Friday, September 16, 2011

Remembering 9-11 And Its Impact On Healthcare

During this past week, many of our community members have, in their own way, recognized and remembered the tenth anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001.  What happened that day forever changed American history and had dramatic implications for our healthcare system as well.

Most everyone remembers where they were on that day.  I was chief medical officer at Boston Medical Center and got a call from our chief of trauma surgery, a former military surgeon, who said, “What are we going to do?”  Not knowing what had happened, I responded, “What are you talking about?” and he informed me that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center.  We immediately shut down our operating schedule and got ready for the potential of treating casualties.  My associate chief medical officer was a Colonel in the United States Army Medical Reserve and was deployed within minutes after the attack.  Within 18 hours he was in a medical tent blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood.  Both of those great surgeons with extensive training stood ready but, as we know now, sadly there were very few patients in need of medical treatment.

Although it was before my time at GBMC, I understand that our hospital, as well as dozens of others along the East Coast, also began preparing to treat the injured. Staff scrambled to get ready “just in case,” but we were never called upon to care for any patients.

However, as a result of what happened that fateful day, the federal government implemented several major changes to healthcare, specifically in the area of emergency management and crisis preparedness.  It is because of this that GBMC has a state-of-the-art Hospital Command Center, is home to a regional Alternative Care Site, and has a cache of supplies ready for use in an emergency.  Most recently, our emergency preparedness efforts were tested by Hurricane Irene, and while we did quite well, we encountered some  challenges and we have some changes to make.
"Our Team Comes Together When Hurricane Irene Strikes"

Like most Americans I was saddened by all of the people who lost loved ones and all of the phenomenal stories of those who gave of themselves for others in the days and months after 9/11 and who continue to do so.

One story I’ll never forget is that of Dr. Peter Moyer, who was medical director for Boston’s public safety agencies (police, fire, and EMS) and was chief of emergency medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.  Trained in casualty bereavement, Peter self-deployed to Logan Airport, where many family members of people on board American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 went for information.  Within two hours of working to console others, Peter learned that his stepson, a New York City Fire Department (FDNY) firefighter on Engine 5, died when the second tower collapsed.

This was then, and remains today, a cause for reflection.  How do you make spiritual sense of when someone doing something so selfless and valiant suffers such a significant tragedy in their own world?  Remember we are healthcare providers and things don’t always go well in healthcare.

The Wall of Hope and Remembrance at Saint Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan.
Another sad impact of 9-11 was an event that went down almost unnoticed outside of New York City. Saint Vincent’s Hospital was the hospital nearest to Ground Zero, where hundreds of medical personnel stood by ready to receive the injured.  Sadly, the hospital treated only 360 victims, as many more lay dead just two miles away.   The hospital was noted for its “Wall of Hope and Remembrance”, on which hundreds of fliers hung highlighting “missing” victims of the WTC attacks.

Aside from the forever-changed footprint of the World Trade Center complex, a significantly visible change for the community is that St. Vincent’s, which served the Greenwich Village neighborhood for 160 years and treated cholera victims and survivors of the Titanic disaster, is no more, having closed in April 2010.  St. Vincent’s staff stood tall during the 9/11 response and now they don’t even exist anymore. Why? Because they were unable to adapt to meet the needs of the community in an ever-changing healthcare world.

So what does this have to do with us at GBMC? Change and redesign are underway in lower Manhattan – both at the site of the former St. Vincent’s complex, where a new medical facility is planned, and at the former World Trade Center complex, where last weekend Americans saw the progress being made on Freedom Tower and the memorials at Ground Zero. Readers of this blog know that I’m a staunch advocate for redesigning systems as the only way to change what ails the American healthcare system.

Would you like to share your experience from September 11th, or how changes in the world, particularly in healthcare, have impacted you? If so, please comment below. 

On a much happier note, I was excited to be a guest at the recent Notre Dame of Maryland University celebration.  Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame as Notre Dame of Maryland Collegiate Institute in 1873, more than two decades later in 1895 they were re-established as the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, and have continued as a thriving undergraduate and graduate campus just a few miles away from GBMC on North Charles Street in Baltimore City. This year they changed their name to the Notre Dame of Maryland University to better represent the fullness and richness of what they do.  Congratulations to everyone affiliated with Notre Dame of Maryland University, including GBMC HealthCare board member P.J. Mitchell, a Notre Dame alumna who chairs their board of trustees, and Dr. Mary Patricia Seurkamp, Ph.D, who has served as president of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland since 1997 and is the first layperson to lead the school.

A hallmark of a Notre Dame of Maryland education is service, whether students are first-year undergraduate or Ph.D. candidates, which should be commended.  Two years ago, their School of Pharmacy welcomed its first class of students, and we look forward to these graduates joining us in the healthcare profession.  Hopefully there are opportunities in the future for our two campuses to collaborate on projects of benefit to the greater community.

Finally, we’ve had good turnout for the Town Hall meetings held so far, with many excellent questions being asked by staff.

I encourage all GBMC employees who haven’t yet joined us to attend one of our Town Hall meetings, which are an opportunity for direct communication between employees and senior management. If you would like to submit a question about the hospital/organization prior to the meeting, please submit it via GroupWise to Ann Brecht-Castle or drop your written question off to the reception area in Human Resources.  These meetings provide an opportunity to ask questions, raise issues, share information and clarify key objectives. Raffles will be conducted at each meeting, and lucky employees can win gift certificates! The value of these meetings is directly related to participation by staff members so we look forward to seeing everyone there.

Remaining Town Hall meetings:
DATE                             TIME                                          LOCATION

September 22       9:00 a.m.                                      Owings Mills
October 7               7:00 a.m.                                      Back of Dining Room
October 14       8:30 a.m.                                      Gilchrist - Hunt Valley

For more information about the Town Hall meetings, check here on the InfoWeb: Town Hall Meetings - Infoweb


  1. My Brother and I were both on vacation that day and for the two following weeks. As employees of the Baltimore City Fire department, (my Brother on an Engine company and I with a Search and Rescue unit. I recieved a call from him telling me to turn on my TV, which I did post hast. After watching for less than five minutes, we decided to grab our gear and head north.
    Upon arrival, things were a bit catty whompus to say the least, buildings were still falling and people were still running scared.
    We parked at what was left of ladder 10 and caught a short ride with other FDNY Brothers who were coming in off duty to try and find our Brothers and Sisters that were un-accounted for.
    We spent the next few days doing what we did best,and yet sadly came up empty handed as far as finding any signs of life goes. What we did find, no one wants to read about here.
    No one understands the term "Team work" better than those of us who were there during that long tireing few days of gut wrenching sadness. When I see people here complain about how hard they have it, I want to turn and tell them a little story about two brothers who were fortunate enough to see first hand what hard is,and the blessing that it is just to awake each day and count your blessings.
    I had hoped that we had all learned alot from that fateful moment in our history and yet sadly, it seems that we have a long ways to go.

  2. My brother-in-Law was and is still FDNY at Engine 54 (the one you all saw on the news and President Obama visited a few months back).

    When 9/11 happened I was at work. When I heard a plane had hit one of the Towers I figured some idiot in a private plane had done something stupid (back then a private plane could get really close to the NY buildings... it was a violation but they did it anyway). I waited to hear about the poor pilot, his/her passengers and hoped people in the building were okay. I wasn't worried. The Towers were made to take a hit from a small plane.

    Then I heard it was an a fully loaded airliner. Then I heard a second plane went into the second tower. I called my mother to find out if Rob was on shift. She didn't know and couldn't get a hold of my sister. My mother grew up in Manhattan, in Hell's Kitchen during the 1930s. She lived through the experience of Pearl Harbor and WWII. She couldn't seem to grasp it all.

    Three days later Rob's father (who had been Chief of Rescue One but was retired) got word that Rob was safe and on site but nothing more. The next day my sister heard from him.

    But I knew a father and son (Joseph Angelini Sr was a Battalion Chief about to retire, was the oldest firefighter on site; Joseph Angelini Jr was part of Latter 4 where Rob worked). They both died that day as did so many others.

    When everyone was going out... they were going in...

    About St. Vincents. I was very sad when I heard it had closed. When my mother was a child they took care over everyone with quality care regardless of ability to pay. When my grandmother had the Spanish Flu, she was there.

    My cousin was born there in 1957, very premature. There was no neo-natal unit then. Just people and an incubator which at the time in most hospitals was filled with pure Oxygen when a baby such as my cousin came to be. This usually resulted in some kind of blindness for the child.

    But St. Vincents was one of the first hospitals to use mixed air. She survived because doctors and nurses took shifts for days, pressing her tiny chest to keep her breathing. And she survived with her eyesight intact. About twenty-five or so years later she worked at St. Vincents as a Pediatric RN as they began to deal with a new disease that was much misunderstood but aflicting newborns and children. AIDS. She is retired now with her husband and son.

    As for the Towers, I personally remember my mother taking me into the city. I was 13 years old. I loved going in by train, especially the long tunnel at the end just before Penn Station. We walked blocks and blocks. There were crowds of people all over. We couldn't get any closer than a city block or so because of some police and barriers and press and all of that. I had asked if I could go and my mother said she'd take me and we'd have lunch there.

    I remember really seeing the Towers for the first time all gleaming and tall and the dedication for their opening that day...

    I plan to see if I can be there when the new tower opens...

  3. So good topic really i like any post talking about Health Articles but i want to say thing to u Health not that only ... you can see in Health ideas The psychological or cognitive response to stress and more , you shall search in Google and Wikipedia about that .... Atciles4Health.Info thanks a gain ,,,


Thank you for taking time to read "A Healthy Dialogue" and for commenting on the blog. Comments are an important part of the public dialogue and help facilitate conversation. All comments are reviewed before posting to ensure posts are not off-topic, do not violate patient confidentiality, and are civil. Differing opinions are welcome as long as the tone is respectful.