Thursday, December 31, 2020

A Wild Year Comes to a Close

What can I say about 2020 that hasn’t already been said? The GBMC family will look back on it as a year of extremes. At the end of November, I thought that I would remember the pandemic as the most stunning challenge of my career….and then the cyberattack happened!

But how could I say that I will be happy to see 2020 fade into the past when it was also the year that we achieved the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award?

 All my GBMC colleagues have been phenomenal in this year! Our clinicians stood up to the pandemic day after day and our support staff did everything they could to make it easier to get the job done despite the coronavirus. And, as if that were not enough, when criminals brought down all our computer systems, we pivoted hundreds of processes in order to treat every patient the way we would want our own loved ones to be treated. Our IT professionals then began the monumental task of rebuilding all those systems. 

I will always remember the tenacity, dedication, and tireless work of our staff members who helped us get through two huge challenges simultaneously.

As the year is coming to an end, the number of people hospitalized in Maryland with COVID-19 has again plateaued, and we have begun vaccinating healthcare workers – there is light at the end of the tunnel in the battle against the pandemic. We have also begun to bring our systems back online. We are hopeful that the end of the computer downtime is also in sight. 

I would like to remind everyone that, in addition to the achievement of the Baldrige award, there were many other good things that happened within our system in 2020. Some of these were:

Our Marketing and Communications team positioned GBMC as the “trusted healthcare communicator.” In addition to being prominently featured on television, radio, and social media to educate the community about the pandemic. As an example of this, I had the honor of serving as the host for a virtual question and answer session with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. This was a unique opportunity to discuss COVID-19, our healthcare system, and our response to the global pandemic with a world leader in infectious diseases.

We received approval of our Certificate of Need (CON) for a three-story hospital addition known as The Promise Project. We are on schedule to break ground late next summer.

We opened our new advanced primary care site – GBMC Health Partners at Padonia. The practice serves the entire family, from newborns to elders, and is staffed with a team of physicians, advanced practitioners, nurse care managers, care coordinators, and support staff. 

The Gilchrist Center Baltimore broke ground on a new inpatient hospice center at Stadium Place in November. The new center will continue to be the only residential hospice in Baltimore and will house the only pediatric inpatient hospice unit in the state. The addition of Gilchrist’s inpatient hospice will give Stadium Place the full continuum of care for elders.

We earned a five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) Hospital Compare Program. We are one of only a few hospitals in the state to achieve the highest score! CMS created the star-rating system to give patients the tools they need to find the organizations that will provide the highest value to them.

GBMC was the first hospital in the state to earn the Joint Commission Advanced Certification in Perinatal Care! This certification means that patients can expect integrated, coordinated, patient-centered care through pregnancy and childbirth.

Our Primary Stroke Center was selected for the 2020 American Heart Association’s (AHA) Get With The Guidelines® (GWTG)-Stroke: Gold Plus with Target: Stroke Elite Honor Roll and Target: Type 2 Diabetes Honor Roll. The award recognizes hospitals that meet specific quality measures for the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients.

Our Sexual Assault Forensic Examination and Domestic Violence Program (SAFE/DV) officially opened its new 2,500-square-foot location to help care for the growing number of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

GBMC received the highest award of Summa Cum Laude in Epic’s Honor Roll Good Maintenance Grant Program. This is the highest level of achievement for Epic users! We were also a recipient of the Most Wired Hospital award from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) for both our acute and ambulatory services. We were one of a few hospitals in the state to receive two Level 9 Most Wired recognitions. Many institutions have only been successful on the acute discipline.

Our Lymphedema Center was awarded the LE&RN (Lymphedema Education & Research Network) classification of Network of Excellence in Lymphatic Disease. The goal of the LE&RN Centers of Excellence program is to increase access to the best possible multi-disciplinary care for individuals with lymphatic diseases (LD) and their families through a geographically diverse network of clinical centers. 

Our Sandra and Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute achieved QOPI® Re-Certification, Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI®) status. This reflects our ongoing commitment to quality of care that leads to fundamental changes in the clinical practice of oncology. QOPI®, a program of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, is a three-year certification for outpatient hematology-oncology practices. 

Our Cancer Institute was also recognized as a “high-performing site” by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for the second year in a row. The NCI’s High-Performing Site Initiative recognizes institutions that enroll many patients in the National Clinical Trials Network and demonstrate scientific leadership in the design and conduct of clinical trials. I also want to congratulate our Cancer Institute for opening a satellite location in Owings Mills.

I am excited about returning to “normal” some-time in 2021. We will continue to focus on our vision of being the community-based system of care that the patient experiences as a system, and can deliver the care we want for our own loved ones to every patient, every time. We have done very, very well during the pandemic and the cyberattack, but these have been unwanted distractions. In 2021, we will build on our achievement of the Baldrige award to move even faster towards our vision. I am also excited about working with others to invest in the Baltimore community and deliver on our vision to neighborhoods that are presently being left behind. 

I want to thank all of Team GBMC, whether they are in Gilchrist, GBMC Health Partners, or Greater Baltimore Medical Center for everything they have done in 2020! I love to work with every one of you and I am in awe of what you have accomplished against all odds. So, although we can’t have a big celebration (yet), let’s raise a glass and say goodbye to 2020 as we welcome 2021!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Happy Holidays

Let me wish all my GBMC HealthCare colleagues and members of the community a wonderful holiday season filled with peace and joy. And boy do we need it!

As if the pandemic wasn’t enough, being the victim of a cyber attack has not been fun for anyone, but it has been marvelous to see everyone pulling together to continue to serve our patients the way we want our loved ones served.

We have been able to begin to bring Epic (our electronic medical record system) back up for GBMC Health Partners and Gilchrist. Things are much more complicated in the hospital and our teams are working hard to restore our electronic capabilities while keeping our patients safe.  

Thank you to Dave Hynson and our IT teams for their tireless efforts since the downtime began. Let me also thank the rest of the workforce, starting with our physicians, advanced practitioners, nurses and all other clinicians for their incredible work under very difficult conditions. And of course, let me thank all the rest of us as support staff. Many of you stepped up to do new jobs that were required in the absence of automation. I am so very grateful for your efforts. 

We are not done yet. There is still a lot of fixing and learning to do. But I am sure that we will be a stronger system because of this challenge.

Best wishes for a healthy and safe holiday to all of you and your families. 

Friday, December 18, 2020

“If we thought it was always going to be easy, we wouldn’t have become nurses!”

We are now finishing our second week of redesigned processes that remind us of the past, as we continue to recover from the cyberattack. Our IT professionals are working with experts from around the world to recreate our computer systems and clean the hardware of the malware that caused the damage. Meanwhile, our clinicians, with the help of our support staff, who are going above and beyond their normal duties, keep stepping up to deliver the care that we want for our own loved ones to every patient, every time.  

We are using our downtime procedures and staying vigilant to keep patients safe without our typical computer oversight. Our pharmacy team has done an outstanding job of serving patients without their usual computer systems functioning. I have been rounding frequently and I have been humbled again and again by the hard work, commitment, and resiliency of our staff. I was rounding on Wednesday evening and I asked a couple of our nurses on an inpatient unit how things were going. 

When I told them how grateful I was for their work, one of them replied: “If we thought it was always going to be easy, we wouldn’t have become nurses!” I couldn’t see her smile because of her mask, but I could see the twinkle in her eye and the joy that comes from service in the face of adversity. The teamwork has been so evident throughout our healthcare system - I am in awe of my colleagues.

We recognize our responsibility to keep the information entrusted to us secure. There is no evidence at this time that any information has been misused by the criminals who attacked us. We will continue to partner with outside experts in the field of IT and cybersecurity, as well as law enforcement, as we assess the situation and safely return functionality.  

Please let me express my sincere gratitude for the tireless efforts that our IT team, clinicians, and other staff have shown. We are getting through this together and we will learn from this event. We will become an even stronger system because of it!

Friday, December 11, 2020

Getting Through This Together

It has now been just short of a week since GBMC became the victims of a ransomware attack.  

Dave Hynson, GBMC’s Chief Information Officer, and his team have been working with experts from around the world – literally – to rebuild our systems. It is an incredibly arduous task that will take time.

Our people have once again shown their amazing resilience. As if the pandemic were not enough, caring for patients without computer systems is extremely difficult. Our team has returned to paper documentation and ordering. Many folks have stepped up to be runners and safety nurses. People have manned the command center 24 hours a day and we have been redesigning care on the fly. Despite all of these challenges, we have been united under our vision phrase and our four aims. 

We value the privacy and security of the information entrusted to us. There is no evidence at this time that any patient information has been misused and we will continue to partner with outside experts in the field of IT and cybersecurity, as well as law enforcement, to continuously assess this situation as we carefully return functionality.  

As I walk around the hospital and visit physician offices, I am humbled by the resilience and dedication of our team. I want to express my sincere gratitude for the tireless efforts of our IT team, clinicians, and all other staff in the hospital, Gilchrist, and GBMC Health Partners. Their level of dedication and commitment to our patients is truly inspirational. I am also appreciative and moved by the ongoing support from our patients, their families and our community.

The GBMC Family is getting through this together. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Virtual but Beautiful

Earlier this week, we held our annual Physician Recognition Event to celebrate our medical staff. Traditionally, this has been an in-person event with excellent food, music, and entertainment, however due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions placed on public gatherings, it was done virtually this year.

Our Vice President for Philanthropy and Marketing and Communications, Jenny Coldiron, and her team, led by Kim Davenport and assisted by Laurie Wagerman and Garrett Morris, did not let the pandemic prevent this year’s event. Beginning at 1 p.m., our physicians and advanced practitioners came to a drive through at the Baltimore Country Club where they picked up a beautiful GBMC bag that contained a meal for them. They were greeted by members of the Senior Team as we distributed the meals. Holiday carolers sang in the background. 

At 7 p.m., our event began online. To watch the event, click here. The night started off with some fantastic entertainment courtesy of GQ, a female barbershop and contemporary a cappella quartet based in Baltimore. I truly enjoyed their performance. If you are interested in finding out more about them and their unique journey, please visit 

I gave a brief presentation thanking our physicians and advanced practitioners as well as Dr. Harold Tucker, our retiring Chief MedicaI Officer, for his years of service. Dr. Tucker then recognized those physicians celebrating a milestone of 25 years with GBMC and those who have reached Emeritus Status. If you see the physicians listed below, please congratulate them on their years of service and for the service they have given to GBMC and our patients through the years!

25-plus years of service:
David S. Goldstein, MD         Surgery/Urology
Randolph B. Gorman, MD Anesthesiology
Marc A. Honig, MD      Ophthalmology
David J. Hoyt, MD         Otolaryngology - H&NS
Michael S. Murphy, MD         Surgery/Orthopedic Surgery
David L. Strauss, MD. Emergency Medicine
Francis J. Townsend, III, MD Emergency Medicine
Robin M. Ulanow, MD Surgery/General Surgery
Karen R. Vail, MD         Anesthesiology

Emeritus Status:
Katherine M. Bass, MD         Gynecology
Paul Z. Bodnar, MD        Pediatrics
David D. Collins, MD Medicine/Internal Medicine
Stephen R. Feldman, MD Pediatrics
Deborah L. Hebb, MD Gynecology
Marshall A. Levine, MD         Medicine/Medical Oncology
Nader Gary, MD         Ophthalmology
Santiago L. Padilla, MD         Gynecology
Vivian Rismondo, MD Ophthalmology
Leon Strauss, M.D.         Ophthalmology
Anthony J. Vazzano, M.D. Pediatrics
Claire M. Weitz, M.D. Obstetrics

After our brief ceremony celebrating these clinicians, I was delighted to welcome some jazz greats to entertain us. Warren Wolf and the Christmas Vibes played holiday numbers and they were fantastic! Accompanied by vocalist Micah Smith, the quartet included Sean Jones, Professor and Richard and Elizabeth Case Chair of Jazz at the Peabody Conservatory, on the trumpet; the sought-after sideman, Jeff Reed, who is a faculty member at Towson University on the bass; Quincy Phillips, a world-renowned drummer, who is also a faculty member at the Peabody Conservatory; and of course, Warren Wolf, also a faculty member at the Peabody Conservatory and a fabulous multi-instrumentalist, who is best known for his work on the vibraphone. Warren also played the piano for us at the event. I was in seventh heaven listening to this group! I am so grateful to them for coming to entertain us and to help recognize the excellence of our medical staff and Dr. Tucker. 

After they finished playing, Dr. Robin Motter-Mast, our Chief of Staff, again thanked our clinicians and closed out the evening (I then went home and ate the incredible meal). Especially during this time of the pandemic, it was important to take a moment to recognize our medical staff for everything that they do to serve the community.

Research at GBMC
Community hospitals are generally not thought of as centers for clinical research – it is the large academic medical centers that we think of in this arena.

GBMC is different. Among the centers of research excellence on our campus is the clinical trials program at the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute. They are currently working in partnership with The National Cancer Institute (NCI) to study those who have tested positive for COVID-19 while receiving cancer treatment. The COVID-19 in Cancer Patients Study allows researchers to learn more about how COVID-19 is affecting disease progression and outcomes in cancer patients. This study is vital to increasing our knowledge to improve the care of infected patients during their treatment and is just one example of the research being done at GBMC.

It is remarkable is that our Cancer Institute was recognized as a “high-performing site” by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for the second year in a row. The NCI’s High-Performing Site Initiative recognizes institutions that enroll many patients in the National Clinical Trials Network and demonstrate scientific leadership in the design and conduct of clinical trials. 

To find out more about the research at the Berman Cancer Institute, and to put their recent important designation from the National Clinical Trials Network in perspective, I spoke with our Clinical Research Nurse Manager, Judy Bosley, RN, BSN, CCRP. Please see her responses to some of my questions below:

Judy, can you give us a little background on the NCI’s National Clinical Trials Network?
“The cornerstone of NCI’s clinical trials program, the National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN), is comprised of organizations and clinicians that conduct large Phase II and Phase III clinical trials across the United States and Canada. These trials help establish new standards of care, set the stage for FDA approval of new therapies, test new approaches to radiation therapy and surgery, and validate new biomarkers. NCTN provides an infrastructure for NCI-funded treatment, screening, and diagnosis trials at over 3,000 clinical trials sites.”

What does the “High Performing Sites” designation mean?
“This Initiative is targeted to those sites that have been identified by the National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) Leadership as “High Performing Sites” based on accrual, site participation, and high-level of data quality across the entire NCTN. The “High Performing Site Initiative” provides additional funds and other support to cancer research organizations to conduct national clinical trials. It compensates high-performing sites recognizing that the ‘per-case management funding’ provided by the NCI is significantly lower than the actual costs incurred by the member institutions/sites to participate in a trial.” 

How does this speak to the level of research being done at the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute here at GBMC?
“This recognition is a testament to our efforts and commitment in growing the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute’s clinical trials program. It reflects the hard work of our physicians, research nurses, research coordinators, and regulatory staff in accruals, quality data management, and study conduct.”

Why is this important for our patients and the community to know?
“This grant recognizes GBMC’s commitment to bringing leading-edge treatments to our patients through our participation in clinical trials at a national level, as well as our high-quality standards for clinical trial conduct. It is also important for the community to know that our physicians at GBMC have their finger on the pulse of cutting-edge research. Clinical trials play a vital role in advancing cancer care and treatment. Today, people are living longer lives from successful cancer treatments that are results of past clinical trials and clinical trial participants play a major part in helping to create a cancer-free world.” 

Please don’t forget to VOTE!
Just a reminder, it's that time again - Baltimore magazine is collecting votes for its Excellence in Nursing issue. Please vote for the nursing colleagues you most respect! The survey ends soon, and you can vote here . The results will be published in the May 2021 issue of Baltimore magazine and the winners will be invited to a special reception.