Friday, February 26, 2021

A Conversation with an Outstanding Baltimore Couple

Every year, GBMC celebrates Black History Month. Over the past few years, the need to truly celebrate the achievements of Black Americans and commit to work for social justice has become more important than ever. We have seen far too many episodes of racial injustice across our nation. I think getting to know each other is the best way to begin to bring people together. Every February, we take time to learn about African American history, culture, and the outstanding achievements of Black Americans that often go unrecognized. 

On Thursday, I had the privilege of serving as the host for a virtual celebration with UMBC President Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, and Mrs. Jacqueline C. Hrabowski. Dr. Hrabowski became the president of UMBC in 1992 and was named by President Barack Obama to chair the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Dr. Hrabowski has also been named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME and one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report. Mrs. Hrabowski is the former Vice President of Corporate Community Involvement at T. Rowe Price, and is a passionate community volunteer and advocate in her own right. 

I truly enjoyed my time interviewing the Hrabowskis. As I said to them during the interview, they are so accomplished as individuals and I was very impressed with their dedication to helping others. Their joy “jumped” through the screen. It was an exceptional chance to discuss their personal stories along with our theme for Black History Month, that we carried over from our Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration this year: “Getting into Good Trouble-Restoring and Uniting Humanity” based on the mantra of the late congressman John Lewis. It was also an opportunity to discuss the accomplishments of African Americans in our nation and locally. You can watch the video here.

Our Black History Month celebration honors the marvelous accomplishments of the many great African Americans whose work impacts our daily lives. It was my honor and pleasure to host this event and I want to express my appreciation to Dr. and Mrs. Hrabowski for joining us. I am grateful to my colleagues on the Diversity and Inclusion Council and our Black History Month Committee for putting together an outstanding celebration and helping bring us together. I want to also thank The Baltimore City College Choir for their wonderful performance. Thank you!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Keeping Our Hospital Cool

In my blog I usually write about healthcare. This seems reasonable since we are a healthcare organization, but there are things that we take for granted like having heated buildings in the winter and cooled buildings in the summer. Recently, I spent some time with Jim Keyzer, CHFM, our Director of Facilities. Jim was showing me two of our chillers that needed to be replaced. These devices are huge! It is a true feat of modern engineering to be able to dismantle the old chillers and replace them with new ones within an existing building. See Jim’s answers to my questions below.

How old are the two chillers we are replacing and why are we replacing them?
Steam absorption chillers have a life expectancy of 20 years and due to our great boiler engineers, we have kept them running for 26 years. We are replacing them for two reasons: 1) because they are well beyond their useful life and 2) we need many more tons of cooling for the Promise Project.

When is the replacement taking place and how long will installation of the new ones take?
We started the project beginning in December 2020 because it must take place during the heating season. It could never be accomplished during the summer months. We expect the new electric chillers to be operational by late April 2021.

What is being required for the replacement to take place?
Hundreds of hours of planning and design, most of which must be done during the winter months.

What is its main function of the two steam absorption chillers for the hospital and what is the difference between the new and old ones?
The two old absorption chillers run on steam to make chilled water, which is the most inefficient way to do it. In fact, we use more steam in the summer for cooling than in the winter for heating. The two replacement electric chillers have state-of-the-art design and technology, and as a result, we anticipate millions of dollars in energy savings in the upcoming years.

Why did we install such energy inefficient steam absorption chillers in the past?
In the past, we did not have enough power to run electric chillers, and we did not have emergency generators with enough capacity to run the electric chillers in the event of a power failure. Through purchasing two of the most energy efficient chillers and implementing numerous energy saving initiatives, we now have enough electrical power to run them. GBMC also upgraded the emergency generator capacity with a new electrical generator plant, which now enables us to run the new chillers on the emergency generators when needed.

I am so grateful to Jim and his team for all that they accomplish while the work of healthcare continues unabated! When you see our boiler engineers and the rest of our facilities staff, please thank them!

Friday, February 12, 2021

Another Physician Titan Steps Down From a Leadership Role

It is time to celebrate the work of yet another physician leader at GBMC.

After more than 14 years at the helm, Francis C. Grumbine, MD, has stepped down as Chair of Gynecology. I am very happy to report that he will continue his clinical practice at GBMC. Dr. Grumbine came to GBMC in the fall of 1982 and became Chair of Gynecology in 2006. He is known as a superb and compassionate physician and researcher. Under his tenure, our gynecology department has grown significantly, in large part because of his outstanding clinical skills and reputation in the Mid-Atlantic region. He has served on countless committees and worked tirelessly to assure outstanding clinical outcomes in his department. 

Joan L. Blomquist, MD, has been elected by the medical staff as our new Chair of Gynecology. Joan was previously our Chief of the Division of Urogynecology. Dr. Blomquist has been on the GBMC medical staff since 1996 and has been the leader of the urogynecology division since 2012. I am delighted that Dr. Blomquist, who is board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and is a locally recognized expert in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, is our new Chair. She is an outstanding clinician who is known for her dedication, tremendous skill, and compassion for patients. She has also done an excellent job as the Medical Director of the Women’s and Outpatient Surgery Center. Dr. Blomquist will build on the work of Dr. Grumbine as she implements her vision for Department of Gynecology at GBMC. Please join me in congratulating Dr. Blomquist as she takes on her new role.

Art of Nursing Nominations…
Nursing is often referred to as the art of science, knowledge, and caring. At GBMC HealthCare, we celebrate the Art of Nursing and each of its components through our Nursing Recognition Program.

The work of nurses in the battle against COVID-19 has been extraordinary. The pandemic shined a spotlight on their selfless efforts and I want to sincerely thank the many talented nurses throughout the GBMC HealthCare System for their tireless dedication to serving others. Their expertise, hard work, and caring drives us closer to our vision every day. Our nurses make a huge difference!

Nursing staff throughout the GBMC HealthCare system, whether serving in the hospital, in our ambulatory practices, or with Gilchrist, are encouraged to apply or nominate a colleague by visiting here. Non-nursing staff members are also encouraged to submit nominations to recognize a nursing colleague. Last year we honored and celebrated our nurses with a virtual ceremony, in 2021 we are planning a socially distanced in-person gathering. Stay tuned for more information on this year's special event

Please submit your nominations as soon as possible! The deadline for submissions is Friday, March 5. Let’s show our nurses, who work so hard every day to make sure others receive the care they need, our gratitude. Thank you! 

Friday, February 5, 2021

Passing the Baton in Radiology

Over the past two months, the Senior Team and I have been preoccupied with our dual challenges of recovering from the cyber-attack and providing care throughout the pandemic. This should not excuse me from recognizing people for their incredible service to GBMC and our patients. Recently, my good friend and colleague, Alexander Munitz, MD, stepped down as our Chairman of Radiology after serving for 29 years. I am very happy to report that he will continue to serve our patients as a radiologist, while enjoying a lightened schedule.

Dr. Munitz came to GBMC in 1986 and assumed the role of Chairman in 1992. During that time, he oversaw tremendous growth in imaging studies in our health system. I have often reflected that the quality of radiology at GBMC is outstanding, in large part due to the expertise of Dr. Munitz and his colleagues, but also because of his stewardship of the department. I will miss him at Leadership meetings, but I am delighted that we will still have the benefit of his work in serving our patients. 

Please join me in thanking Dr. Munitz for his years of service in leadership, and in welcoming Dr. John Werner as our new Chairman of Radiology!  

Evidence of Progress in Fighting the Pandemic
Over the past three weeks, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has steadily decreased. While this is a good sign, as the number of people hospitalized is still our best predictor of infection rate, it leaves us with a number of questions: Why are hospitalizations declining? What has changed? Is it because we are having fewer gatherings? Is this an early sign of the effectiveness of vaccination? No one is quite sure what these answers are. Regardless, I want to thank everyone for maintaining social distancing, wearing your masks, washing your hands, and getting immunized when there is an appointment available for you.   

Thank you!
Earlier this week, our grounds crew was out in full force. The team did its usual fantastic job removing snow and ice to make our campus safe. Our facilities team made sure that everything remained in working order during the inclement weather, and our environmental service and food service teams were extraordinary in their ability to keep GBMC clean and fed. 

I want to thank everyone for their commitment and effort to get the job done for our patients and our community. 

Friday, January 29, 2021

Welcoming New Colleagues

I have been addressing new employees at orientation for many years. I believe that it is very important for me to present our vision as an organization to get people started well. In doing this, I am essentially taking them through the beginning steps of our Leadership System.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, meeting with new employees at orientation has been difficult. For a few months we presented a previously recorded version of my session. Then we moved to a virtual session. In December, after the cyberattack we were not able to meet even virtually. So, I was very happy on Monday of this week to return to the virtual interaction. 

I began by telling our new people about who we are as a company and presented our three work systems. I then spoke about our mission and values before getting into the history of our vision, our vision phrase, and our four aims. 

I try to engage the participants in conversation to begin their enrollment process. During this week’s orientation I spent a few moments speaking with Amy Martin, a registered nurse, who will be working in our Pediatric ED/Inpatient Unit. I was excited to hear that Amy was returning to GBMC. She had worked here for 17 years, starting in 2003 as an Administrative Assistant. Amy then moved to a role in patient access. She eventually attended nursing school and achieved her RN in 2018 and started her career in pediatric nursing. Amy left GBMC last December, but told me that she decided to return “because I missed my home away from home, which includes Pediatrics and GBMC itself.” Amy continued: “I missed the support and encouragement I received from my coworkers that was tremendous all throughout my nursing journey. I am excited to be back. I am looking forward to seeing so many people, and to work in Pediatrics again. I am also looking forward to all the new, exciting projects in the works for GBMC like the planned addition.”

Amy’s story made me start to think, “what is it about GBMC that allows us to retain members of our workforce, especially nurses, and inspire some who have left to come back?”

There are many reasons like our size and our focus as an independent community health system that enables us to foster a “high-relationship” workforce. We focus on developing a relationship with each employee and do this through our ongoing listening posts to hear “the voice of the employee.” We conduct our 45-day post hire interviews, have our Employee Relations Council and our Diversity & Inclusion Council, and we hold “Lunch with the CEO” monthly. We’ve expanded our daily LDM and LMS rounding, to include weekends. 

For nurses in particular, we create an environment of fellowship and “belonging” through our Art of Nursing celebration. Our career ladder in nursing gives individuals an opportunity for personal growth.

I was excited to welcome all our new employees and to welcome Amy back. I was reminded that our people are what make GBMC great and that we must always be working to create even more joy in our workforce by making GBMC a better place to work. 

Roll ‘em up for Round Two!
This past Monday, 28 days since vaccine doses first were given within our health system, our employees returned to get their second dose. Receiving that second dose is critical to get a strong immune response against COVID-19.

We distributed the second-round, of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, to healthcare workers, which included doctors, nurses, clinicians and all other support personnel, who have already received the initial vaccine dosage. I was really encouraged to see our healthcare workers getting their second dose, because it helps bring us closer to returning to normal.

We’ve been moving as quickly as possible to vaccinate our workforce, our patients, and the community. We are following the State’s rollout plan. Maryland has now authorized many new sites for vaccine distribution and the bottleneck is now the number of doses available. 

I am immensely proud of the work our team has done under the direction of Harold Tucker, MD, our Chief Medical Officer, Yuliya Klopouh, our Director of Pharmacy, Sophia Powell, our Director of Employee Health, and Eve Bowmaster, GBMC HealthPartners Director of Quality and Patient Safety, to get people vaccinated to help put an end to this pandemic.

With that said, I want to emphasize to the public that it is still very important to follow the preventive measures that have been stressed to help stop the spread of the virus. Everyone, including those who receive the vaccine, should continue to properly wear a mask, avoid group gatherings, maintain physical distancing, and practice proper handwashing. Thank you!

Friday, January 22, 2021

Ushering in the Promise of a New Year With ‘The Promise Project’

When GBMC opened in 1965, our medical center was marveled at by the community – private patient rooms were unheard of at the time. Yet, 55 years later, these same patient rooms have lost their wow-factor. Out of a growing need for more spacious rooms on our medical units that could accommodate team-based care, advanced technology, and visits from loved ones, we began planning for a hospital addition, and the Promise Project was begun. 

The Promise Project will allow GBMC’s physical structure to meet the same exceptional standards as our people and our systems. Achieving the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award shows that we are excellent at redesigning care. And, despite the challenges of 2020, mired in a global pandemic and a cyber- attack, GBMC remains firmly focused on building a healthcare system that meets the needs of our community now, and in the future. 

With this massive endeavor, we’re continuing the promise that our founders made 55 years ago – to always put the patient first and to move us closer to our vision of treating every patient, every time, the way we want our own loved ones treated.

Making A Grand Entrance
The new, three-level addition will add 60 new patient rooms that are designed for collaboration while providing a quiet space for medical patients, who are frequently elderly and have complex illnesses, to rest and heal. Patient rooms will include ample space for medical equipment and advanced technology, room for medical teams to gather and deliver care, and space for loved ones to visit comfortably. 

The rooms won’t just be larger, they are also designed with the lessons we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, incorporating the ability for greater isolation capacity for patients with infectious diseases. If we learned anything from the past year, it’s that technology – and our ability to care and connect with patients and loved ones virtually – plays a vital role in healthcare delivery. The Promise Project will take telemedicine to the next level with built-in screens at the bedside to extend capabilities to include virtual visits with loved ones. 

While construction on the Promise Project begins in the summer of 2021, our teams are already making the moves that are necessary to get ready for this new addition to our medical center. We’re working diligently to safely move existing units in the hospital to accommodate the massive construction phase. The grand opening of the new addition is planned for the summer of 2023! 

When all is said and done, we’ll not only gain 60 new medical rooms and a new parking structure, but also a grand main entrance that complements the natural beauty of GBMC’s campus and welcomes our patients, families, visitors, and staff to our world-class medical center. 

The Promise Project is an amazing feat, building upon the already exceptional care our teams provide each and every day. It will provide room to continue growing so that we can meet the needs of our community far into the future. I welcome you to take an in-depth look at the promise of the future at GBMC by visiting See for yourself how we’re redesigning care for generations to come. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccination: It should be easy, right?

In last week’s blog, I mentioned that Governor Hogan was concerned that hospitals and local health departments were not vaccinating fast enough. He cited issues ranging from the federal government not sending as many doses as initially predicted, to the lack of logistical and financial help for local health departments.

I am proud of our team for how quickly they setup a system for vaccine delivery and for how well it has been operating. As of today, all GBMC HealthCare System employees and all our medical staff members have had the opportunity to get the first dose of vaccine if they have wanted it. Yesterday, we began immunizing the other large component of our workforce, our volunteers, to include our Board Members. 

The State has correctly wanted to get hospital staffs and first responders vaccinated first. This has now essentially been completed. At this point, however, there has been a hesitancy from the State to allow us to use remaining doses to vaccinate others. The federal government has suggested that we begin immunizing everyone over 65, but the State has not authorized us to do that at this time. As of last night, it appears that the State is now moving towards a plan to begin immunizing everyone over age 75.

I believe that the best path forward is not to come up with the perfect sequencing of vaccine administration. At this point, we should pivot to immunizing as many people as we can, as fast as we can. The bottleneck should be vaccine production and not distribution.

We are all concerned about the rising number of cases and the increasing number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, so it is important to move quickly on the best strategy to end the pandemic – immunization.

If any of you are interested in getting more information about the pandemic and our work to end it, I hope you join me for a special COVID-19 WebEx on Thursday, January 28, at 11 a.m. I will provide an update on the situation at GBMC, throughout Maryland, and the country, and plan to discuss and answer your questions on the vaccine. Please register and submit your questions ahead of time at this link