasters in the nation’s history, the 7.0-magnitude quake left a devastating wake of death, trauma and destruction.

Raymond, a professional development manager in the Brigham’s Center for Nursing Excellence and co-leader of EqualHealth’s Women’s Leadership Roundtable, recalled what it was like gazing out the window during her ride from the airport to where she had been deployed to support the relief effort.

Parks, architecture, the presidential palace, her old high school, a new nursing school — all destroyed in the disaster, which killed an estimated 230,000 people and injured countless more. At that time, Raymond was among the many Brigham faculty, staff and trainees who responded to the humanitarian crisis to support their Haitian health care colleagues on the ground.

Reflecting on the experience during a recent event in Bornstein Amphitheater to commemorate the disaster’s 10th anniversary, Raymond said her colleagues’ swift, compassionate response and the courage of those affected by the quake gave her hope — a feeling that continues to shine brightly a decade later.

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“I witnessed, as most of you have, that when our BWH community and Haiti came together as one, we remained strong, we remained resilient and we never quit,” she said. “Our hope never dies.”

The Jan. 10 event, “Many Hands Make the Burden Light — Remembering the 2010 Haiti Earthquake and Recovery,” provided an opportunity for the Brigham community to come together again to honor the lives and memory of those who were lost and recognize the teams and individuals who helped in the recovery.

Standing Together

Stephanie Kayden, MD, MPH, vice chair of Strategic Partnerships and chief of the Division of Global Emergency Care and Humanitarian Studies, who also assisted with relief efforts, recalled the tremendous contributions of everyday Haitians in the aftermath of the disaster.

After Kayden and her colleagues set up a field hospital outside Port-au-Prince to supplement overwhelmed trauma centers in the area, local schoolchildren were invaluable volunteer translators for the international response team. Grandmothers in the community served as “tent mothers,” offering comfort for unaccompanied children. Pastors organized spiritual services at the facility to help patients heal. Haitian medical students who had been studying in Cuba raced home to provide additional clinical support at the field hospital.

“All of these people had the resilience, smarts, organizational skills and natural talent for bringing their community together. The field hospital was a success because of them — not because of us,” Kayden said.

Paul Farmer, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Global Health Equity and co-founder of Partners In Health (PIH), recognized the remarkable progress Haiti has made in rebuilding, both in terms of physical infrastructure and systems of support, in the face of tremendous challenges since the quake.

In one example, Farmer and other speakers highlighted the Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais (University Hospital), a teaching hospital established in partnership with the Haitian government, the Brigham, PIH and other Harvard-affiliated institutions.

Located in the city of Mirebalais, the University Hospital was recently awarded institutional accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, the entity responsible for the accreditation of medical residency and fellowship programs. The news, announced on the eve of the earthquake’s 10-year mark, made Haiti the world’s first resource-poor country to achieve this prestigious status.

Jennifer Goldsmith, director of Administration and Programs in the Division of Global Health Equity, said she and her colleagues felt it was important to commemorate this date to reaffirm how the tragedy touched so many at the Brigham and affected them as family members, friends and caregivers of the victims.

“To see so many people from our Brigham community together — acknowledging both the loss and what good has come of this tragic event — was very meaningful to me, personally, and reflective of the heart of the Brigham,” Goldsmith said.

To close the event in Bornstein, Farmer and Joia Mukherjee, MD, MPH, of the Division of Global Health Equity, invited attendees to stand, hold hands and join them in an impromptu song in Haitian Creole, inspired by a scene from the documentary Bending the Arc. The song’s opening lyric: Tout moun se moun. Every person is a person.

View a webcast recording of the event.


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Alicia Arevalo removes glassware from the autoclave.

Alicia Arevalo removes glassware from the autoclave.

When Brigham researchers finish their work in the laboratory, the equipment they use needs to be thoroughly cleaned not only to keep the environment safe but also to prevent contamination in future studies. But these beakers, flasks, funnels, graduated cylinders and similar tools require a more rigorous cleansing than typical glassware. That’s where Alicia Arevalo comes in.

Arevalo serves as the manager of the Brigham’s three Glasswash and Sterilization facilities — located in the Thorn Building, New Research Building and Hale Building for Transformative Medicine — which are responsible for sterilizing glass and plastic containers that research faculty, staff and trainees employ in the lab. The facilities contain specialized washing machines that use powerful, high-temperature water jets in combination with sanitizers to ensure each instrument is free of any debris or lingering microorganisms.

A Brigham employee for nearly two decades, Arevalo essentially operates the Glasswash and Sterilization Facilities as a one-woman show. But because she can’t be everywhere all the time, she has trained scores of colleagues on how to properly use the machines when she is not present. Each training session is over an hour long and covers a range of safety procedures. Nobody is permitted to use the sterilization facilities without completing a training module with Arevalo.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a student or a doctor. Everyone is expected to treat these machines with care and make sure they are being as safe as possible,” said Arevalo.

Every Detail Counts

There are three fundamental rules for washing lab equipment: fill the tray with the materials that need to be washed; close the door; and select the appropriate wash cycle. It sounds simple enough, but don’t be deceived. It’s not exactly like loading your kitchen dishwasher at home.

Each step must adhere to stringent safety regulations — including proper disposal of waste materials before washing, using the right machine for instrument and wearing appropriate safety gear.

As part of her training module, Arevalo shows a binder of images depicting melted containers, broken glass and plastic shards as a reference for what can happen when safety protocols are not followed. (In case that doesn’t resonate, she also keeps a bucket of misused instruments as tangible examples.) The binder also features diagrams and instructions for the proper use of each machine in the facilities.

“When training, I can spend hours talking about what precautions to take, but words don’t reach people as well as photographs and real-life examples,” Arevalo said.

But it’s not just about keeping the integrity of the machines and materials, said Arevalo. It’s also about keeping everyone safe.

“Some of the containers I receive are delivered from departments that handle hazardous materials, including radioactive waste,” she explained. “It would be horrible if the machine stopped working properly and those containers were not completely washed.”

A Home Away from Home

The Brigham has become like a second home, Arevalo said, and her role has given her the chance to meet new people every day and feel more connected to the Brigham community at large.

“Although it seems like I work independently, teamwork plays a big part in my day,” she said. “Without proper equipment care, research can’t be completed, so I love that my job makes an impact.”

Stronger Together Brigham Values LogoAngela Vail, executive director in Office of the Chief Academic Officer and Arevalo’s longtime supervisor, can attest to the warm environment she creates.

“Alicia always offers help to anyone stopping by for glass washing. She takes great pride in keeping her work areas clean and making sure everyone has what they need to get their own work done,” said Vail.

To help her colleagues feel at home too, Arevalo incorporates her love for nature into the Glasswash and Sterilization Facilities. The walls adjacent to her desk in Thorn are embellished with colorful photos of flowers and butterflies to maintain a welcoming atmosphere. To complement her floral décor, she keeps a collection of plants along the perimeter of the facility, which she tends to between wash cycles.

“I look forward to coming here every day, and I want my colleagues to feel the same,” Arevalo said.

“Behind the Scenes at the Brigham” is a monthly series in Brigham Bulletin that provides a glimpse of the people whose everyday contributions help make the Brigham a world-class institution. Is there an individual or team you’d like to see featured? Send your ideas to


Baseball Tavern Group Photo

From left: Amanda Lustig, Kelly Peters, Sarah Distefano, Brian Doucet and Ellie Quenzer enjoy a BWHYP event at Baseball Tavern in Fenway.

When Juan Diego Paredes joined the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Young Professionals (BWHYP) Board more than two years ago, he had no idea the influence it would have on his career.

A volunteer-based employee resource group (ERG), the board hosts professional development opportunities, networking events and social gatherings for early-career Brigham staff. From community service outings to career workshops to trivia nights, the ERG offers employees a chance to explore areas of interest and pursue professional and personal growth. There is no age limit for membership.

“Two years ago, I would not have been able to lead events, speak in front of crowds or be a project coordinator,” said Paredes, a project coordinator in Ambulatory Services who now volunteers as professional development coordinator of the BWHYP Board. “I am so far removed from how reserved I used to be. It’s amazing to look back and see that if I had not taken this chance with the Young Professionals, things may not have turned out like this.”

One way Paredes was able to build connections was through a series the group hosts called “Coffee With.” Held every two months, the event offers a relaxed setting to meet one-on-one with Brigham leaders who share their own career paths, how they overcame professional barriers and their advice for those starting out.

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Hearing from Timothy Ewing, PhD, vice president of Employee Diversity, Inclusion and Experience, during his “Coffee With” event inspired Paredes to explore opportunities that seem out of reach. With that advice in mind, Paredes recently pursued his current role in Ambulatory Services, which he discovered after networking with his new supervisor, a former BWHYP committee member.

To Paredes, the group is not only important to him as a young professional but also as a member of the Latino community.

“Oftentimes, minorities are fighting against the grain in terms of professional opportunities,” he said. “For me, the Young Professionals is a valuable resource for building connections and harnessing my skills in new ways.”

In addition to the co-chairs, the board consists of five committees: Professional Development, Networking, Sports and Special Interest, Communications and Engagement, and Community Service.

Kelly Peters, a senior program manager in the Department of Quality and Safety and co-chair of BWHYP, said community service events provide a chance to meet other young professionals and network while also giving back.

BWHYP members volunteer at the American Cancer Society's AstraZeneca Hope Lodge Center in Jamaica Plain.

BWHYP members volunteer at the American Cancer Society’s AstraZeneca Hope Lodge Center in Jamaica Plain.

“Participating in community service events routinely can be valuable to young professionals trying to find where they fit into both the Brigham community and the community we serve,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to work with new people and identify your niche.”

The different committees play a role in building personal relationships by connecting members with social activities, such as intramural sports and Brigham-themed trivia nights.

“Starting a career can be overwhelming, and surrounding yourself with people with a similar passion can be valuable to finding your own community,” said Hannah Senftleber, a population health coordinator and BWHYP co-chair.

Paredes said the group continues to look for opportunities to reach new members. This November, the Professional Development committee will host a panel discussion about clinical careers, covering topics such as how to apply for medical school, the day-to-day life as a clinician and the clinical research field.

Looking ahead, Paredes hopes to create an even more inclusive environment within Young Professionals so that more early-career Brigham staff can experience the same opportunities he had in the group.

“Seeing my own skills grow and recognizing the opportunities I have been able to create through this group is incredible,” he said.

Sign up for Young Professionals newsletter. To learn more or join the BWHYP board or ERG, email


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Stevenson Elianor organizes incoming packages at the Central Receiving loading dock.

Stevenson Elianor organizes incoming packages at the Central Receiving loading dock.

When a flower bouquet addressed to a patient arrived at the Brigham’s Central Receiving loading dock at 89 Fenwood Road one morning, Receiving and Distribution staff did what they normally do: They contacted Patient and Family Relations to locate the recipient’s room and complete the delivery. What came next wasn’t exactly a typical situation for the team, but it perfectly illustrated the care and commitment they demonstrate each day. 

After discovering that the patient had already been discharged, Christopher Shields, supervisor of Receiving and Distribution, called the sender to notify her about the delivery issue. She was a close relative of the patient and lived across the country. Upon learning her family member wouldn’t receive the bouquet, the woman burst into tears.

Alex Bonilla, a materials handler who primarily supports Operating Room shipments, immediately volunteered to deliver the flowers to the patient’s house, with their permission, on his way home from work. 

“Hearing how upset she was on the phone was enough to bring a tear to my eye,” Shields recalled. “Alex said, ‘Give it to me. I’ll make sure it gets there.’ I see that kind of dedication in my team every day. They know the urgency of delivering packages, whether it’s a cardiac implant, imaging disk or flowers. No package is unimportant because it might make a difference in someone’s quality of care or lift their spirits.” 

Where Everyone Has Your Back

Part of Materials Management, Receiving and Distribution oversees the Brigham’s five loading docks to ensure everything delivered to the hospital arrives safely and soundly. While the team is always busy — receiving up to 1,200 packages daily — they function like a well-oiled machine.  

Staff work in concert to unload packages from delivery trucks, verify each box’s contents match its packing slip and catalog every parcel in an online tracking system before delivering them to recipients. From office supplies to zebrafish to surgical implants, everything addressed to Brigham passes through the team’s meticulous system. 

“I don’t think people understand how much we move and how fast we move it,” Bonilla said. “We always help each other, and it feels great to know the whole team is working together and has your back.”

The department’s swift pace and high volume make it especially important that employees ordering supplies fill out shipping forms in detail by including their name and location or department, Shields said. 

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In some cases, a package arriving at sunrise contains medical supplies needed for a surgery or procedure taking place a few hours later. For these time-sensitive orders, loading dock staff work closely with clinical teams to provide real-time updates and expedited delivery.  

“I tell my team regularly to picture that a member of their family is in the hospital and they’re depending on this package being delivered on time, in good condition and to the right location,” Shields said. “We’re not just delivering boxes. What we do counts.”

Greg Johnson, a materials handler serving the Hale Building for Transformative Medicine loading dock, agreed that the team’s camaraderie and shared commitment are important parts of their culture. 

“It’s a great group of people,” said Johnson, who worked in other areas of Materials Management for a decade before joining Receiving and Distribution two years ago. “They’re a big part of why I have worked here as long as I have.”

‘I Want to Do the Same for Them’

In addition to taking pride in his team, Shields said he has tremendous respect for the Brigham researchers, care providers and other staff working to advance the hospital’s mission. In his few moments of spare time during the day, he enjoys reading about the Brigham labs and clinics receiving the packages his team delivers — a curiosity that led him to learn about orthopaedic investigators studying Mexican salamanders to explore limb regeneration and neuroscientists searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

“These are probably some of the most dedicated people you’ll see in your life,” Shields said. “You just feel their sense of commitment to patient care and research at all costs.”  

Bonilla also said he’s grateful to be part of a community that cares so deeply, insisting his unexpected flower delivery was a small gesture. 

“I’ve been hospitalized here before, and the staff always make you feel cared for and comfortable,” he said. “I want to do the same for them and any patient to give them the best experience.” 


“Behind the Scenes at the Brigham” is a monthly series that provides a glimpse of the people whose everyday contributions help make the Brigham a world-class institution. Is there a team you’d like to see featured? Send your ideas to



Brigham veterans and service members gather for a photo following a recent luncheon.

Brigham veterans and service members gather for a photo following a recent luncheon.

Every day at the Brigham, Eric Goralnick, MD, MS, draws on what he learned while serving in the U.S. Navy.

“Quite often, I think about how we can translate those lessons around leadership, communication, operations management and care from our experiences in the military to the civilian setting,” said Goralnick, medical director of Emergency Preparedness and the Access Center. “That focus of looking out for your shipmate in the Navy translates to the same mission at the Brigham, which is that everything we do is for our patients.”

On June 25, members of the Brigham community who are serving or have served in the military came together for a Veterans Luncheon in the Thorn Building. The event — co-hosted by Goralnick, Tim Ewing, PhD, vice president for Employee Diversity, Inclusion and Experience, and David Johnson, project analyst in the Department of Medicine — provided a chance for colleagues to listen, share and help build the Brigham’s veteran community.

It meant a lot to oncology nurse Hilary Farlow, BSN, RN, to have the opportunity to get to know her fellow service members at the Brigham.

A retired medical service officer in the U.S. Army National Guard, Farlow looks forward to staying connected with these colleagues.

“I was glad to be here, and I hope to meet more military veterans at the Brigham in the future,” said Farlow, who works on Braunwald Tower 7. “I am interested to learn more about them and the opportunities they’ve had here at the hospital.”

Enriching the Organization

When asked about the link between military service and his work at the Brigham, David Correia, manager of Security Systems, Distributed Campus and Training in Police and Security, said both roles rely on high levels of discipline and morale.

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“Having been a soldier and a leader, both on active duty and the reserve component, instilling that spirit in the unit or in the organization helps to elevate discipline and keep people motivated,” Correia said.

During the event, attendees expressed interest in continuing to meet and discuss ways to come together more regularly.Ewing said he was grateful to learn more about faculty and staff who’ve served in the military because their unique skills and perspectives enrich the organization. He also encouraged all those who have served to self-identify via PeopleSoft so that the Brigham has a better understanding of its service member and veteran community.

“You’ve already received quality leadership training, and I look to you to help champion and lead some of the work we’re doing to become a better institution,” Ewing said. “Also, there’s the camaraderie that you all share having served in the military, which I think is another way of thinking about your contributions of knowing how to work in teams.”

If you are interested in learning more about veterans’ gatherings at the Brigham, email Eric Goralnick at



From left: Michaela Farber simulates an epidural injection for Christopher Zhu, Ian Richardson, Nick Chehwan and John Harrington

From left: Michaela Farber simulates an epidural injection for Christopher Zhu, Ian Richardson, Nick Chehwan and John Harrington

On May 30, faculty and staff in the Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women and Newborns provided an inside look at the joys and opportunities of a career in health care for a small group of students from The Roxbury Latin School, an independent boys’ school in West Roxbury.

The 11th graders met with Connors Center providers across multiple specialties — including anesthesiology, neonatology and obstetrics — and different roles, including nurses, physicians and respiratory therapists, to learn about their training, day-to-day work and areas of expertise.

Students also donned scrubs, took a guided tour of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and participated in hands-on demonstrations using medical simulation devices.

The visit was part of the school’s RL@Work program, which aims to provide students with off-campus experiences that offer exposure to various professions and types of leadership to prepare them for citizenship, service, work and the world. Over three days and in partnership with host organizations, students obtain a behind-the-scenes look at careers in science and medicine, law and public service, and technology and innovation.

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Annette Scheid, MD, an attending neonatologist in the NICU and director of Physician Well-Being in the Department of Pediatric Newborn Medicine, organized the students’ Brigham visit with a deliberate emphasis on highlighting multidisciplinary teamwork.

“I was really excited about formatting this in a way that illustrates the importance of collaboration among different types of physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists, while also showcasing the beauty of perinatal medicine,” said Scheid, who has two younger sons enrolled in the school. “We all have a deep love for what we do, and while this is not an easy field, it is probably one of most fulfilling in terms of what you get back.”

Developing Future Leaders

In addition to Scheid, participating Brigham faculty and staff included David Beadles, RRT, respiratory therapist; Phil Capistran, BSN, RN, NICU nurse; Michaela Farber, MD, obstetric anesthesiologist in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine; and Daniel Katz, MD, obstetrician in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Farber, who spoke with students about what her work entails and led a demonstration of epidural injections using a simulation manikin, said it was gratifying to see the students’ energy and enthusiasm while trying out the simulation tools.

Nick Chehwan (center) practices intubation using a simulation device, with guidance from David Beadles (right).

Nick Chehwan (center) practices intubation using a simulation device, with guidance from David Beadles (right).

“Their excitement about discovery was really meaningful to me,” she said. “If we were able to inspire their career choices in the future, that’s an incredible thing. But irrespective of what they ultimately pursue, I think it’s important to engage young people about health care and the health care system — and women’s health, specifically — because it influences every aspect of our lives.”

Andrew Chappell, MA, director of Studies and Strategic Initiatives at Roxbury Latin, agreed that educational experiences such as the one the Connors Center team hosted are integral to students’ development as future leaders.

“The boys walked away not only inspired by Dr. Scheid and her colleagues’ expertise and professionalism, but also with an appreciation for how important skills of collaboration, communication, problem-solving and teamwork — which they are developing at Roxbury Latin — are to their success as adults in the workforce,” Chappell said. “After visiting the NICU, having an opportunity to simulate on practice dolls and hearing from experts in the field of neonatal medicine, the boys gained an appreciation for the work of health care providers and what it takes to do their work well.”

Scheid, who spoke with students about what it’s like caring for infants with complex health needs, said she was deeply grateful so many colleagues gave their time to ensure the students had a rewarding experience.

“I feel very lucky to work at a hospital that cares this way about outreach and motivation of future physicians at this young age,” she said.



From left: Nawal Nour, Joseph Loscalzo, Wanda McClain, Zara Cooper and Michelle Morse

From left: Nawal Nour, Joseph Loscalzo, Wanda McClain, Zara Cooper and Michelle Morse

From the podium of Bornstein Amphitheater, Michelle Morse, MD, MPH, a hospitalist and assistant program director of the Internal Medicine Residency, was filled with hope as she looked at the large audience that had packed the room for the Brigham’s health equity summit on May 29.

The half-day event, “Brigham’s Commitment to Health Equity: Aligning Our Mission, Defining Our Future,” invited faculty, staff and trainees to join national and global leaders to discuss the Brigham community’s shared commitment to pursuing equity. The World Health Organization defines health equity as the fair opportunity everyone should have to attain their full health potential and articulates that no one should be disadvantaged from achieving this potential.

“I’ve never seen Bornstein this full in my 11 years at the Brigham, and it’s an inspiration to see all your faces,” Morse said. “We hope to find ways to channel this support and surge in energy. We feel that change is already afoot because of information coming from the culture surveys, and we hope to see that together we can grow the work in health equity here at the Brigham with input from all of you.”

In addition to the sessions in Bornstein — which included a keynote address by Mary T. Bassett, MD, MPH, director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, and a dynamic panel discussion — the day featured interactive lunch roundtables filled with attendees as well. Several of the events were simultaneously translated into Spanish and Haitian Creole.

Throughout the day, speakers and attendees discussed the importance of recognizing and naming the ways structural racism (also known as systemic racism) harms individuals and communities, and how it connects to care quality, patient safety and patient outcomes.

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Brigham Health President Betsy Nabel, MD, challenged attendees to identify a structural barrier they see in the workplace or their local community and commit to making a change that helps address it.

Nabel also reaffirmed the Brigham’s commitment to understanding structural barriers and gaps that prevent patients and their families from receiving equitable care — pointing to the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital’s mission to care for the immigrant, poor community of Boston since its founding in 1913.

“Health equity is part of our DNA. It’s been one of our values for over a hundred years,” Nabel said. “And that spirit of Peter Bent Brigham continues through today. We have a responsibility to continue serving our richly diverse community.”

Exploring Equity

During the afternoon’s panel discussion — moderated by Nawal Nour, MD, MPH, chief diversity and inclusion officer for faculty, trainees and students at Brigham Health — speakers explored how the Brigham has sought to identify and reduce health inequities through patient care, research, education and community outreach.

Joseph Loscalzo, MD, PhD, Brigham physician-in-chief and chair of the Department of Medicine, discussed both hospital-wide and resident-led efforts to formalize this work through committees focused on health equity and social justice. Zara Cooper, MD, MSc, Kessler director of the Center for Surgery and Public Health, highlighted several instances of Brigham-led research that exposed the consequences of health inequities and the center’s continued work in this area, including a recent partnership with the National Institutes of Health to improve cultural dexterity among surgical trainees.

Achieving health equity is not limited to opportunities directly related to patient care, panelists noted, pointing to how other social determinants contribute to health and well-being.

In one example, they noted how the history of redlining — the now-illegal practice of lenders and real estate agencies preventing people of color from buying homes in traditionally white communities — continues to affect communities of color via wealth gaps and low rates of homeownership. At the same time, panelists added, research has shown people who experience housing challenges are more likely to have poor health outcomes.

Wanda McClain, MPA, vice president of Community Health and Health Equity, explained the importance of addressing some of these gaps by developing a “place-based strategy,” which entails being mindful of how anything from a capital project to hiring practices presents an opportunity to support health equity in the local community. She noted these practices are exemplified by anchor institutions — nonprofits that consciously work to bring measurable benefits to the communities in which they are located.

“This means asking questions like, ‘How are we making purchasing decisions? Are we investing in local, minority-owned procurement?’” McClain said. “‘In terms of human resources, are we doing everything we can to hire people from our local communities? With construction and real estate, are we being environmentally sensitive as we build?’ These are the critical issues we are working to address as part of our anchor institution strategy in the weeks, months and years ahead. These are among the opportunities that will inspire lasting change.”

We Want to Hear from You

It is critically important to hear the voices of the Brigham community to inform our institutional efforts to deliver just and equitable care. All faculty, staff and trainees are invited to share how they are addressing health equity in their own work and suggestions for advancing health equity at the Brigham. Send your contribution to Submissions will be shared in the online edition of Brigham Bulletin on June 14, and a selection will appear in the print edition.


From left: Hannah Frank, Elizabeth Brosseau, William Smith and Andrew Green

From left: Hannah Frank, Elizabeth Brosseau, William Smith and Andrew Green

On May 19, an unusual scene unfolded in hallways across the hospital as staff wheeled thousands of new infusion pumps, IV poles and related equipment into patient care areas.

The 12 teams, comprising Brigham staff and Baxter representatives, replaced approximately 3,800 large-volume infusion pumps on the main campus with a new model, the Baxter Spectrum IQ pump. The transition was part of a system-wide goal of wireless, auto-pump programming and auto-documentation in Partners eCare, which will help to enhance the safety of IV pump programming. Brigham Health is the first in the Partners HealthCare system to “go live” with the Baxter IQ pump, and other Partners institutions will follow in a phased approach.

Stronger Together Brigham Values Logo“This was a major undertaking that required leadership and collaboration from staff in many departments over the last few months,” said Maddy Pearson, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, chief nursing officer and senior vice president of Clinical Services. “We are deeply grateful for their extensive efforts to help us prepare for this rollout and ensure that all staff had the training and support they need to safely care for patients during and after the transition.”

Michael Fraai, executive director of Biomedical Engineering and Device Integration, thanked everyone involved for their hard work and contributions, as they ensured the transition was safe, efficient and seamless — an especially impressive accomplishment given the deployment’s scale and complexity.

“This was truly a collaborative effort among several departments. We all worked together to accomplish this goal,” Fraai said.

The Baxter pump was selected after hundreds of hours of demonstrations, with more than 1,500 evaluations from staff, including Brigham nurses. Each day, nurses, anesthesiologists and respiratory therapists use large-volume infusion pumps to deliver nutrients, blood and medications to patients in inpatient units, procedural settings, ambulatory clinics and the Emergency Department.

Ready to Launch

Beginning at 6 a.m. on May 19, multiple project teams from the Brigham and Baxter visited units and practice areas to replace pumps and tubing — all while working efficiently to minimize disruption for patients and their families. The team comprised approximately 120 Brigham Health faculty and staff from more than a dozen departments and 40 Baxter representatives.

Jon Silverman, BS, PharmD, supervisor in Pharmacy Services, was part of the team that implemented the former Alaris pumps in 2003. He looks forward to seeing how the new features in the upgraded devices will enhance care and make life easier for providers working in Partners eCare.

“This is an important step in providing the safest care for our patients. We are so excited to be on the cusp of completing this transition, leading ultimately to auto-pump programming and auto-documentation,” Silverman said.

New infusion pumps line a hallway in the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center in preparation for the upgrade.

New infusion pumps line a hallway in the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center in preparation for the upgrade.

After completing the main campus implementation, teams continued the deployment of Baxter pumps throughout the week at Brigham and Women’s Ambulatory Care Center at 850 Boylston St. and the Brigham and Women’s/Mass General Health Care Center in Foxborough. Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital will transition on May 29.
Since the deployment, super-users and professional development managers on each unit have been available to provide “at-the-elbow” support to providers.

Seeing the transition come to fruition after so much careful planning was exciting for Anne Bane, MSN, RN, nurse director of Informatics and Medication Safety, who served as one of the clinical leads for the project.

“I was proud to have my colleagues work alongside me — they made this project seamless,” Bane said. “Everyone was so helpful and extremely vested in patient safety. It was impressive to see how we were able to move 7,000 pieces of equipment in one day and transition all patients to the new IV infusion pump.”


Yoselín Rodríguez

Yoselín Rodríguez

Like she did every time one of her children left the house, Yoselín Rodríguez instinctively glanced at the clock as her eldest, Carlos David Lind, 19, went out one Saturday night in October 2016 to meet up with friends. It was 9:54 p.m.

“Be careful,” Rodríguez said while he got ready to leave. He assured her there was no need to worry. They were going to a family party — nothing crazy. “Just be careful,” she urged.

Before stepping out the door of their Jamaica Plain home, Carlos repeated an affectionate goodbye Rodríguez had instilled in her three children since they were little: “Bendición, mami.” Blessings, Mommy. “I love you,” he added. Exactly one hour later, Rodríguez would later learn, Carlos was tragically killed by gun violence.

At the beginning of this year, Rodríguez, a community resource specialist and obstetrics case manager at Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center (SJPHC), resolved to channel a mother’s unimaginable grief into a positive force for change. With support from her family, friends and Brigham colleagues, she joined hundreds in marching in the 2019 Mother’s Day Walk for Peace on May 12.

Organized by the Dorchester-based nonprofit Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, the annual charity event brings together friends and neighbors to support mothers of murdered children and advocate for peaceful communities. The institute — a self-described center of healing, teaching and learning for families and communities affected by murder, trauma, grief and loss — was founded by Joseph and Clementina Chéry after the 1993 murder of their son, the organization’s namesake.

More than 50 people joined Rodríguez on Team Brigham this year to complete the walk from Fields Corner to Boston City Hall in memory of Carlos. A staunch advocate for achieving safer streets through community programs for young people and families, Rodríguez hopes to see the tide turn against violence locally and beyond.

“Everything I do is in his honor,” Rodríguez said. “As a mom, it is frustrating to see the number of homicides in our community. I ask myself, ‘When is this violence going to stop? Is it ever going to stop?’ Nobody should have to walk down the street with fear.”

Finding Strength

Rodríguez said so many loved ones, including her Brigham colleagues and patients at SJPHC, have helped her heal.

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After returning to work three months after Carlos’ death, Rodríguez, then a medical assistant at the center, said she was enveloped in kindness, patience and understanding. Advocates from the Brigham’s Violence Recovery Program, part of the Center for Community Health and Health Equity, and the resources provided by the Peace Institute helped her navigate the ups and downs of her family’s tragic loss. And above all, Rodríguez added, her children and Catholic faith give her strength.

“I thank the Lord for giving me a chance to be a mommy two more times,” she said. “Every single day when I go home, I tell my kids, ‘Thank you. Thank you for being supportive. Thank you for being there. Thank you for being you.’”

Acknowledging her heart will always be heavy with the loss of her firstborn, Rodríguez said it fills her with joy to talk about Carlos and hear people ask or share stories about him. She wears a button with his photo every day.

In advance of the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace, Rodríguez said she couldn’t imagine being where she is today without so much support.

“It makes me feel powerful and blessed,” she said. “I know that I am surrounded by so much love.”

Celebrating Milestones

As part of their support for Rodríguez in the immediate wake of her son’s death, Violence Recovery Program advocates contacted the principal at Greater Egleston High School, where Carlos had been a senior. He was due to graduate that June and had already started taking college courses, with hopes of becoming an architect.

The team asked if the school would be willing to issue Carlos a high school diploma, which his mother would collect on his behalf during the graduation ceremony, explained Masika Gadson, an advocate in the program. The principal happily worked with school district officials to make it happen.

During the graduation ceremony, Rodríguez delivered a speech to the students and remained there to congratulate each one as they received their diploma. When Carlos’ name was called, she walked across the stage with pride in his honor.

As the event concluded, the principal announced that each student had been given a rose to gift to the person they most admired. “Carlos wanted you to have this,” the principal told Rodríguez as she handed her the flower.

It was an emotional day, but Rodríguez knew there was one more thing to do. She and her family went to the cemetery to show Carlos his diploma.

Fundraising for the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace, which benefits the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, is ongoing. If you would like to contribute to Yoselín Rodríguez’s fundraising efforts for the charity event, click here



Kevin Giordano signs the Stand Against Racism pledge poster as Nawal Nour looks on.

Kevin Giordano signs the Stand Against Racism pledge poster as Nawal Nour looks on.

As RonAsia Rouse, MPH, reflected on the many signatures from her Brigham colleagues pledging to advance racial equity and oppose racial injustice, one word came to mind: unity. 

The collection of approximately 300 names represented those who had participated in the Brigham’s third annual Stand Against Racism event on April 25, part of the nationwide movement by YWCA USA to raise awareness about racism and empower efforts to eliminate it.

Co-hosted by the Center for Diversity & Inclusion (CDI), Center for Community Health and Health Equity (CCHHE), Association of Multicultural Members of Partners (AMMP) and Office of Mediation, Coaching, Ombuds and Support Services, the initiative provided hospital leaders, faculty and staff with education and resources for supporting racial justice.

In her role as education and college success coordinator at CCHHE, Rouse works closely with many young people of color through the center’s Student Success Jobs Program, which partners with select Boston-area high schools to match students with mentors and paid internships across the Brigham.

When adding her signature to the pledge, Rouse said she thought about the powerful message the Brigham’s participation in this campaign sends to the next generation of health care workers.

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“As a person of color working here myself, I think it’s really important to represent our collective stand against racism,” she said. “We’re standing against it not only as individuals but as a whole organization.”

Raising awareness and engaging in conversations around racial justice is a crucial aspect of cultivating an environment of inclusion, belonging and respect, explained Nawal Nour, MD, MPH, chief diversity and inclusion officer for faculty, trainees and students at Brigham Health. 

“As a large and diverse community, Brigham Health has the unique privilege to engage in hospital-wide initiatives that work to foster, strengthen and promote racial justice,” said Nour, who also serves as division director of Ambulatory Obstetrics and Gynecology and founding director of the African Women’s Health Center. “By uniting so many of our voices in the Campaign Against Racism, our community has shown that we are committed to the ongoing work to advance racial equity and justice, and that we are stronger because of it.”

Showing Solidarity

Brigham Health President Betsy Nabel, MD, who stopped by the event to pledge her support, pointed to the initiative as one example of living our values.

“Racism has no place in our society, let alone an environment of healing,” Nabel said. “By participating in this campaign, we are reaffirming our commitment to inclusion and our belief that we are stronger together.”

Pledge participant Elizabeth Harry, MD, assistant medical director and director of faculty development and well-being in the Brigham and Women’s Physicians Organization, agreed that it was paramount for the Brigham community to publicly express its support through efforts like this.    

“It is important to re-anchor into our values often,” said Harry, who also serves as assistant program director and director of wellness for the Internal Medicine Residency Program. “This allows us to stay on course and remember the things that are important to us. It is vital to come together, as a community, and say out loud what we value.”

Rachel Brown, a senior administrative assistant in Hospital Administration, applauded the hospital for hosting the event, noting it was a meaningful acknowledgment of systemic racism and the Brigham’s commitment to stand against it. 

“I think it’s important for members of the Brigham community to participate in this pledge because it shows solidarity that we stand behind racial justice,” said Brown, who also signed the pledge. “I was happy to see the number of signatures on the board, as they authenticated the unity that we have in our Brigham community.”

In addition to facilitating open and honest dialogue around issues of institutional inequity, the campaign provided an opportunity for faculty and staff to learn more about the ongoing work of the CDI to implement systemic changes that advance diversity, inclusion and equity, Nour added.

“The signatures are small yet significant, and they are part of a larger effort to foster an inclusive environment here at Brigham Health,” she said. “The main message for me, and our community, is power in numbers. Creating a diverse and inclusive community requires everyone to be involved.”

Xiomara Lopez

Xiomara Lopez

Whenever there’s a call for help, Xiomara Lopez of Environmental Services responds to her colleagues or supervisors the same way: “Just tell me what you need,” she says with a smile.

Part of the Brigham community for 12 years, Lopez takes immense pride in ensuring the hospital’s facilities are spotless.

“The Brigham is my second house, and the people are my family,” she said. “It’s important to me that the hospital is very clean for everyone who comes here.”

Lopez is one of 468 members of the Environmental Services team, which works nonstop to keep Brigham facilities across the main and distributed campuses sanitary, safe and attractive for patients, visitors, faculty and staff, in accordance with established policies, procedures and relevant regulations.

The department oversees institution-wide housekeeping, waste/recycling management, pest management, interior plants and grounds maintenance policies, and programs and services.

The team is also a statewide leader, representing the only Environmental Services department in Massachusetts to extend a training and certificate program to its staff, said Loay Kitmitto, director of Environmental Services.

He added that the team is also the only one Massachusetts to support a web-based application — Brigham @ Its Best — that allows faculty and staff to submit maintenance and housekeeping requests online.

Stronger Together Brigham Values Logo“Without exception, everyone on our team is personally committed to ensuring that every corner of the Brigham is clean and safe for our patients, their families and our colleagues,” Kitmitto said. “You would be hard-pressed to find a more dedicated group of people, and I am immensely proud of their contributions each day.”

Lopez, who started her career here in the Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women and Newborns, works primarily in the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, where she is responsible for cleaning the public areas, conference rooms, restrooms, staff locker rooms and nearby locations during the morning and early afternoon.

As hospital leaders, faculty and staff head to the Zinner Breakout Room each weekday morning to attend the Brigham’s Daily Safety Huddle, Lopez can frequently be spotted tidying up the surrounding area. Colleagues say she is particularly meticulous about ensuring the restrooms under her purview are sparkling — checking in on them four to six times a day during each shift.

Rachel Wilson, PT, DPT, a senior physical therapist who works in the outpatient Rehabilitation Services clinic on Shapiro’s first floor, said she and her colleagues deeply appreciate the care, attention and helping hand Lopez provides without fail.

“Xiomara is incredibly diligent and on top of her work, and she appears in a flash when we call for anything,” Wilson said. “She has a magic touch with cleaning, and she is always smiling and friendly.”

“Behind the Scenes at the Brigham” is a monthly series in Brigham Bulletin that provides a glimpse of the people whose everyday contributions help make the Brigham a world-class institution. Is there an individual or team you’d like to see featured? Send your ideas to

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On March 21, a Persian New Year celebration filled with live music, dance, food and fun on the Tower 2 mezzanine, near the Shapiro Bridge, was a vibrant example of the Brigham’s commitment to celebrating its diverse community.

Also known as Nowruz, Persian New Year is a secular holiday and marks the first day of the new year on the Iranian solar calendar. Celebrated for more than 3,000 years by people of different faiths from what was once the Persian Empire, Nowruz also coincides with the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere, occurring when the sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes day and night. Families traditionally gather on Nowruz to observe several rituals, such as meeting at the home of their oldest family member to pay their respects.

“I am a fortunate Iranian-American woman who has had the chance to emigrate from Iran and live in the U.S. and Canada for the past 21 years,” said Marjan Sadegh, PharmD, a senior pharmacist in Pharmacy Services, who hosted last week’s event alongside her family and friends and with the help of a multidisciplinary team of Brigham colleagues. “My life experience during this time — from starting out at a bagel store as a new immigrant to becoming an established professional and licensed pharmacist in both countries — has taught me so much.”

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During the Nowruz celebration at the Brigham, Ryan Sameen Meshkin, a student at Harvard Medical School, and Ali Karimi, grandfather of two of the performers, played Persian music on a santoor, tonbak and daf. A colorful table known as a Haft-sin was filled with items symbolizing spring and renewal, assembled with help from Sadaf Atarod, PhD, of the Department of Pediatric Newborn Medicine, and Faranak Farrohi, of the Cardiovascular Imaging Program. Sadegh performed a traditional holiday dance with her daughter and two friends.

“The Persian New Year celebration was remarkable,” said Kristin Schreiber, MD, PhD, of the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, who stopped by the event. “It brought a mixture of beautiful music, graceful dance and fascinating facts about an ancient culture. The dancing, costumed children were a breath of fresh air. It was a perfect example of the diversity of our community — it really brightened my day.”

Sadegh feels a sense of responsibility to share her Iranian heritage with her colleagues, represent her country of origin in an authentic way and counter negative portrayals of it in mainstream media.

“I feel extremely fortunate to be a role model for my children to show them the true value of freedom. I wish this gift could be given to every woman in the world, including those in Iran,” she said. “The humanitarian treatment I’ve experienced in both Canada and America has lifted me up and gifted me the ability to live a free life.”

When a major flood caused by a burst pipe forced the closure of the labor and delivery and neonatal intensive care units at Boston Medical Center (BMC) temporarily last year, the Brigham and several other hospitals stepped up to ensure patient care remained the priority.

During a Quality Rounds presentation in Bornstein Amphitheater last month, BMC clinicians spoke about the flood and reflected on the disaster response and lessons learned. 

A critical piece to the emergency plan for BMC was the safe and timely transfer of patients out of the affected units to area hospitals, including the Brigham, for care. At the end of Quality Rounds, the Brigham was presented with an award from BMC in recognition of the assistance staff provided during the flood incident. 

Karen Fiumara, PharmD, BCPS, executive director of Patient Safety at Brigham Health, said the Brigham teams that responded to this challenging situation were “nothing short of remarkable.” 

“While continuing to safely care for their existing patients, they welcomed this group of BMC patients and their loved ones to the Brigham with open arms and provided them with exceptional care,” Fiumara said. “This was one of those amazing stories that makes you proud to be part of the Brigham community.” 

Katherine Gregory, PhD, RN, associate chief nursing officer for the Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women and Newborns, echoed Fiumara’s thoughts.

“The Brigham comes together in a crisis like no other, and we care—not only about our patients but also those across the city and region,” she said. “It was our privilege to care for the women and newborns who were affected by the BMC flood last year, and we stand ready to serve if called upon by our obstetric and newborn colleagues again in the future.”