Friday, September 17, 2021

Back to Life

On Tuesday afternoon, I had the privilege of being part of a special event with a grateful family whoselife-altering experiences played out right here at GBMC.   

Back in early July, Kathy Patten was slated to play golf with family and friends when she got the call that her daughter, Stacey Fifer, was going into labor at our hospital. Due to the easing of COVID regulations for a patient’s family and friends at that time, Kathy decided to join Stacey and her son-in-law, Richard Fifer, in our pre-birthing room.

After arriving to attend the birth of her grandchild at GBMC, Kathy started to not feel well. Stacey became worried about her mother, and she called her nurse Kiana Dowdy, RN, to have her mom checked out. Kiana evaluated Kathy, put her on a cardiac monitor, and called for the Rapid Response Team. The team decided to take Kathy to the Emergency Department for further evaluation.  As they were leaving Labor and Delivery, Kathy went into cardiac arrest. They began CPR and called for the Code Team.  Drs. David Vitberg and Ari Zaiman ran to Labor and Delivery with the rest of the Code Team. They were joined by Dr. Dov Frankel from the Emergency Department and they managed the Code. The Labor and Delivery charge nurse Michelle Lukehart, RN, along with Rebecca Rubin, NP, took on critical roles during the code and also in assuring that all of the patients in the Unit got excellent care. Melanie Dowell, the Parent Education and Doula Program Manager, stayed with Stacey to assure that she was OK. Meghan Shackelford, NP, the Director of Advanced Practitioners, assisted the code team in L&D and also followed the team to assist in ongoing stabilization in the ED. After 48 minutes of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and just before the Team was going to end the Code, Kathy’s heart began to beat again, and she awoke. After further outstanding stabilization, by Dr Frankel and our ED team, Kathy was then transferred to the University of Maryland St Joseph Medical Center and there she received wonderful cardiac interventional care and was set on a pathway for cardiac rehabilitation. 

Despite her intense worry about her mother’s condition, Stacey’s baby was on its way into the world, and she continued with the delivery. Hoping to have a natural childbirth, the baby became stuck in the birth canal requiring an unexpected caesarian delivery and a neonatal resuscitation. After a relatively brief stay in GBMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Alora is a happy, healthy baby girl. 

Kathy, who essentially came back to life following this astounding near-death experience, is now fully functioning and enjoying her life as a mom, grandmother and grateful former GBMC patient.  

At this week’s event, Kathy, Stacey, and other Patten and Fifer family members expressed their gratitude to the GBMC team that brought Kathy back to life and who served Stacey and Alora so well. Drs. Vitberg and Frankel reflected on the outstanding work of all involved, starting with our Labor and Delivery staff and including all those who assisted. Dr. Vitberg commented that our staff has been under so much stress since the beginning of the pandemic and following the cyber-attack and that this life-saving event was so helpful to replenish the energy and spirit of all the GBMC staff involved. 

This story further highlighted to me that the hard work of clinicians who care and are experts in their field is necessary for outstanding performance. Well-designed systems are also necessary, as is training as a team for infrequent and life-threatening situations like the one the team encountered with Kathy that day in July in Labor and Delivery. Dr. Vitberg and his team train regularly in our simulation center and GBMC recently earned the official designation as a Resuscitation Quality Improvement (RQI) Lighthouse Organization for our adoption and consistent use of an innovative CPR training program. GBMC is the first hospital in Maryland to receive this designation and to use the RQI system to train nurses and other clinical providers in CPR. This recurrent training and testing of CPR competency played a role in keeping Kathy’s brain oxygenated when her heart was not pumping for 48 minutes!

I am in awe of the entire team that was involved in saving Kathy and in serving Stacey and Alora as well. Great work and Thank You!

Thank-You EVS Team
This week, we are celebrating Environmental Services (EVS) and Housekeeping Week. After more than a year on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, EVS and housekeeping professionals have served as a source of reassurance for patients unable to see loved ones, while maintaining rooms to the highest standards of cleanliness.  Our dedicated EVS and Housekeeping staff work day and night to keep our facilities clean and to prevent infections. They replace linens, remove regular and medical waste, and take care of unscheduled or emergency housekeeping services such as spills or event set-up. Please join me in thanking all our colleagues in EVS for their great work especially during these challenging times!

Neonatal Nurses Day
Last Wednesday (9/15) was Neonatal Nurses Day. We are very fortunate to have such a high-level NICU to care for those babies who are born too small, too sick or too soon. Please join me in thanking this exemplary group of nurses for all they do.

Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, was this week and is the holiest day of the year for those of the Jewish faith. Yom Kippur has a unique place in the Jewish calendar. Following Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year – Yom Kippur marks the end of the 10 days of repentance, which is a time to reflect on wrongdoings and pledge to do better as the New Year begins.

Friday, September 10, 2021

What about the Flu?

The 2021 influenza (flu) season is right around the corner. To predict how much influenza, we will see in the northern hemisphere, we look to the experience in the southern hemisphere. The good news is rates of the flu have been very low in the southern hemisphere just like last year. The biggest single reason for this is drop in cases is people are travelling less. They have also been wearing masks and practicing social distancing. So, there is a good chance that we will again see fewer than the average number of cases than we usually see in a year. 

However, experts worry that our antibody levels against influenza A in particular, may be low since we have not had much exposure to the virus over the past year or two. They are concerned, therefore, that we may have rapid spread of the flu virus once it becomes more widespread in the community. 

We can’t really know for sure what the flu season will be like, but we do know what we can do to limit the spread of the virus and keep ourselves healthy. Step 1 is to get vaccinated as soon as the influenza vaccine becomes available. Then, it will help to wear a mask, wash our hands often, and maintain social distancing if we do have outbreaks. Sound familiar?

Soon we will be announcing our 2021 employee influenza vaccination plan. I want to thank Sophia Powell, MSN, FNP-C, Occupational Health Director for the GBMC HealthCare system, for her hard work on the plan.  Next month we will be offering our employees their flu shots at several clinics to be held in our Civiletti Conference Center. Stay tuned for the specific clinic dates and times in the coming weeks.  

Happy New Year

Earlier this week was the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It is a holiday at the “head of the year” that comes at the close of the harvest, when the Jewish community of faith focuses on repentance.  L’Shana Tovah! Happy New Year 5782!

Remembering 9-11

As a nation, this coming Saturday we will recognize the 20th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001.  Like all Americans I was stunned by the events of that day and the great loss of life. I was somewhat buoyed by the phenomenal stories of those who gave of themselves for others in the days and months after 9/11.

As we look back at the terrible tragedy that occurred and the brave first responders who showed tremendous heroism in the hours and days thereafter, let us join together and work for peace and justice in the hope that events like these never happen again. Thank you! 

Thursday, September 2, 2021

A Big Day

Today is a day of celebration for GBMC and our community. After years of planning and changes to our master facility plan, with the realization that some of our inpatient beds were no longer meeting our needs, we finally broke ground on The Promise Project. You can watch the video from the ceremony here.

This construction project is necessary to move us towards our vision of being the community- based system of care that can deliver to every patient, every time, the care we would want for our own loved ones. The project exemplifies our commitment to the people we serve. 

The Promise Project will bring two historic advancements to GBMC—the replacement addition for inpatient beds, a new parking structure and the new home of the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute at GBMC.  These facilities will help GBMC continue to lead the way into the future of patient care in the Greater Baltimore community.

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 medicine units that can accommodate team-based care, advanced technology, and visits from loved ones, we began planning for a hospital addition, and the Promise Project  began. 

Throughout the past decades, we have built a true system of care form birth to death, and our healthcare system is thriving. But now is the time for our campus facilities to be modernized. Because of the support of our community and elected officials, we can continue to improve our hospital and increase the services we offer. Now is truly the time for The Promise Project.

The road to today’s celebration, however, has been filled with a few challenges.  Much work and planning had to take place before the shovels hit the dirt.  First, a certificate of need application was created and approved, funding had to be secured, plans had to be developed, and numerous permits had to be filed. Of course, our team had to do this during the pandemic.

There are many people that have made today’s historic event possible.  I want to thank our chair, Frederick M. Hudson, and the Board of Directors who represent all the owners of GBMC, the diverse community cared for by our System.  I would also like to extend my gratitude to Dr. John Saunders, and all of those who have worked on fundraising, as well as longtime supporters Sandra and Malcolm Berman and the Volunteer Auxiliary for their leadership throughout this transformational campaign.  Let me also thank Stacey McGreevy, Vice President of Support Services, and Russ Sadler, Director of Facility Planning, Design, and Construction, for their oversight of the planning and actual construction, and Laurie Beyer and our finance team for their work in accessing the needed capital. I’d also like to congratulate our Vice President of Philanthropy and Marketing, Jenny Coldiron and her entire team for the overwhelming accomplishment of raising over 38 million dollars – 76 percent of our fundraising goal for the project. These funds are crucial in bringing the Promise Project to fruition.

Extending Gratitude Beyond Our Small Piece of the World
While GBMC is celebrating its past, present, and future, we cannot forget the servicemen and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our Country and our freedom. Our prayers go out to the families and loved ones of our fallen service members in Afghanistan. Our thoughts and prayers also go out to those who are struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. In times like these, we are all thankful for the support that surrounds us every day.

Friday, August 27, 2021

One Less Factor in Vaccine Hesitancy

Earlier this week, I was delighted to hear the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted full approval to Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for use in people ages 16 and older. 

It is clear the Pfizer vaccine—along with the Moderna vaccine—is safe, highly effective, and the strongest weapon we have to combat this virus. The FDA had already studied the early data before giving emergency use authorization, and has now gone through its full, rigorous process to grant full approval. The Pfizer vaccine is probably the best studied vaccine in the history of FDA approvals in that hundreds of millions of doses have been given around the world with very few significant side effects. 

This latest surge in COVID-19 patients we are experiencing in emergency rooms, outpatient clinics and hospitals across the nation is primarily due to unvaccinated people. This is very concerning since we are still not sure what the fall will bring with back-to-school activities and the potential spread of COVID-19 among our children. In a recent poll, 30 percent of unvaccinated people said they were holding off on getting the vaccine until the FDA had granted full approval, so we are hopeful this FDA approval will encourage those on the fence to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.

With the Delta variant surging, there has never been a better time to get vaccinated. GBMC is requiring all GBMC HealthCare employees, contractors, independent medical staff members, volunteers, and learners without a medical or religious exemption to be vaccinated, and we have had to speed up this deadline after the Governor’s mandate that all hospital and nursing home employees be vaccinated by September 1. The GBMC HealthCare community is required to be fully vaccinated, or submit an exemption request, by October 1, 2021.

I want to congratulate our Primary Stroke Center which, under the leadership of Ellen Deibert MD, FAHA, Medical Director of our Stroke Center and our Chief of the Division of Neurology, and Aaliyah Franks, RN, recently achieved the 2021 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. 

These awards recognize hospitals that meet specific quality measures for the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients. Despite challenges in the last 18 months presented by the pandemic and a cyberattack, the Primary Stroke Center has been able to maintain extraordinary award levels with the American Heart Association for stroke and diabetic stroke patients.

The awards are a testament to our Stroke Center’s strong commitment to reliably provide care according to nationally recognized guidelines built on the latest scientific evidence.

I want to thank all our clinicians for their hard work and dedication in achieving this level of performance. Great work and congratulations!

Friday, August 20, 2021

More Changes on Our Campus

This week I want to provide you with another update about campus changes as we begin construction on The Promise Project

In June, we began with the creation of a temporary main entrance (until the new addition is complete) and we then continued with the closing of the Rose parking lot to address the need for a staging area for construction. 

On Monday, August 23, the main entrance of our hospital will close, and we will begin using the temporary main entrance in the Sherwood loop.  Since the three-story addition will be built in front of our current main entrance, we need to close it now. As we cordon off space in front of the main entrance, we will lose some handicapped parking spots. We have taken a number of steps to limit inconvenience to our staff and patients.

We have added another valet parking location (we added a valet attendant by the Daffodil garage last month) at the Sherwood loop. We have also added additional handicap spaces in the Sherwood Loop area and in our Lily Parking Garage. There are also additional wheelchairs and dedicated transporters to serve our patients and visitors with mobility issues. We recommend that our patients utilize the Tulip and Lily garages since they have abundant parking spaces. As I have pointed out in the past, the Lily Garage is closer to the main entrance than the Rose lot and is connected to the hospital to protect employees, patients, and visitors from the elements.
We have set aside many parking spots for our patients. Most of our staff have refrained from parking in those spots and historically we have not enforced our no-staff parking rule in patient spots. Sadly, some of our people have been parking in patient-only spots so now we have begun to enforce the rule.
In order to make it easier for folks to get around the campus, we added a new shuttle bus this past Monday. Current drop-off and pick-up locations include: the William E. Kahlert Physicians Pavilion North, Farmhouse Hill, Physicians Pavilion West Main Entrance, and the Sherwood loop.  Stops are every 15 minutes from 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on weekdays.

The first two levels at our Daffodil Garage will remain closed until October 31. The garage is open for our patients, but we are asking staff to park in the Tulip garage. Thank you to all for your patience as we continue the repairs. 

Lastly, our new Ambulatory Imaging Center will open in mid-September in Physicians Pavilion East at the former location of the Kroh Center for Digestive Disorders.

The official groundbreaking for the Promise Project will occur on Thursday, Sept. 2. We will continue to update you on necessary changes to the campus as the construction progresses. 

Thank you!

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Outstanding Redesign Work in the Emergency Department

In the early 20th century, as medical care was progressing, and therapies became available that actually improved patient outcomes (like antibiotics and sophisticated surgical procedures), the Emergency Room became the place to go for serious injuries or acute medical problems. Later in the century, as medical care became more complex, and there was more specialization in medicine, the Emergency Department (ED) became a sort of “catch all” for anything that couldn’t be handled anywhere else in the system. If the doctor’s office was closed or the doctor was already too busy, patients were sent to the ED for real needs that were not truly emergencies. In 1965, with the advent of Medicaid and payments below what private practicing doctors would accept to cover the costs of running their practices, ED’s became the place where poor people went for care, not because they wanted to be there for non-emergencies, but because many doctor’s offices would not accept Medicaid. And finally, the aging of the population is another reason  Emergency Departments here, and around the country,  continue to be in high demand.

For the last few decades, ED’s have been under siege. The professionals working there are incredibly dedicated and well-trained. They work extremely  hard, but the system is not designed for efficient flow. 

The GBMC ED is operating under the same stressful situation as other ED’s. We, however,  have an advantage over most ED’s --  outstanding leadership. Dr. Jeff Sternlicht, Medical Director, and Mark Fisher, RN, Nurse Manager, have fully embraced our vision and have become quite proficient at redesign. With the help of our performance improvement advisors, they have redesigned much of the care of ED patients who don’t need to be admitted to the hospital.

There are three areas to focus on to improve patient flow in the ED:

1. Input: You can work to make sure that only patients with emergencies come to the ED. (This is the work of primary care, specialty physician offices, and other community providers.)

2. Throughput: You can work to reduce waste in the processes from check-in to discharge home. (Clearly the work of the ED team.)

3. Output: You can move patients to an inpatient bed as quickly as possible once you know they need to be admitted. (This is the work of the inpatient teams led by our hospitalists or inpatient specialists.)

Jeff and Mark have been happy to work with our patient-centered medical homes on reducing non-emergent visits and to work with our Department of Medicine in particular, to move admitted patients to the floor faster.  They have not wasted any time  getting in action to redesign the work of assessing and treating those who they think can be sent home – the throughput work. 

So, what have they done so far? 

Redesign of Triage:  They added a medical provider in triage to connect the patient to a provider sooner. This is allowing the Emergency Department to start care on entry, during busier times of the day. 

Implementing a Protocol Bay: This allows labs and IVs to be started right after triage. This gets blood sent to the lab sooner and test results back quicker for patients even before they get to a treatment space.

Implementing a Rapid Assessment Zone: This allows patients with lower acuity needs to have their care started in the waiting room even before they get to a formal treatment bed.

Yesterday on our Lean Management System rounds, Katie Koestler, RN4, presented the ED’s results so far. I am so proud of Jeff, Mark, and their team. They are doing phenomenal redesign work and moving us faster toward our vision. They are clearly improving the care experience and reducing wasted time in the ED. Please thank the members of the ED team when you see them!

Friday, July 30, 2021

Another First for GBMC

Science has taught us how to save individuals who are having a life threatening cardiac arrythmia. We also know that time is of the essence, so being well-trained in advance leads to better outcomes for the patients. 

Recently, GBMC became the first hospital in the state of Maryland to earn the designation as an RQI Lighthouse Organization because of our “adoption and consistent use of an innovative CPR training program.” We are the first hospital in our state to use the RQI system to train nurses and other clinical providers in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

RQI training techniques have helped members of our clinical staff achieve sustained mastery of CPR skills. The hospital implemented the system, which is endorsed by the American Heart Association, back in 2016. During the training, the system provides live feedback, while the learner practices CPR skills with a manikin every three months.  These techniques came in handy a couple of years ago when one of our own staff members used his skills outside of a patient unit to save someone’s life.

While walking to lunch, Roel Tiberio, BSN, RN, CGRN, Endoscopy Nurse Manager with The Kroh Center for Digestive Disorders and one of our Art of Nursing Award recipients,  was having a conversation with a coworker when he heard a loud noise and turned to see that someone had fallen.  At the same time, two other GBMC HealthCare system medical staff members were leaving the cafeteria, and also saw the visitor on the floor.  They immediately ran to assist and found this person to be without a pulse and not breathing. Using his clinical training, Roel quickly delegated someone to call for a code and another to get an automatic external defibrillator (AED) while he began CPR. Roel followed the instructions which indicated that the visitor required a shock.  Roel proceeded to shock the patient as he and his colleagues continued CPR. When the code team arrived, the visitor was breathing on his own and was immediately transported to the Emergency Department.  After a full medical assessment, the patient was admitted for observation. Roel was relieved to learn that the patient had survived without complications.  

It is not uncommon for our clinicians to implement CPR on a patient, but it is not often that clinicians use these skills outside of patient care units. Roel’s quick actions were lifesaving and clearly shows the value of the RQI system. 

I want to thank Vanessa Velez, Director of Professional Practice, Education, and Research at GBMC HealthCare and Deborah Higgins, MS, RN, CHSE, our Simulation Manager and AHA Training Center Coordinator, for all their hard work to make sure that we are adopting best practices and continually improving our readiness for events like the one described above. I would also like to thank David Vitberg, MD, Director of our Medical and Surgical ICU, and Carolyn Candiello, our Vice President for Quality and Patient Safety, for working with RQI to bring this tool to our hospital.   

Diversity & Inclusion Assessment
Our vision at GBMC HealthCare is to become the community-based healthcare system that can deliver to every patient, every time the care we would want for our own loved ones.

We cannot achieve this vision unless our workforce mirrors those we are serving. Our diversity brings more new ideas and our inclusiveness magnifies this by empowering many more people to innovate. We need our entire team to be engaged to move us forward, faster. 

GBMC will be working with Cee Suite to conduct an assessment of the current state of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility in the GBMC HealthCare System. This assessment will help our organization identify what we are doing well and where we can improve. Cee Suite is a talent management consulting firm with a specialized focus in diversity, equity, and inclusion. They partner with organizations to develop sustainable DEI solutions.

After completing the organizational assessment, Cee Suite will provide leaders at GBMC with a roadmap to create a more diverse workforce and foster an inclusive environment for our staff and patients.

What should you expect?

--In the next 30 days, employees from various departments, roles, and backgrounds will be invited to participate in focus groups led by Cee Suite.  This participation will require a commitment of one hour.
--Over the next 3 to 6 months, we will share the feedback from the organizational assessment and an introduction to our organizational plan. 

If you have questions regarding this initiative, please send them to

Thank you.

Friday, July 23, 2021

The Maryland Waiver with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation

It is a very complex topic, but readers of the blog know that the State of Maryland has an all-payer rate setting system. In Maryland, unlike in the other 49 states, hospital payments for services are determined by the Health Services Cost Review Commission (HSCRC), a quasi-governmental agency. In the rest of the country, hospitals negotiate payment rates with insurance companies and are told what the rates are by Medicare and Medicaid. Stand-alone hospitals, like GBMC, have little bargaining power in other states, so they are usually paid less than hospitals run by large companies. In Maryland, all payers, including Medicare and Medicaid, pay the same rate to the same hospital for the same service, and these rates are set by the HSCRC. In other states, Medicare usually pays below what private insurers pay and Medicaid significantly below what private insurers pay. GBMC gets paid less than many of the hospitals in our region for the same service, but we are protected by the all-payer rate setting system.

Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published an evaluation of the first two years of the Maryland Total Cost of Care Model. Since January 1, 2019, CMS has been holding Maryland accountable for reducing the total cost of care for Maryland Medicare beneficiaries, not just for hospital costs, while improving the quality of care and patient satisfaction. The evaluation points out that Maryland reduced total Medicare spending in 2019 (relative to national trends) by $365 million — $88 million more than the spending reduction achieved in 2018, which followed the previous waiver model. The report concluded that global budgets remain the biggest financial incentive in the Model. 

Maryland has also embarked on a new program to incentivize better primary care called the Maryland Primary Care Program (MDPCP). The report says that primary care practices in 2019 made gains in the targeted domains: access and continuity, care management, comprehensiveness and care coordination, patient and caregiver engagement, and planned care. Blog readers know that advanced primary care is a fundamental building block of the GBMC HealthCare System, so you won’t be surprised to know that we are among the leaders in MDPCP.

It will also come as no surprise that our GBMC Health Partners primary care providers were recently acknowledged by readers of The Sun as the best in the Best General Practitioner (primary care) category. It’s nice to see that members of the community now understand that we are different and validate our excellence as we move towards our vision of being a community-based system of care that can deliver to every patient, every time the care that we would want for our own loved ones. 

Readers of The Sun did not stop the accolades with primary care. They also found GBMC to be the Best Hospital in our region! Our Audiologists were also found to be the best!

And we had others recognized as runners-up in the following: 

Best OB/GYN Practice

Best Audiologist - Presbyterian Board of Governors Cochlear Implant Center of Excellence

Best Pediatric Practice - GBMC Pediatric Group

I want to THANK the community for their support and all who voted for recognizing the hard work and dedication of our people.

Way to go!
I would also like to announce that Baltimore's Child Magazine recently unveiled its list of 2021 Readers’ Choice winners. GBMC was named: 

Best Hospital - Hometown Heroes - COVID-19 Pandemic Response

Best Place to Deliver Your Baby

Best Pediatric Vision Care - Dr. Allison Jensen, Eye Center at GBMC

And runners-up in the following: 

Best Pediatric Physician - Hometown Heroes - COVID-19 Pandemic Response, Dr. Theresa Nguyen - GBMC Pediatric Group

Best Medical Matters

Best ER for Kids

Congratulations to Drs. Jensen and Nguyen. I am very grateful for everyone who has made this recognition possible.

It is no secret that those of us in the medical field never stop taking care of people even when we’re not at work. David Vitberg, MD, Director, Division of Medical and Surgical Critical Care Medicine, is a perfect example.  

Recently, Dr. Vitberg was awarded the Maryland Star of Life Award for his heroic efforts to save a man who was trapped under a waterfall in Rocks State Park. The award, presented by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS), combines the organization’s symbol, the Star of Life, with its shared vision, “the elimination of preventable death and disability from injury or sudden illness.”

Dr. Vitberg, along with first responders and other EMS physicians, played an instrumental role and worked for hours to free a man – nearly having to amputate his leg. Fortunately, the water rescue team was able pull him out just prior to the procedure. The man was treated on the scene and then transferred to a local hospital with his leg intact.

We are all incredibly honored to have Dr. Vitberg as a leader at GBMC and congratulate him for this award! 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Getting Ready for the Construction on our Campus

Back in June, I talked about some changes that were forthcoming in terms of parking and other closures to accommodate the beginning of construction for the three-story addition, the new parking garage and the new Sandra R. Berman Pavilion, called The Promise Project. As we inch closer to our official groundbreaking on September 2, you will be hearing a lot more about this project, and we will work hard to keep you as informed as possible about the construction process and how it will affect employee workflow, visitors and patient access. 

The Rose Lot will close as of this Monday, July 19. This is necessary because the heavy construction equipment will park in this area, and it will also be a staging area for construction. Reducing parking spots makes people concerned about their ability to find a place to park. Tulip and Lily garages have abundant space to handle those who will no longer be able to park in the Rose Lot. And actually, the Lily Garage is closer to the main entrance and has a conditioned walking path to protect employees, patients and visitors from the elements. 

Thank you for your patience as we continue the repairs to the Daffodil Garage. From July 12 through October 1, we will be working on Levels 1 and 2 of the garage, affecting 60 total parking spaces. The garage will remain open, but we are asking employees to park in the Tulip and leave the remaining spots for patients and visitors. We are also adding a valet attendant on July 19 and will add another valet station at the former Sherwood Loop in early August to help with access and flow. 

Lastly, Human Resources has relocated! As of this week, nearly all Human Resources employees are working in the South Chapman Building. If employees have any concerns, questions, or are looking for anyone in particular, your HR business partner is a great place to start, but you are always welcome to visit South Chapman to find what you need. 

New Date for Employee and Volunteer BBQ
I would not want to miss an opportunity to thank and acknowledge our amazing employees, especially after the challenging year we have had. We have traditionally held our annual Employee and Volunteer Appreciation BBQ in July, but this year we are moving it to Thursday, September 30. More details are forthcoming, and I hope every employee plans to attend. This year was tough and threw us many curveballs. Each one of you handled it with grace, humility, and always with a focus on the patient. I look forward to celebrating with you on September 30. 

Friday, July 9, 2021

Congratulations and Thank You

Our triennial survey by the Joint Commission was completed last week and we did very well. I was not surprised because we have outstanding people and we have worked hard to create systems to help them do their job and provide highly reliable care. Let me thank all our team for their incredible efforts to deliver the care that we want for our own loved ones. Great job!

The surveyors found some opportunities for improvement but overall, they were very impressed. In many areas, they had no findings. In Maternal Newborn Health (MNH) the nurse surveyor from the Joint Commission reviewed eight charts and found no issues to correct!

Every Joint Commission visit to MNH starts with the review of a patient who has had a vaginal delivery and one who has had a cesarean section. There is also a chart review of a high-risk patient with an obstetrical or medical complication.

In 2020, the Joint Commission introduced two new standards to address complications related to maternal hemorrhage and severe hypertension. Our nurses, nurse educators, and Epic analysts worked together as a team to add functionality to Epic to meet the new standards. This was a collaborative process where input from all team members was invaluable. The goal was to assure patient safety and decrease the risk of complications, while ensuring seamless integration with the workflow. The surveyor focused on these new standards during the chart reviews in Labor and Delivery.

During the chart reviews, the Labor and Delivery nurses were able to highlight two new areas of build in Epic that address the new standards. The Labor and Delivery and Mother Baby staff now use a Postpartum Hemorrhage Assessment tool that identifies the patient’s risk of hemorrhage from admission through the postpartum period. One of the highlights of this tool is that once the provider enters the necessary documentation to calculate a hemorrhage risk score on admission, Epic continues to calculate the risk based on specific criteria in the background without the nurse having to re-enter documentation at set intervals. The score recalculates automatically and is highlighted in the Storyboard and several other areas in Epic.

The Labor and Delivery nurses were also able to highlight the care that they provided for a patient with a hypertensive emergency. The Epic team and clinical end users worked together to build a new comprehensive order set for this type of event as well as new patient assessments. The staff did a great job of navigating through this complex patient chart.

I want to congratulate Gretchen Bell, RNC-OB, C-EFM, our Application Coordinator/Analyst Team Lead EPIC, our Labor and Delivery nurses, and all members of our MNH team for this fabulous achievement, and for working together to continually improve patient care.

I also would like to thank everyone for their hard work, collaborative spirit, and commitment to patient safety.  It was evident to our survey team that GBMC is a highly reliable, patient-centered organization. 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

A Welcomed Visit

This week, we had our triennial unannounced visit from the Joint Commission. I think of this visit as a checkup where surveyors examine how reliable we are in our patient care.    

The concept of reliability simply means that “what should happen happens, and what should not happen doesn’t.” To get to our vision of being the community-based system of care that can deliver to every patient, every time, the care that we would want for our own loved ones, we have to move towards 100% reliability. For example, a highly reliable medication delivery system always has the correct dose of a needed medication given to the correct patient at the correct time. To get to very high reliability – with error rates close to zero – an organization must find the potential causes of failure, the so-called “holes in the Swiss Cheese,” before they can line up to cause a miss that might lead to patient harm.

The Joint Commission is a regulator that exists to protect patients. The surveyors’ job is to find our areas of risk – places of lower reliability and opportunities for failure. We welcome the survey. Why? Because outside eyes may find vulnerabilities that we don’t see. The review helps us improve our care. We don’t “get ready” for the Joint Commission. We must always be ready because people’s loved ones come here for care every day. 

Joint Commission accreditation and certification is recognized nationwide as a standard of quality. We are grateful for the work of the surveyors. 

Last year, we achieved the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award because of our commitment to system design that makes it easier for our outstanding staff to care for patients. The Joint Commission survey is just another assessment to see how we are doing. I am very proud of our people because of their excellence and their commitment to well-designed systems. They live by our standard work to drive us towards our vision! 

Finally, I want to wish everyone in our GBMC family a safe and happy Independence Day. July 4th marks the birthday of our great country…the land of the free and the home of the brave. Let's take some time to reflect on what we can each do to make our country even better than it is today.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Back to the Future: Entrance A to Become the Main Entrance Again

I have been joking for a few years about the hospital’s main entrance being Entrance B. Some of you know that this has not always been the case. In the past, the bus loop entrance at the East Pavilion walkway, Entrance A, was the main entrance. 

Since the new three-story addition will be built in front of our current main entrance, we need to create a temporary main entrance until the new addition is complete. At that point, we will have a beautiful new grand entrance. 

We have been in the design and planning phase of the Promise Project for over a year, and now it’s wonderful that we are moving into construction. The first phase will involve trenching for the new utility lines that will connect to Charles Street. The Rose Parking Lot will be closed beginning July 19, but the handicap parking in the front of Entrance B will remain open. In late August, Entrance B and the remaining handicap parking will be closed in preparation for the groundbreaking. To accommodate our patients, we will be increasing valet services, transport services, and creating additional handicap spaces.

We have also started the schematic design phase of the Sandra R. Berman Pavilion and garage. We are involving representatives from all departments relocating to the consolidated cancer center building. We anticipate that this design work will continue well into August with the goal of finalizing construction documents in the Spring of 2022.  

I am really looking forward to the three-story addition which adds 60 new patient rooms that will accommodate patient and clinical staff needs and have advanced sound proofing. To get this done, we will have to make many changes to patient and staff flow throughout our campus. For more information, please visit

Thank You!!!
This past Sunday, we held our 33rd annual GBMC Father’s Day 5K and 1-Mile Fun Walk. It was a gorgeous day and it was great to see so many families IN-PERSON on our beautiful campus. For more than three decades, this event has been helping to raise funds for GBMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). 

I want to thank the more than 450 participants who spent part of their Father’s Day with GBMC and helped raise more than $105,000. In 33 years, the 5K has raised close to $3 million for critically ill and premature babies.

Let me also thank the GBMC Volunteer Auxiliary and all the amazing volunteers who made this event happen as well as GBMC’s NICU doctors, nurses, technicians, and others who dedicate their lives to the health of babies. I greatly appreciate the many “graduates” of our NICU and their parents who came out to show their support on Sunday. 

Baltimore Magazine
Physicians…It's that time again! Baltimore Magazine is collecting votes for its TOP DOCTORS issue. Docs, please vote for the colleagues you most respect! The survey may be found here.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Why is GBMC Requiring all Our People to be Vaccinated Against the Coronavirus by September 1? What if it was your loved one?

Imagine if your immune-compromised daughter came to GBMC for her cancer chemotherapy and she contracted COVID-19 from a staff member who was not vaccinated. She needed to be transferred to the ICU and intubated. How would you feel? Would you accept the fact that it was the right of the staff member not to take a vaccine that would have prevented spreading the virus to others?

I want to again thank all the GBMC teams for their fabulous work fighting the pandemic. Even before there were vaccines, many of you put your own health at risk in caring for those infected with the virus. This came as no surprise to me because we know that healthcare is a calling of service to others. 

The scientific community raced to identify the infectious agent causing the disease and quickly created a vaccine to prevent sickness and death from it. Virologists, immunologists, and epidemiologists worked tirelessly to complete randomized controlled trials of vaccines to see if they could create at least one that was safe and effective. Early on, when the numbers of people treated were relatively small, there was plenty of room for doubt. Then, as millions of people across the world were given the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine with minimal side effects, their effectiveness at preventing serious illness and death became clear. At that point the scientific community, led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, started encouraging all people to be vaccinated. 

The most current information regarding the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines is so profound that the risk of harm from the vaccine is miniscule compared to the risk of serious illness or death in those not immunized. Now, it is time for us to call the question, “Is it ok for a healthcare worker to not be immunized and risk illness and death for themselves and and patients?”

The Maryland Hospital Association (MHA) gathered its members together to consider the question thoughtfully. Led by the scientists at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, the members of the MHA responded “no.” The administrative wheels at the Food and Drug Administration do not turn quickly, so it may be some time before all the reviews required for full FDA authorization beyond Emergency Use have been completed. But these vaccines have extensive data, which has been scrutinized by experts in the fields of infectious disease and immunology, supporting their safety and effectiveness because of the millions of doses that have been given under Emergency Use. The vaccines are on their way to complete authorization – it’s just a matter of time. We at GBMC, Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland, and others have decided to mandate the vaccine now because we want to minimize the chance that more daughters, sons, sisters, and brothers are harmed by COVID-19. 

Mandatory vaccination policies are not new to hospital staff and colleagues, and those who are not able to be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons will be required to apply for an exemption, like we do for influenza and varicella and a host of other vaccines.  

GBMC HealthCare, like the other hospitals in Maryland, is an institution grounded in science. We believe in evidence-based medicine and we create standard work according to the evidence. We welcome people to come forward with new theories, but we make our decisions based on the preponderance of the evidence. As the evidence changes, we adjust our decisions. 

As many people will head back indoors this fall, and the delta coronavirus becomes prominent in Maryland, we may see epidemics of disease among those who have not been vaccinated. We must be ready for this possibility. 

Resources to help answer questions about the vaccine, safety, side effects, and more can be found here or via our Employee Hotline form. To make vaccination as easy as possible, employees may receive the vaccine through GBMC by completing this form, which is also located on the Infoweb. Alternatively, the COVID-19 vaccine is available through your GBMC Health Partners primary care provider and it is also offered throughout the community. You can even text your ZIP code to GETVAX (438829) for a listing of clinics in your neighborhood. Please note that if you receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside of GBMC, you will be required to provide proof of vaccination to Employee Health, as we do for influenza vaccine. 

I have been fully vaccinated, as has my whole family. Thank you for working with us to keep our patients and each other safe. 

Juneteenth, the new federal holiday
President Biden signed legislation yesterday making today the first federal Juneteenth holiday in our nation’s history. Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is an annual holiday observing the end of slavery and marks the day when people in Galveston, Texas, received news of emancipation. 

Let’s use this as a day of reflection and advocacy to stand firm against systemic oppression and racial inequities in our country. 

The Passing of a Great Physician
Yesterday, I attended the funeral services for Joseph Patrick Connelly Jr., MD, family physician at GBMC’s Hunt Manor practice, who passed away last week. Dr. Connelly cared for patients for almost 40 years and has been a member of the GBMC family since 2009. He loved being a physician and had such amazing devotion to his patients. We will miss him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Carla, and the rest of Joe’s family.

Go on a walk or a run for a great cause!
This Sunday, June 20, we’re holding the 33rd Annual GBMC Father’s Day 5K & 1 Mile Fun Walk, now with both in-person and virtual options, to benefit the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  

We are fortunate to have a fabulous NICU with excellent clinicians and cutting-edge equipment. The equipment and staffing required to provide the care for our sick or premature babies is expensive and the funds raised from our annual Father’s Day 5K defray these costs. Please support this year’s event and consider walking a mile or running a 5K. Encourage your family to join you! Please visit for more information and to register or donate to the cause. Remember that your support will directly benefit the more than 400 critically ill and premature babies cared for annually in GBMC’s NICU. Thank you!

…also, Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers in our GBMC family!

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Six Months Later

Last Sunday was exactly six months to the day of the cyber-attack when criminals brought down all our computer systems. The GBMC HealthCare System rose to the occasion and cared for patients nonetheless.

On Monday, we held a virtual town hall that focused on the impact of the cyber-attack on our staff and our work to rebuild our computer systems. We are doing this which allows for efficient patient care while better protecting out network from another catastrophe. If you could not attend on Monday, you can watch the recorded town hall here (only viewable on the Infoweb) or participate in this coming Monday’s Cybersecurity Town Hall follow-up.

I want to thank Joshua von Rueden, JD, our Director of Information Security & Technology, along with Rodney Graves, our Cybersecurity Manager, and their teams who have sacrificed so much over these six months, to rebuild our data centers and workstations. They have been working non-stop in leading the restoration process of our computer systems by investing heavily in next generation, leading-edge security systems to enhance our security posture. As Josh mentioned during the town hall, we have learned much from the attack and have committed both full-time engineers and financial resources to ensure we are deploying the safeguards we need against constantly changing threats. Josh and Rodney also stressed the addition of new protective capabilities such as processes for constant cybersecurity threat detection and mitigation and the creation of a new cyber defensive posture.

During the update, Neri M. Cohen, MD, PhD, Chief Medical Information Officer of GBMC Health Partners, provided a review, from a clinician’s perspective, of what we have done to rebuild our systems and how people can get information about the on-going improvements. Dr. Cohen also emphasized that our focus remains on system-wide needs before individual needs. These specifically include increasing IT capacity – power, computing, memory rebuilding and adding core infrastructure – that will work safely and securely from anywhere. 

I am grateful for the work of Dave Hynson, our Chief Information Officer, and his team for recreating our efficient computer systems in a new, more secure way. I am also grateful for the hard work and patience of our staff, especially our physicians, nurses, and other clinicians as we rebuild. 

We learned a lot from the cyber-attack and we will become stronger because of it. Please remain vigilant and do not click on links unless you are sure they are safe. The December attack started with a phishing email, so it is critical to report any suspicious emails to IT. If you have any questions about our computer systems or when a tool will return, please ask your manager. He or she will raise the issue with the appropriate work system leader – JoAnn Ioannou for the Hospital, Cathy Hamel for Gilchrist, or John Flowers for GBMC Health Partners. Our work system leaders meet with Dave Hynson and the IT team regularly. If some issue needs to be addressed sooner, they will change the priorities accordingly. 

Celebrating Pride Month
June is Pride Month and I want to take a moment to reflect on the many contributions that members of the LGBTQ community make to our society and to our mission within GBMC HealthCare. I would like to acknowledge the efforts, struggles, and the dignity of all members of the LGBTQ community.

Inclusion has always been part of the GBMC culture. Our policy of inclusion goes beyond employment practices and protections and celebrates the diversity of our workforce. The varied backgrounds of our employees make us a stronger team and move us towards our vision more quickly.  

Please join me in celebrating Pride Month!

Way to go!!!
Congratulations to all members of the GBMC Family who had either their children or grandchildren graduate high school or college this year. Some members of our staff were even graduating themselves. Congratulations on your achievements and my best wishes as you continue to grow and enhance your careers.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Recognizing Our Teammates for Compassion

This week we recognized members of our team for their kindness and caring at our annual Compassionate Caregiver Award Ceremony. 

In April 2007, Dr. John Adams, a past Chief of Pathology, brought The Schwartz Center Rounds to GBMC. The rounds were created by Kenneth Schwartz who died of lung cancer in September 1995. Shortly before his death, he founded the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare, which is dedicated to strengthening the human connection at the heart of healthcare. In 2014, GBMC renamed the rounds in honor of Dr. John Adams. 

The intention of the rounds continues as it was first envisioned by Kenneth Schwartz and Dr. Adams – to bring together professional caregivers and offer sessions designed to support, validate, provide guidance, and educate those who are presented with difficult social and emotional issues in patient care.

At the annual Compassionate Caregiver ceremony, we honor GBMC employees who have brought our vision to life by representing the care envisioned by Kenneth Schwartz and Dr. Adams. We choose staff members throughout our organization who embody what it means to be an advocate for patients, an example for their colleagues, and someone who shows true empathy and caring through their interactions. True compassion is the ability to relate, empathize, listen, and care for a person in need.

This year’s winner of the Nancy J. Petrarca Compassionate Caregiver Award was Kimberly Blay, DNP, CRNP-PC, a Neonatal Advanced Practitioner. This award is named for and in honor of a close friend of Dr. Adams. Thank you, Kimberly for all that you do for babies, their families, and your peers.

We are fortunate that in the GBMC family we have so many colleagues who inspire us and remind us of the innate goodness in people. I would also like to congratulate and thank those individuals nominated for this year’s Compassionate Caregiver Award including:

Andrea Carson, LPN – Gilchrist
Olivia Constantino, CNA – Unit 38
Meg Craun, OTR/L – Acute Care and Rehab
Patricia Flanagan, LCSW-C – Gilchrist
Evette Matthews, BSN – SAFE & DV Program
Nihkolle McGirt – GBMC Health Partners Owings Mills
Samantha Morquecho, BSN – Emergency Department
Cate O’Connor-Devlin, BSN – Patient Experience
Kelly Riddle, RT(T) – Radiation Oncology
Laurence Ross, MD – General Surgery
Kelly Truax – SAFE & DV Program

You can view the event here.

Thank you all for demonstrating the kind of expert, compassionate care that we would want for our own loved ones. 

Kudos to Dr. Ioannou
I want to congratulate JoAnn Ioannou, DNP, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, for being presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award from Stevenson University. The award is presented to a graduate who “demonstrates the Stevenson tradition of excellence through personal accomplishment, professional achievement, and humanitarian service.”

Congrats Dr. Ioannou on this well-deserved recognition!

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Helping Those Who Are Struggling with Depression and Anxiety

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Everyone has moments of sadness and/or anxiety but millions of people suffer from overwhelming and recurrent anxiety that severely affects their lives. Physicians, nurses, and others in healthcare are not immune. The pandemic has created much new stress in our industry. We have seen an increase in depression and anxiety leading to increases in substance abuse and in suicide. If you or someone you know is suffering, there are many ways to get help. GBMC offers the following resources:

Our GBMC CARES Program is available with trained, on-call physician mentors. Call 443-849-2273 (CARE). This is a free and confidential service.
Our Chaplains are available for one-on-one and team debriefings, as well as confidential support. The phone number for Spiritual Support Services is 443-849-2054.
Our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available for confidential one-on-one debriefings. Call 1-800-437-0911, email or visit (access code 9SJ87).
Our Gilchrist Grief Counseling services are available with support groups, workshops, and events. Call 443-849-8251 or 443-539-4086 (Howard County).

Please take care of yourselves and please be kind to your work colleagues who may be struggling with anxiety or depression. You never fully know another person’s experience. Other mental health resources can be found here.

Go on a run or walk for the NICU
It’s almost June and the pandemic is hopefully fading into the sunset, so I am looking forward to an actual in-person Father’s Day 5K! (Have you registered?). The race, which is happening on June 20 from 8-11 a.m., benefits our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. There is still a virtual component for those who can’t join us in person!

Let Us Not Forget
This coming weekend is the “unofficial” start to the summer travel season. While many of us are heading to see family, to the beaches or to the pool, let’s remember that Monday is Memorial Day. This special day gives us the opportunity to honor those who have given their lives in service to our country. On Memorial Day, please take a moment to honor our veterans for their commitment to safeguarding our security.

Friday, May 21, 2021

The Dance Center and Our Cancer Team Live Our Vision

This week, I received a letter from the grateful wife of a patient from our Milton J. Dance Jr. Head and Neck Center, expressing their deepest gratitude for the outstanding work of Dr. Ray Blanco and other members of the Dance Center team. The letter made me realize again how lucky I am to be the CEO of the GBMC HealthCare system. Even during the pandemic and the cyberattack, I have received many letters, emails, and thank you cards for the work of our people who do extraordinary things for our patients. 

This patient came to us after feeling a lump in his neck back in mid-October 2020. His primary care physician at first treated him for an acute infection, but when the lump persisted, the physician ordered an ultrasound and referred the patient to a specialist at another hospital. The patient and his wife were not happy with the care he received at the other hospital. The patient’s wife then called her otolaryngologist, Dr. Andrew Goldstone. She wrote:

Dr. Goldstone, who I am lucky enough to call my ENT, without hesitation referred me to Dr. Ray Blanco, a head and neck surgeon, with your Milton J. Dance Jr. Head and Neck Center. Within minutes my husband had an appointment for the next day and all paperwork had been emailed to me along with telephone verbal follow through (and this is where our amazing cancer journey began!).

As I progress with our incredible experience at GBMC, I want to mention that we were more than aware of the hardship that was placed on GBMC with both COVID restrictions and ultimately a cyberattack. Yet at NO TIME was the compassionate care and attention given us compromised in any manner.

Dr. Blanco was more than thorough. His attention to every detail was absolutely flawless. He was kind, compassionate, and very detailed in what we needed to do. When we left Dr. Blanco after that first appointment, we had the confidence, peace of mind, and a sigh of relief that we were in the right hands.

Due to COVID restrictions, I was not allowed to be with my loved one during his surgery. Dr. Blanco told me that someone would be calling me periodically. Dr. Blanco kept his word. I received several calls as the surgery progressed, and I was updated through each procedure. When the surgery was over, Dr. Blanco personally called me and explained in detail what he had done, as well as what the next steps would be.

We had been told that Dr. Blanco would be stopping in to see my spouse the day after surgery to check on his swallowing. I thought to myself, really ...on Thanksgiving weekend someone would be checking on him? Well, as promised; I received a call that he was in the room with my husband checking on his swallowing and that he would be able to come home on Sunday. He was released on Sunday as promised.

When first faced with a cancer diagnosis, there's fear and trepidation. I can convey to you that Dr. Blanco, Dr. Tang, Dr. Neuner, Dr. Sinada (and their respective staff) and our incredible team at the Dance Center, we were never alone. Not for one moment. Not for one second. I can honestly say, we felt we were at home with these amazing people. They did everything for us, guided us through every step always with caring compassion. How important did they make us feel!!!!

Gratitude to Dr. Sinada and his expert dental skills in guiding my husband through that aspect of his cancer. 

Since the surgery, we have been treated with truly the most supreme care one could ever imagine. The fabulous staff at the Infusion Center, and our beloved Dance Team who took care of both of us. We were never alone. While at this time, chemo is completed, we do want to give our gratitude and praise to the Infusion Center staff.

Our gratitude as well to wonderful Dr. Tang and her staff for their wonderful care, expert, and kind attention to my loved one and for always keeping me updated and informed.

We now have the additional privilege of monthly zoom meetings with Dorothy Gold, Karen Ryniak, and the amazing cancer support group we have met through them. We feel like we have a new group of friends to share cancer experiences.

Dr. Chessare, suffice to say, we are so overwhelmingly pleased with the care we got at GBMC that we hope to be able to use your hospital for all future medical concerns. When I proudly share with others the care and treatment we received at GBMC, they're all amazed (or, our friends who already are patients at GBMC just nod their heads in agreement!)

We thank you, Dr. Chessare and we thank each of your healthcare professionals, from Dr. Goldstone's first return call to me, we couldn't be more grateful. Every single person we've met along the way has shown us the most genuine and sincere compassion (even the manager in your gift shop)! Our heartfelt love and gratitude for each of you. God Bless!

What else can I say? What an outstanding example of GBMC living up to its vision. Our vision is about a relationship between a physician, his or her team, and a patient. It is about a promise to that patient to work with him or her to maximize his or her health. It is about having the time to reflect on patients’ health between visits, to make sure that they are getting what the evidence says will keep them well.

The letter above is a great example of teamwork and rallying around a patient and their family! We need to continue our work to make this happen for every patient, every time. I am very grateful for all my colleagues involved in this case. I know how hard they work and I want to thank them for not forgetting why they do what they do.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Hospitals have made great improvements in their systems

This week (May 9-15) is National Hospital Week. The American Hospital Association has designated this year’s theme as “Inspiring Hope through Healing.” During this week, we thank all our team – physicians, nurses, therapists, engineers, food service workers, environmental service workers, volunteers, administrators, and our support staff for their efforts to drive us towards our vision. I am very grateful for all that our hospital team does every day.

I have been reflecting a lot recently about the improvements made over the last decade in hospital care. At GBMC, and in other hospitals across our nation, hospital-acquired harm has been significantly reduced. We have many fewer catheter-associated urinary tract infections, central line-associated bloodstream infections, ventilator-associated pneumonias, wound infections, and we have seen improvements in the rate of many other harms. How did we achieve this? Well, we have always had fabulous clinicians, but now they work in better designed systems. As an example, we now have standard work for the introduction and maintenance of urinary catheters. It is this standard work, carried out by well-trained and hard- working physicians, nurses, and other clinicians, that has led to the reduction in catheter-associated urinary tract infections. 

It was not that long ago that other industries looked down on healthcare because of the unreliability of our systems. Now, much of healthcare design is as good as or better than other industries in the private sector. This weekend, I had a less than optimal experience with U-Haul. I was moving a family member to a new city as she is about to start a new job. We had ordered the truck, a dolly, a hand-truck, and two packs of furniture pads online several weeks before the move. Last Friday, we got a call that the U-Haul dealer that we had ordered the truck from to say that they would not have a truck the next morning at 7 a.m. as promised. They told us to go to another dealer that didn’t open until 10 a.m. When we arrived at the other dealer dutifully at 10 a.m., we were told by an adjacent merchant that they didn’t open until 10:30 or 11 a.m. When the U-Haul employees finally arrived, they told us that they had a truck but no hand-truck or dolly. We took the truck without the other helpful equipment because we had no other choice. 

This experience reminded me of the adage attributed to Dr. Paul Batalden, one of the early leaders of the healthcare quality movement: “Every system is perfectly designed to get exactly the results that it gets.” U-Haul has some work to do on its systems. I am happy that hospitals have made great progress on their systems, especially at GBMC. I am also glad that during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the community has developed a renewed sense of the value of hospitals to the community. 

On Wednesday, we celebrated our employees with our annual ice cream distribution and Hospital Week gifts. I want to thank Richelle Tighe, Executive Assistant, to Anna-Maria Palmer, our Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, for putting together the social and for doing her part to spread joy within our system. 

Thank you!
May is also Critical Care Awareness and Recognition Month. It is a time to recognize critical care teams across our country. Again, it is particularly important to thank our ICU physicians, nurses and other clinicians for taking care of the very sick during the pandemic. 

I would like to extend my thanks to our critical care team!

Friday, May 7, 2021

Honoring Our Nurses After a Very Difficult Year

This week is National Nurses Week (May 6 – 12), and I don’t think a week is enough time to recognize all the valiant efforts of our nurses over this past year. We are blessed to have phenomenal nurses in our inpatient units, our operating suites, our outpatient areas, our physician practices, in our hospice, and in elder care. They have stepped up every day and cared for our patients even though we were hit with a pandemic and a horrific cyber-attack.

The 2021 theme of National Nurses Week is “Frontline Warrior.” This theme recognizes how nurses have spent the last 17 months working under extremely hard conditions and have remained committed to their jobs and dedicated to their patients. 

Last night, we celebrated our nurses at our annual Art of Nursing event. Because of the pandemic, we were not able to hold a gala indoors but that did not stop us! We were decked out in 1950’s attire which, included poodle skirts, letterman’s jackets, t-shirts, and pedal pushers. Bengie’s Drive-In Theatre in Middle River was decorated in theme to celebrate our nurses. 

In addition to having some safe fun outdoors, we formally celebrated the nominees and winners of the 2021 Art of Nursing Awards. Congratulations to the winners and to all those who were nominated!  

--Clinical Assistant Support Award – Inpatient: Linda Dardozzi / General Operating Room
--Clinical Assistant Support Award – Outpatient: Ronnie Goode, CMA / GBMC Health Partners Primary Care - Owings Mills
--Mrs. Norman H. Baetjer, Jr. Nursing Graduate of the Year Award: Alexandra Fockler, BSN, RN / Pediatrics
--Evidenced-Based Practice in Nursing Award: Elenor Scheide, BSN, RN and Emily McCall, RN /Labor and Delivery and Medical Oncology/Telemetry (Unit 46)
--Patient- and Family-Centered Care Award: Cate O'Connor-Devlin, BSN, RN / Patient Experience
--Diversity in Nursing Award: Mary Sebastian, BSN, RN / Medical/Telemetry (Unit 38)
--Nurse Leader Award: Roel Tiberio, BSN, RN, CGRN / Endoscopy
--Nurse Clinician of the Year Award: Tracy Hickman, CHPLN /Gilchrist Hospice Care

I want to thank everyone who attended this year’s festivities, and I would really like to thank everyone who was involved in making this year’s Art of Nursing so successful. Thank you! 

Celebrating our Advanced Practitioners
Last week, we braved the wind and celebrated the hard work of our outstanding Advanced Practitioners at an event in a tent on the South Chapman parking lot. Under the leadership of Megan Shackelford, MSN, CRNP-AC, our Advanced Practitioners play an important role on our care teams in the delivery of care to our patients in our three work systems. Their efforts do not go unnoticed – they are incredible teammates to our physicians, nurses, and other clinicians!

--Family Centered Care Award: Amanda Wiese, CRNP / Integrative Palliative Medicine
--Advanced Practitioner Leader of the Year: Deborah Jones-Shook MSN, CRNP, CDE / GBMC Health Partners Primary Care -- Hunt Valley
--Advanced Practitioner of the Year: Justin Kirk, PA-C / Emergency Department.
--Advanced Practitioner Team Player Award: Jooyoung Lee ACNP-BC, MS, CCRN, RNFA / Internal Medicine/Surgery
--Advanced Practitioner Diversity and Inclusion Advocacy Award: Louise Hansen DNP, MSN, CRNP-AC / NICU
--Cynthia Arnold Scholarship Award: Lindsay Klinefelter, PA-C / Labor & Delivery

On behalf of the entire GBMC HealthCare family, I want to thank our Advanced Practitioners for their hard work in service to our patients and their commitment to our community.

Happy Mother’s Day!
Mother’s Day is a day that we set aside to reflect on motherhood and thank our mothers for their love and support. So to all the mothers, within the GBMC HealthCare family, thank you and enjoy your day!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Campus Change Begins to Accelerate

I remember my first impression of the GBMC campus 11 years ago – I was immediately impressed by its natural beauty. I was also a bit confused about where the main entrance was because it was a bit understated. Well, we are now entering a phase of major construction on our campus. We will retain the natural beauty, but GBMC is about to get a facelift of sorts. 

Last week we closed entrance “A” at the East Pavilion to begin widening the roadway to create our temporary “main” entrance. We also opened our new Newborn and Specialty Care Nursery. On Tuesday, I took a tour of the 10,000-square foot unit with Russ Sadler, Manager of Capital Resources, Jodie Bell, MSN, RNC-LRN, IBCLC, Assistant Director of Women’s & Children’s Services, and Lisa Groff Reuschling, DNP, RN, Clinical Director of Women and Children’s Services. I was really impressed! 

This new unit will house babies who are not well enough or big enough to go home, but don’t require NICU-level care. We have long been known for child and family-centered care, and this new space was built with our newborns and their parents in mind. The unit can handle up to six babies at a time and it features private rooms for every patient. Included in the unit are sleep rooms that allow both parents to stay overnight with their baby. Another key revision includes a centralized nurse station to increase workflow efficiency. We deliver more than 4,000 babies a year and some of them need to spend some extra time with us. I want to thank everyone responsible for adding this beautiful space that can help families bond with their child before heading home. Thank you!

This is the first of the so-called “enabling” moves for the Promise Project. We have now vacated Unit 47, the old NICU, and have started reconstructing it to house our Integrative Care Unit, which is presently on Unit 36. Once Unit 47 is complete, we will re-do Unit 36 and then move Unit 34 into that space. The current Unit 34 must be closed before we start constructing the 3-story addition for the Promise Project. 

We will break ground this September for our three-story hospital addition and, in the spring of 2022, we will begin construction on our new parking garage with the two-story medical office building on top of it. This new building will be called the Sandra R. Berman Pavilion thanks to a significant gift from Sandy and Malcolm Berman. The Berman Cancer Institute will move to this new building when it is completed. 

Other construction projects include work on our new Allan Parsons Infusion Center for our Cancer Institute on the second floor of the William E. Kahlert Physicians Pavilion North, and the completion of our new imaging center on the ground floor of the East Pavilion. There is a lot going on and I can’t wait to see it all come to fruition!  

Occupational Therapists (OT) Impact in Patients’ Everyday Lives
Since April is Occupational Therapy Month, I am pleased to take this opportunity to recognize the occupational therapists across our system who are making a difference in the lives of adults and children. Our therapists and therapy assistants provide functionally-oriented treatment that helps individuals of all ages after an injury, illness, or medical procedure. Their work promotes healing, increases strength and endurance, and teaches patients how to prevent further pain or injury. Their specialty care can help their patients achieve a higher level of independence.

I want to sincerely thank all the OTs and OTAs for their incredible work and for their unwavering dedication to our patients!


Recently, The Daily Record announced their “2021 Health Care Heroes,” and I am proud to announce that several members of the GBMC HealthCare System were honored.

These awards highlight individuals who have played a major role in improving the quality of healthcare in Maryland. They are recognized for “professional achievements, community involvement, and inspiring change.”

I want to congratulate Ashley McAree, MSN, RN, FNE-A/P, SANE-A, Human Trafficking Liaison for GBMC’s Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) and Domestic Violence (DV) Program, who was selected as Nurse of the Year, and most recently as a Top 100 Women by the same publication, and Lori Mulligan, Director at Gilchrist Hospice Care, for being honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Here are the other winners: 

Workplace Wellness Program of the Year:

Nurse Practitioner of the Year:
Tracie Schwoyer-Morgan, DNP, MS, ANP-BC

Physician of the Year:
Aaron J. Charles, MD, CMD, CHMD

Congratulations to all our colleagues for their hard work and for getting the acknowledgement they so rightfully deserve!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Coming Together for a Cause

I want to thank everyone who participated in our Walk a Mile in Their Shoes event this year. We had close to 250 participants and raised more than $77,000 for our Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) and Domestic Violence (DV) program

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Walk A Mile event was held virtually over a 17-day period during which participants walked or jogged and logged their miles. They then shared their journey to spread awareness of the impact of sexual assault and domestic violence in our community on social media. In an outpouring of community support, we reached 5,028 miles walked, surpassing the goal of 2,891 miles, which represented the number of patients who received help from the SAFE & DV Program in the last five years. 

In support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we also conducted a multi-faceted campaign with local artists and businesses. Core Cycle Studios of Timonium hosted an in-person, socially distanced fundraiser centered around building awareness for the number of children treated by GBMC. Led by studio owner Heather Chilcot, seven teams of two rode 94 miles, representing the 94 children who were assault victims treated by GBMC’s SAFE & DV Program in 2020. In addition to these teams, other participants registered to cycle or participate in a barre class for one hour. Overall, Core Cycle Studios raised over $2,000.

Baltimore artists, Beth-Ann Wilson and Amy Shrestha, each graciously donated a one-of-a-kind butterfly painting that was raffled off to support our SAFE & DV Program. The butterflies represent victims emerging from their personal tragedies, ready to face life with newfound strength. Over 100 people entered the raffle, raising $3,426! 

Locally owned Mason Mayes Boutique also donated 10% of all sales from this past Saturday to our program and raised $500.

The success of this year’s event was made possible by the commitment and generosity of our walkers, donors, sponsors, and local businesses. Your backing of our SAFE & DV program is truly appreciated and shows your ardent support of the hard work of our forensic nurses. Together, you allow us to continue serving those in need and educating the community. Thank you!

I want to also thank Dr. Fred Chan, Bonnie Stein, and our committee members who worked together to make this year’s event such a success! Click here  to watch (or re-watch!) this moving event. In the video, GBMC’s experts give insight into the work being done by the program and the personal experiences that they have had with victims.

Wishing All of You Were Here
This week, we are celebrating National Volunteer Appreciation Week. It is an opportunity for our organization to recognize and thank our volunteers for the significant contributions they make to our health system by generously donating their time and talent. 

When the coronavirus hit last spring, our healthcare system made the difficult decision to halt our volunteer programs for the safety of our volunteers, patients, and staff. Even though most of our volunteers are still at home, we do have a few back on campus in low-risk areas. 

This week, in honor of our volunteers, I was able to attend the “Drive Thru” appreciation celebration and to say, “thank you.” It was a great event and I was reminded again that at GBMC we are truly blessed to have such a fantastic volunteer auxiliary. For those volunteers who are still at home and who couldn’t attend this event, please know that you are never far from our thoughts and that your smiles and the special talents you bring are truly missed. 

…And It’s Medical Laboratory Professionals Week! This week is also Medical Laboratory Professionals Week (Apr. 18 – 24). These behind-the-scenes heroes are essential members of the patient care team who play a vital role in the diagnosis and prevention of disease. We are very fortunate to have an outstanding team of pathologists, technicians, phlebotomists, and support staff. Thanks to our lab personnel for all that they do to drive us towards our vision!