Posts from the ‘empathy’ category

bwh values logoLast summer, faculty and staff were invited to share their impressions of the Brigham’s organizational culture through the Brigham Experience: Culture, Diversity & Inclusion Assessment survey, focus groups, interviews and more. The message was clear: Our foundation and our people are strong, and we have opportunity to do even better, together.

The assessment revealed that Brigham Health has numerous strengths and areas of opportunity that will help grow the current culture to become even more transparent, diverse, inclusive and innovative.

Our strengths include our status as a leading academic medical system; our history and reputation; our shared passion for patient care; our progress in restoring financial health; and our ability to come together in a crisis.

Our areas of opportunity include the need for a more unifying vision and inspiring purpose statement that connects with all members of our workforce; the elimination of competition where there should be collaboration; more transparent and forthright communication; more diversity in leadership positions; a culture of respect and inclusion in every part of the organization; and a shift from a top-down structure to an empowered, shared decision-making approach.

Another takeaway from this effort was that the Brigham Health values as previously defined—collaboration, empathy, inclusion, integrity and professionalism—did not fully resonate with all faculty and staff. Building off feedback from across the Brigham, hospital leaders sought to redefine the institution’s values so that they better reflect who we are as a community.

The result is four newly articulated values:

We care. Period. We embrace a culture of shared humanity and dignity, where our diverse community of patients, families and employees all feel welcome, cared for and valued.

We create breakthroughs. It’s in our DNA. Since our founding, we’ve been discovering ways to make tomorrow better—for the health of people, here and around the world.

We’re stronger together. We all play a role. We take pride in teamwork, partnership and community. We value everyone’s contributions. We find inspiration in each other.

We pursue excellence. Because our patients deserve our best. We share a passion for learning and continuous improvement.

These four values also represent the theme of Brigham Bulletin’s 2019 calendar (published on the reverse side of this issue).

Looking ahead, hospital leaders are creating a “culture squad” to address the opportunities identified in the assessment and will then articulate behaviors that represent our aspirational culture.

Visit and stay tuned for more information about our culture work.

Jason Frangos and team

From left: Zachary Holcomb, John Mohs, Jason Frangos, Margaret Cavanaugh-Hussey, Toby Crooks and Diana Woody

I made my second trip to Shiprock, N.M., in November 2018 as part of the Brigham and Women’s Outreach Program. Working alongside the dedicated doctors and staff at the Indian Health Service hospital in Shiprock has truly inspired and motivated me in my life and work. Contributing much-needed clinical care to the Navajo community has re-energized me with a sense of meaning and purpose as a physician. Volunteering at Shiprock has been my antidote to burnout and has revitalized my spirit.

Jason Frangos, MD
Director, Program for Infectious Diseases of the Skin
Department of Dermatology

Sumaira Ahmed

From left: Sumaira Ahmed and Chuck Pozner

I’m fortunate to work with a person like Chuck Pozner, MD, Emergency Medicine physician and executive director of the STRATUS Center, who has been not only a phenomenal mentor but also someone who constantly inspires me to be better and help others.

Most notably, Chuck did something earlier this year that I thought was heroic and spoke volumes about his character and the kind of physician he is. He was walking to the hospital from Neville House when he noticed activity surrounding a woman giving birth in the valet bay of 75 Francis St.

He immediately saw that the newborn was turning blue from the bitter February cold, so he quickly took off his new STRATUS sweater and scooped the baby up in it to keep her warm. Ultimately, the sweater didn’t make it, but the mother and child were escorted inside to safety and warmth. Chuck’s quick response and selflessness was truly a shining moment!

Sumaira Ahmed
Marketing and Business Development,
Neil and Elise Wallace STRATUS Center for Medical Simulation

By far, my shining moment this year was the day I reconnected with my primary nurse, Vivian Kelley, RN, after 39 years! Vivian helped save my life back in 1979, when I came to the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital for a bone marrow transplant. I had aplastic anemia (a rare and life-threatening blood disease) and spent two and a half months in an isolation room. Vivian was there at every turn—when I got my chemo and during the hundreds of hours that followed as I waited for my new immune system to mature. The photo in which I’m wearing a mask marks the day I went home. The other picture was taken when we reconnected this summer in Boston. Vivian moved to the West Coast a year after my transplant and continued practicing nursing until she retired. I credit Vivian’s intelligence, nursing skills and her calm, positive attitude for getting me through a terrifying time in my life. I’m so grateful we found each other again.

Jessica Keener
Associate Director, Proposal Management, Development Office

Fundraising walkEvery year, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital participate as a team in the Boston Heart Walk and fundraise to support cardiovascular research and education, advocate for health and save lives. This walk is important to me because a few of my family members have experienced coronary artery disease, stroke and valve disease. By supporting the walk, I am doing my part to help fund current research that will make a difference for my family members and friends.

The 2018 Boston Heart Walk was very special to me. Not only was it the fifth time that I’ve organized and led the team, but it was also the year the Brigham and Faulkner team won the “Top Hospital Challenge” from the American Heart Association. I can’t begin to explain how exciting it was to stand on the Hatch Shell stage and be presented a trophy for our efforts. The team that raises the most money and has the most walkers during each year’s Heart Walk is crowned the “Top Hospital.” I also love meeting all the people who join our team each year. To be able to walk alongside patients who’ve undergone surgery and other procedures at the Brigham and elsewhere, lifts my heart with every step I make.

Merilyn Holmes
Senior Administrative Assistant, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine

Carlson with Shiprock members

Alissa Umana (far left), Sally Carlson (second from left), Loren Day Lewis (second from right) and Kyle Dale Walters (far right)

In November, I had the privilege of traveling with three of my team members to the Northern New Mexico Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, N.M., as part of the Brigham and Women’s Outreach Program with Indian Health Service. This is the second year that we have been able to travel with the Outreach Program to provide training in customer service and communications for clinical and administrative staff throughout the hospital. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to deliver our training to such an eager and enthusiastic audience—and to know that, in some small way, we are helping them improve the quality of care delivered to the Navajo population on the reservation.

This year, our trip happened to coincide with Native American Heritage Month, and as part of the celebration, Navajo dancers of all ages performed for staff and patients. Wearing intricately detailed costumes and accompanied by traditional music, the dancers offered moving performances of ceremonial dances to a crowd gathered in the hospital atrium. After the performance, we had the honor of being photographed with one of the dancers, who is also a supervisor at the hospital. It is a wonderful memento from the trip and a reminder of our friends in Shiprock.

Sally Carlson
Senior Manager, Training and Communications, BHIS

Winter Food Drive Concludes Dec. 20
The Center for Community Health and Health Equity is hosting a winter food drive to benefit the Parker Hill/ABCD Emergency Food Pantry in Mission Hill, now–Dec. 20. Beans, rice, cereal, pasta, soups, peanut butter, jelly and canned goods are most needed. Donations can be placed in the food drive bins outside the Garden Cafe on Tower 2. For questions, or to make a cash or check donation, call 617-264-8750 or email

OHS Episodic Care Clinic for Employees
Occupational Health Services (OHS) offers conveniently located care for upper respiratory infections, sore throats, conjunctivitis, urinary tract infections and back pain. Staff who have a Brigham primary care provider and receive medical insurance through Partners HealthCare can visit the clinic Monday–Friday, 7 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Employees will not be charged a co-pay for their visit; labs, radiology exams and prescription medications are billed to insurance. The clinic is hosted at OHS’ mid-campus clinic on the Lower Pike. To schedule an appointment, call 617-732-8501.

Professional Development Series
The Professional Development Series (PDS) is available to help Brigham staff and teams gain new skills through self-led resources and classroom learning. PDS has a spring and fall semester, with spring courses beginning in February and fall courses starting in September. Class offerings include: Behavioral Interviewing; Communication Skills; Delegation; Presentation Skills; Time Management; Running Effective Meetings; Role of the Manager and more. To learn more, visit

BEI Yoga: Winter Series
The Brigham Education Institute (BEI) will host its winter series of 60-minute vinyasa yoga classes in the BEI Knowledge Center (located in the Thorn building, first floor, room 127D). The class is designed for all levels of experience, from beginners to more advanced yogis. Attendees should wear appropriate workout attire and bring their own yoga mat. Upcoming classes will be held 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 9, and Wednesday, Jan. 16. View a full schedule and register. 

Julie Nimoy with her father, Leonard Nimoy

From left: Julie Nimoy with her father, Leonard Nimoy

When actor, director and artist Leonard Nimoy was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in 2013, the beloved Star Trek icon dedicated his time to raising awareness about this devastating, progressive lung disease until it took his life two years later. Through a documentary directed and produced by his daughter, Julie, and son-in-law, David Knight, Nimoy’s mission continues to live long and prosper.

In honor of COPD Awareness Month in November, the Brigham Health Lung Center partnered with Julie and David to screen the 2017 film, Remembering Leonard Nimoy: His Life, Legacy and Battle with COPD, on Nov. 29. The screening, held at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center at Harvard Medical School, was followed by a panel discussion and question-and-answer session with Brigham clinical and research experts specializing in pulmonary care and thoracic surgery.

Ranking as the fourth-leading cause of death in the U.S., COPD is a family of chronic lung diseases that permanently damage the airways and, over time, make it increasingly difficult to breathe. In patients for whom the disease is in the most advanced stages, everyday activities like walking across a room can become extremely taxing. COPD is most commonly caused by smoking but also appears in nonsmokers, suggesting environmental and genetic links.

While preventable and treatable, especially in the earlier stages, there is no cure for COPD.

The Need for Early Detection

Told through interviews with Nimoy and his family members, the hour-long documentary features stories from the actor’s childhood in Boston, early career in Hollywood and breakout role as Spock in Star Trek. It also provides a candid look at his experiences living with COPD, his passionate support for smoking cessation and the toll the disease took on his family.

One poignant message the film underscored was that COPD is believed to take root at a young age, but patients often mistake its early signs—when treatment would be most effective—as the normal effects of aging or an inconvenient consequence of smoking. The takeaway resonated with Brigham experts who participated in the panel discussion.

“This is a disease that is difficult to diagnose early, and yet it’s medically important to do so,” said Bruce Levy, MD, chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and co-director of The Lung Center. “It destroys the lung tissue, so the more that occurs as time goes on, the less responsive it is to medical therapies.”

Speakers highlighted the Brigham’s innovative research in the field and the comprehensive, multidisciplinary services offered through The Lung Center for patients with COPD—including medical therapies, such as pulmonary rehabilitation, and procedural interventions, such as lung transplant.

Internationally renowned COPD expert Bartolome Celli, MD, a physician-investigator in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, said it is imperative that COPD screening become part of routine preventive care. The test for it, known as spirometry, should be as common as mammograms and colonoscopies to maximize the likelihood of early detection and long-term survival, he noted.

“It is our duty to go out and preach that this disease is treatable and preventable,” Celli said.

‘This Is Always New’

Nimoy’s granddaughter, Morgan Pearson, who attended the event, recalled how eye-opening it was to see her grandfather’s rapid decline between his diagnosis and his death at age 83.

“Even to those of us who knew him very intimately, he was larger than life and didn’t seem destructible,” she said. “I can’t say that, as a family, we were really prepared for that.”

Hilary Goldberg, MD, clinical director of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, said the film reinforced the powerful role empathy plays in caring for COPD patients and their families.

“Initiating something like oxygen therapy or new medication seems fairly routine to us, but it is very, very life-altering to patients,” Goldberg said.

“The film really highlighted that it’s important to remember that this is always new to each patient that you see.”

Among the other Brigham panelists who participated in the discussion were Raphael Bueno, MD, chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery and co-director of The Lung Center; Dawn DeMeo, MD, MPH, a physician in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and a senior respiratory genetics researcher in the Channing Division of Network Medicine; Craig Hersh, MD, a physician-investigator in the Channing Division; and Scott Swanson, MD, director of Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery at the Brigham and associate chief of Surgery at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. Filmmaker Ron Frank also offered remarks.

Learn more about the documentary at

Ursel Hughes (center) poses with family members beside her portrait, featured in photo exhibit about the opioid crisis.

When Ursel Hughes took her first uncertain steps toward recovery nine years ago, she never imagined her story could one day inspire others. But as she recently reflected on her experiences overcoming substance use disorder, Hughes said she feels humbled and privileged to be where she is today.

One of several speakers featured at an event kicking off the Brigham’s celebration of National Recovery Month in September, Hughes underscored how important it was to be shown compassion and dignity in her greatest hour of need.

“What I give today is hope. I didn’t have any of that when I went into recovery,” she said. “I was grateful to find people who treated me like a human being.”

Held Sept. 5 on the Tower 2 mezzanine, the event brought together BWHers and Harvard Medical School (HMS) students to celebrate those in recovery and raise awareness about the services available across Brigham Health for those in need.

The event also marked the debut of “RESILIENT: Narratives of Hope from Boston’s Opioid Crisis,” a photojournalism exhibit by HMS students that features portraits of and quotes from health care professionals – including several BWHers – as well as advocates, educators, law enforcement officers, people in recovery and policymakers. The 35-foot installation will be on display in the second-floor corridor near the Amory (M) elevators until the end of October, at which point it will be moved to HMS.

Directed and curated by second-year HMS students Mimi Yen Li and Joyce Zhou, with guidance from fourth-year student Galina Gheihman, the exhibit aspires to empower, educate and engage viewers about advocacy, community and compassionate care in the context of the opioid epidemic.

“Stories of the opioid crisis are all around us,” Yen Li said. “Often these stories are bleak, but every now and then we catch a glimpse into what could be on the other side of addiction. RESILIENT is an effort to capture these narratives of hope.”

Hughes, whose photo is featured in the exhibit, is now a recovery coach with the Police-Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, a Gloucester-based nonprofit partnering with police departments nationwide to provide non-arrest pathways to treatment and recovery. She urged attendees to extend the same respect and compassion she was once shown to other people with substance use disorder.

“There are many paths to recovery, but if we don’t treat a person like a human being, they’re never going to find one,” she said. “I challenge you to support others, whether they are sick and suffering coming off the street or whether they are uneducated around the disease model of thinking about addiction.”

A Supportive Environment for Recovery

Attendees were also invited to join a statewide campaign, State Without StigMA, and pledge their commitment to reducing the stigma around addiction by being compassionate and thoughtful in how they think, talk about and treat people with substance use disorder.

Scott Weiner, MD, MPH, an emergency physician and director of the Brigham Comprehensive Opioid Response and Education (B-CORE) Program, said clinicians can play a significant role in reinforcing the fact that addiction is a chronic medical condition, not a choice or moral failing, by avoiding stigmatizing language in conversation with patients, families and colleagues. Stigma often prevents patients from seeking treatment and receiving high-quality care, he noted.

“The words we use matter,” Weiner said, citing examples such as identifying a patient as a person with substance use disorder, not an addict, or describing toxicology test results as positive or negative, rather than clean or dirty.

Additionally, the event highlighted some of the recent strides the Brigham has made in its response to the opioid crisis, including the launch of the Brigham Health Bridge to Recovery – also known as the Bridge Clinic – earlier this year. The clinic provides timely access to pharmacotherapy, counseling, case management and peer support until access to a long-term recovery program can be secured.

One of the biggest goals of the Bridge Clinic was to promote a “no-wrong-door” approach to care, said Joji Suzuki, MD, director of BWH’s Division of Addiction Psychiatry. That’s because, until recently, health care organizations around the country often turned away patients with substance use disorder, simply saying they did not treat the condition there, he explained.

“We would never allow that for any other fatal or severe illness, yet that’s been done for substance use disorders for a very long time,” Suzuki said. “I am so proud to be at the Brigham and Harvard because when a patient calls, we can confidently say, ‘You’ve come to the right place.’”

This is the second article in a weekly series in BWH Bulletin profiling runners participating in this year’s Boston Marathon with BWH’s Stepping Strong Marathon Team on Monday, April 16.

Juan Herrera-Escobar completes a marathon in Chicago in 2015.

As a medical student completing a rotation at a hospital in Cali, Colombia – once considered one of the most violent cities in the world – Juan Herrera-Escobar, MD, was deeply affected by the staggering number of patients with traumatic injuries he saw in the emergency department.

Upon graduation, he was dispatched to a hospital in Cali to complete one year of public service as a general practitioner – a federal requirement for medical graduates in Colombia. Serving patients brought in from areas rife with confrontations between guerilla fighters and military, Herrera-Escobar treated many victims of traumatic injuries caused by grenades, landmines and gun violence.

“One of the things that really moved me while I was completing my training was the realization of how young these patients were. I could be one of them. It drove home that trauma is killing young people,” said Herrera-Escobar. “That really touched me. I knew this was something we need to fix – and it can be fixed. I got really interested in seeing how we can prevent traumatic injuries and respond better when they do occur.”

Now a trauma researcher in the Center for Surgery and Public Health (CSPH), Herrera-Escobar is trying to make a difference in advancing trauma care on multiple fronts. In addition to his work at the Brigham, he is running in this year’s Boston Marathon with the BWH Stepping Strong Marathon Team. With a mission to turn tragedy into hope, funds raised by the team support trauma research and care.

“When I was in Colombia, I knew that research funding was very limited for all areas of disease and conditions. I never would have imagined how huge the gap was in the U.S. between trauma research and other areas, such as cancer or heart disease,” Herrera-Escobar said. “Trauma is killing a lot of people, and we need to do something. Stepping Strong is sending a powerful message about this, and I am so excited to support them.”

In his research at CSPH, Herrera-Escobar works with Adil Haider, MD, of the Division of Trauma, Burns and Surgical Critical Care, to study long-term effects on quality of life for those who have suffered traumatic injuries. After learning that no registry existed to sufficiently support research in this area – at least not with robust data about patients post discharge – the team launched the Functional Outcomes Recovery and Trauma Emergencies (FORTE) Project. In collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Medical Center, they are working to build a registry that could be used to better track long-term health concerns and identify interventions.

Looking ahead to the marathon, Herrera-Escobar said it will be special to participate on behalf of an organization to which he has so many personal and professional connections.

“These past few months have been an incredible experience. I’m so excited for the race, especially because it really ties into what I’m doing every day,” he said. “It’s been really meaningful.”

Visit Herrera-Escobar’s Boston Marathon fundraising page.

About Stepping Strong

The Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation was established by the Reny family to honor the BWH caregivers who saved their daughter Gillian’s life and legs in the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Five years after the tragedy, the center has raised more than $13 million to transform trauma research and care for civilians and members of the military who experience traumatic injuries and events. Funds raised by members of the 2018 Stepping Strong Marathon Team support the center’s work. To meet other members of the team or make a gift, click here. Learn more about the center at

Stephanie and Larry Harmon receive a red hat for baby Stella as part of the Little Hats, Big Hearts program.

When Labor and Delivery nurse Denise Giller, RN, asked her BWH colleagues to help knit and crochet hundreds of tiny red hats for babies born at the Brigham – in honor of American Heart Month in February – she wasn’t sure what to expect.

She set an ambitious goal of 450 hats, correlating to the approximate number of infants delivered at BWH each month. But soon enough, the collection box in the staff lounge on CWN 5 began to fill up. One NICU nurse dropped off 106 homemade hats. A nurse working the night shift texted Giller a photo of her and her colleague crocheting hats during their break. Giller also enlisted help from friends and family; many BWHers shared the message with their own loved ones, as well.

“I didn’t think we were going to have enough hats, but then they poured in,” said Giller, who ultimately collected 550 hats, which are being distributed to infants in the Connors Center for Women and Newborns throughout February. “I am so grateful for every single hat that was made and for the people who helped spread the word. This would not be possible without everyone’s help.”

The project is part of Little Hats, Big Hearts, a nationwide program sponsored by the American Heart Association (AHA) and The Children’s Heart Foundation to raise awareness about heart disease and congenital heart defects. Volunteers knit and crochet red hats for babies born in February; once cleaned, the hats are packaged by the AHA and delivered to participating hospitals for distribution to patients and families.

This was the first year BWH participated in the initiative, which Giller spearheaded after learning about it last fall and contacting the AHA to implement it at the Brigham. While the AHA typically receives hats from the general public, BWH was the first participating Massachusetts hospital whose contributions largely came from the institution’s staff.

Stephanie and Larry Harmon, who recently celebrated the birth of their second daughter, Stella, were the first family to receive one of the signature red hats. The Stoughton couple said they were deeply touched by the thoughtfulness of BWH staff.

From left: Matthew Carrow and Anna Ballard with their son, Leland, and Denise Giller. Baby Leland was the second infant to receive a red hat.

“To hear that Brigham employees themselves knit these 550 hats blew my mind,” Stephanie said. “They work around the clock here to provide incredible care, and then to know they carved out time at home to make these hats really made it clear to us how much they care for patients and families.”

That warmth and commitment to patients are what make the Brigham stand out, she added.

“We wanted to deliver at the Brigham because we knew it was going to be best care all around,” Stephanie said. “Everyone here truly cares about you and your baby. You don’t necessarily get that experience everywhere. At the Brigham, I knew we would.”

Giller agreed, adding that she was proud to work with so many dedicated professionals.

“What we accomplished speaks volumes to the dedication of our staff, who care about our patients far beyond their shifts,” Giller said. “As a Labor and Delivery nurse, I love being part of patients’ lives during the miracle of birth. When you get to deliver something else – in this case, a warm hat and additional patient education – it makes what we do even more rewarding.”


From left: Isaac Baker, Valerie Dobiesz, Michael VanRooyen, Katie Farineau, Tim Erickson and Sam Plasmati

The Big 6, a Harvard-based cover band formed by emergency physicians from the Brigham and staff from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI), will hold a benefit concert on Sunday, Nov. 12, in Cambridge to raise funds for communities affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

“We wanted to get help directly to the field,” said bass guitarist Valerie Dobiesz, MD, MPH, of the Department of Emergency Medicine. “We know monetary donations are the most effective way to make a difference at the local level, and a benefit concert seemed like a fun way to get people together in support of an important cause.”

All proceeds from the event, hosted at Club Oberon, go directly to organizations providing humanitarian relief for affected areas, said singer and guitarist Michael VanRooyen, MD, MPH, chair of Emergency Medicine and founding director of HHI. The band will cover all expenses related to the performance and will match funds raised by ticket sales. In addition, a group of anonymous donors will provide matching funds.

The concert will feature covers of classic and contemporary rock music.

Band members all regularly participate in domestic and international humanitarian efforts. They recently learned from organizations they often work with that donations toward relief efforts had dropped off as this year’s devastating hurricane season went on.

“Contributions came in quickly for Texas with Harvey, then less funding came in for Irma for Florida. By the time Maria hit Puerto Rico, there was much less support because of donor fatigue,” VanRooyen said.

Playing an active role in providing relief efforts all around the world is part of the Brigham’s culture, VanRooyen said. A benefit concert offers a great opportunity to encourage more people to contribute to relief efforts, he added.

“People who are affected by crises like these are their own best resource,” VanRooyen said. “They do the hard work. All we’re doing is lending a helping hand.”

Since forming last fall, The Big 6 has played mostly in smaller, private settings. Although this performance marks the band’s first concert in a larger venue, its members are excited to take the leap.

“There’s no pressure at all. We take it seriously because we try to do well, but we just have a hilarious amount of fun together, and I think that translates every time we perform,” VanRooyen said. “If we can get a bunch of our friends and colleagues together and have fun for a good cause, then that is worth the price of admission.”

Rhythm guitarist and vocalist Tim Erickson, MD, chief of Emergency Medicine’s Division of Medical Toxicology, agreed that The Big Six – including its three other members from HHI, Sam Plasmati, Isaac Baker and Katie Farineau – is excited for the big night.

“We love playing together, but it’s important for us that it’s for a cause and has an impact,” Erickson said. “We feel really blessed to have an opportunity to help.”

The Big Six Hurricane Relief Concert is Sunday, Nov. 12, 7 p.m., at Club Oberon, 2 Arrow St., Cambridge. To purchase tickets, click here or call 617-495-2668.

Julie Tracy at the Race Across America Ohio Challenge

After pedaling for nearly 12 hours straight, Julie Tracy, an exercise physiologist in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, was elated to see her fiancé and her parents cheering for her at the finish line of a 200-mile charity cycling race in Ohio earlier this month.

Hopping off her bicycle, the longtime endurance athlete was greeted with more good news: Judges for the Race Across America Ohio Cycling Challenge informed Tracy, one of 11 cyclists this year and the only woman, that she had won second place. With a finishing time of 11 hours and 55 minutes, she had also beat the women’s record by 11 minutes.

But more than the personal accomplishments and athletic accolades, the most joyous part of the experience was racing with Team PHenomenal Hope in support of those affected by pulmonary hypertension, Tracy said. The funds she raised will go toward patient programming and research into improved treatments or a cure for pulmonary hypertension.

Pulmonary hypertension causes high blood pressure in the lungs, making the heart work harder to pump blood through the lungs and eventually the whole body. The condition has no cure and its cause is unknown. More serious cases can lead to severe health problems, including heart failure.

In her role at the Brigham, Tracy has worked closely with pulmonary hypertension patients in recent years, performing cardiopulmonary testing with the BWH Pulmonary Vascular Disease Program. Last year, she joined colleagues and several patients participating in the inaugural Boston O2 breathe Walk, a one-mile event sponsored by the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. After seeing the perseverance and optimism patients at the walk showed that day, Tracy felt compelled to do more.

“Everyday life is a lot more difficult for them, but they all finished the race and had a blast doing it,” Tracy said. “It reminded me how lucky I am and inspired me to use my racing in a positive way for our patients.”

While this was not Tracy’s first endurance event, it was by far her longest. Several years ago, she competed in an Ironman Triathlon – consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile marathon. Prior to that, she competed in 100-mile rides and even one 120-mile race.

Despite the significant stamina demands for her latest ride, Tracy said her months of training paid off, as the race went smoothly. The biggest glitch that day was technical; the battery in her GPS died 15 miles from the finish line, requiring her to use her smartphone to complete the course.

Through Team PHenomenal Hope’s “Let Me Be Your Lungs” program, Tracy was also matched with a volunteer patient. Athletes race in honor of their match, and patients rally to support their athlete by providing encouragement or helping them with fundraising, according to the team’s website. Together, the duo work to raise awareness of the illness and the need for improved treatments and a cure.

Tracy was matched with a young patient living with pulmonary hypertension who had received care at BWH.

“Getting to know her was fun, and she was incredibly supportive and very thankful,” Tracy said. “Finishing this race meant a lot to both of us.”

From left: Anne Fitzgerald, Dawn Kalil, Chantale Scutt and Diane Miller

Four Brigham nurses answered a call for help from a Texas hospital in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, a deployment organized by the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA) on Sept. 6.

Anne Fitzgerald, BSN, RN, and Dawn Kalil, BSN, RN, both clinical nurses on Tower 12A; Diane Miller, MPA/H, BSN, RN, nurse-in-charge on Tower 11C; and Chantale Scutt, MSN, RN, clinical nurse on Tower 11C, were among the 27 Massachusetts nurses and one cath lab technician who departed from Hanscom Field airport in Bedford to assist Bay Area Regional Medical Center (BARMC) in Webster, Texas, located just outside of Houston.

BARMC reached out to the MHA to seek support as the facility and its staff recover from the hurricane. Many staff members have lost their homes to the floodwaters, and they have been fighting exhaustion to stay on the job and deal with a spike in emergency department visits.

A nurse at the Brigham for 30 years, Miller said she’s grateful she could support local nurses and thanked her nursing director, Margaret Higgins, MSN, RN, of Tower 11C and 12A, for encouraging her to pursue this volunteer opportunity.

“I went into nursing because I wanted to help people,” Miller said. “Being able to help others who are in need really gets to the heart of nursing.”

In addition to caring for BARMC patients, Miller volunteered to support relief efforts in the community.

Kalil is assisting BARMC’s labor and delivery unit, which plans to open a new birthing center next week. She was happy to help her nursing colleagues, some of whom have worked more than 75 hours a week since Harvey made landfall.

“We are here to do everything we can to help,” Kalil said. “We know they’d do the same for us if we were in a similar situation.”


Brigham Nurse Collects Donations for Hurricane Harvey Survivors

Mary Hardiman, BSN, RN, says her heart felt full each morning when she saw what was waiting for her at home in Foxborough after working the night shift at BWH. There was a stack of donations in her driveway, ready to be delivered to those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

Knowing she wasn’t in the position to travel and help in person, Hardiman, a mother of four and a nurse in the ICU Float Pool, said she wanted to do something else to contribute to hurricane relief efforts. She solicited donations from family and friends via Facebook. Within minutes, people responded saying they also wanted to donate.

“It was amazing,” Hardiman said. “I’m so thankful to everyone in our community who contributed.”

After receiving donations such as clothing, nonperishable food items, toiletries and pet food, Hardiman made two drop-offs at the Boston Centers for Youth & Families’ Roche Family Community Center in West Roxbury, where trucks were loaded with supplies.

Hardiman was happy she could turn the collection into a teaching experience for her children, who range in age from 4 to 16, about the power of community service and the importance of helping others.

“They each had their own little part in helping make this drive a success,” she said.

Hardiman says she always tries to give back when she can because she remembers how many people helped her family when their resources were stretched thin. At that time, she was a mother to young children, attending nursing school and married to her high school sweetheart, who was in the Air Force.

“I remember what it was like to receive things you need and want when you have nothing,” she said. “I’m glad my family and I could play a small part in helping others who are in need.”