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December 17, 2015

2015: The Year in Review

BMC had a busy year in 2015, from the continued construction on campus to the launch of Project Evolve to staff celebrations. Take a look back on what BMC accomplished this year.


  • BMC took another step into the future of health care by joining the Medicare Shared Services Program (MSSP), an accountable care organization (ACO) for hospitals serving Medicare patients. The purpose of the MSSP is to encourage more efficient, high quality care for Medicare patients through a new payment model and a move to population health management and chronic disease management.


  • The Cardiac Rehab program celebrated its 30th anniversary. The program helps patients with cardiovascular problems reduce their risk of developing future heart problems.
  • Despite over 110 inches of snow, three blizzards and record-breaking freezing temperatures, BMC staff continued to provide care to patients and found creative ways to get to work.


  • BMC launched a new marketing campaign, Stronger Together, designed to bring more patients to BMC for their primary care services. The campaign highlights that as a hospital, BMC is stronger when it works with its community health center partners, patients, and one another.
  • The third floor of Yawkey closed in order to start construction on the new Women and Infants' Center, which will serve the needs of women on the continuum of care from pregnancy through delivery to discharge.



  • BMC went live with eMERGE, its electronic health record system, in Ambulatory clinics. BMC now has one unified electronic health record for each patient.
  • The 19th annual BMC Gala, which was held on May 9, raised $3,075,000, breaking the record for the amount of money raised at this event, and putting the Gala in the top tier for fundraising events in Boston.
  • Boston Medical Center hosted a roundtable discussion featuring leaders in the prevention, treatment, and education of opioid abuse. Attendees includes U.S. Secretary of Human of Human Services Sylvia Burwell, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, representatives from other state government agencies, leaders of treatment and education programs, and providers from Boston hospitals, including Colleen Labelle, BSN, RN, CARN, and Alex Walley, MD, from BMC.


  • The third annual Be Exceptional Awards honored 20 individual winners and eight team winners, who were selected from a pool of over 200 nominations. The winners were chosen for their exceptional performance and dedication to fulfilling BMC's mission and the four QUEST goals: quality, efficiency, satisfaction, and total revenue.
  • BMC's Catwalk for Cancer Care raised more than $275,000 to help the Cancer Center fund transportation services for patients otherwise unable to get to appointments, complementary therapies such as yoga and acupuncture, and patient navigation services.


  • Save My Life: Boston Trauma, which showcased trauma services at BMC, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Brigham and Women's Hospital, premiered on July 19 on ABC. The show aired nationally for six weeks.
  • Boston HealthNet celebrated its 20th anniversary. Boston HealthNet is a network of 13 community health centers affiliated with BMC that offer a full range of primary care and many specialty services


  • BMC partnered with CVS Health and Rhode Island Hospital to examine the use of pharmacy-distributed naloxone to combat opioid overdose. The three organizations were awarded a three-year grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) for a demonstration program in which they will track and analyze data from CVS, BMC, and Rhode Island Hospital pharmacies throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island that distribute naloxone rescue kits.


  • BMC honored staff at different stages of their tenure, from five to 50 years, at the annual Service Awards. Kate Walsh, President and CEO, led the ceremony, which celebrated 660 staff members. Three staff members have been at BMC for 45 years and one has been at the hospital for 50 years – marking the hospital's first 50 year employee.
  • Project Evolve, a hospital-wide initiative focused on increasing operational efficiency and business intelligence, launched. All employees now use Workday, an employee self-service tool that allows employees to have easier access to contact and personal information and replaces many of the functions from myBMC. BMC also implemented Kronos, a time and attendance software used for time capture, scheduling, and access to other time-related information.


  • ICD-10 went live at BMC. This system is mandated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid for coding and billing and is used throughout the country. ICD-10 replaced ICD-9 and allows for more specificity in coding.
  • BMC's Violence Intervention Advocacy Program (VIAP), directed by Thea James, MD, Vice President of Mission and Associate Chief Medical Officer, was awarded a $997,966 grant from the Office of Victims of Crime, administered by the U.S. Department of Justice. The grant will be used to develop and support programs at BMC designed specifically for male survivors of violence.
  • BMC participated in the first annual HUBWeek, a week-long series of events and experiences designed to bring together and celebrate art, science, and technology and the unique innovations and solutions they produce in Boston. Representatives of Boston Medical Center participated in HUBWeek events that showcased the expertise and innovative thinking the hospital has to offer.


  • The Moakley building addition, the first major clinical campus redesign project to be finished, opened. The new space includes a consolidated Center for Digestive Disorders, new space for Otolaryngology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and the Command Center, and a new, state-of-the-art space for the Alan D. Solomont and Susan Lewis Solomont Clinical Simulation and Nursing Education Center.
  • TBMC was named a winner at the Center for Digital Government's fifth annual Cybersecurity Leadership and Innovation Awards for the hospital's Security Risk and Compliance Program, which saves $1.3 million annually. The award recognizes cybersecurity achievements and demonstrations of leadership, innovation, and creativity in this area in the past two to three years.


  • Boston Magazine named 60 BMC physicians from 29 areas as "tops" in their respective fields.
  • Boston Medical Center celebrated ten years of the Schwartz Center Rounds program. The Schwartz Center Rounds provide a regularly scheduled time for health care providers to openly and honestly discuss the social and emotional issues they face in caring for patients and families.
  • BMC reached an important campus redesign milestone with the raising of the transport bridge over Albany St.

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BMC Opens Isolation Unit for Highly Communicable Infectious Diseases

Last year, the topic of Ebola dominated headlines across the world, and given Boston's premier health care institutions our hospitals and caregivers were part of many of the stories. . While this story has largely faded from view, highly communicable infectious diseases such as Ebola are still a top priority for researchers and a concern for health care providers. To address this priority, Boston Medical Center has opened an isolation unit that has the capacity to care for patients with these diseases.

The primary purpose of the isolation unit is to provide extra resources for patients coming into BMC or the wider community with highly communicable infectious disease. The unit also has a smaller role in medical backup for the National and Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratory at Boston University (NEIDL), which is a biosafety level four laboratory. This means that the labs are equipped for work with agents that pose a high individual risk of aerosol-transmitted laboratory infections and life-threatening disease.

"As we saw with Ebola, the likelihood of seeing travelers with potential highly communicable infectious disease in Boston is not small," says Nahid Bhadelia, MD, Director of Infection Control at the NEIDL and the medical director of the isolation unit. "While BMC is not an Ebola treatment center, the isolation unit speaks to a larger need for us, as we're becoming a smaller world and seeing diseases across borders, to have these resources. This unit helps us be better prepared as a hospital and as a community to provide better and safer care to these patients. We also anticipate that it will rarely, if ever, be needed as backup for the NEIDL."

The three-bed isolation unit has been in the works for almost four years, with a design based on similar units at institutions such as Emory University Hospital, the National Institutes of Health, and University of Nebraska Medical Center. The area is a flex space, which means it will be used as normal rooms when an isolation unit is not needed, but can be retrofitted to the isolation unit quickly if necessary. The isolation unit is highly engineered, with features such as specialized air handling and seamless surfaces designed for thorough cleaning. While most hospitals have isolation units, BMC is the only hospital in the Northeast with this type of engineering.

There are approximately 40 nurses and ten physicians who are prepared to staff the isolation unit if it is activated. The nurses are primarily medical surgical and critical care nurses, and the physicians include infectious disease and critical care doctors, as well as anesthesiologists. These staff members will keep their primary duties in other areas of the hospital, but receive quarterly training and drills on topics such as personal protective equipment and management of highly infectious patients and will be called in if the unit is activated.

"Our staff and the training they receive makes this program unique," says Kate Baudin, RN, the nurse manager for the isolation unit. "Our hope is that the unit will eventually serve as a focal point for academic programs on emerging infections, and that we can use our rigorous training program to train others in the region."

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Sleep Medicine at BMC Helps Patients and Staff Be Well-Rested

How many of us have come to work complaining about how tired we are or how badly we slept? For most of us, we've probably had those days, but truly bad sleep is rarely an everyday occurrence. For others, night after night of interrupted sleep or inability to fall asleep easily, among other sleep issues, leads them to seek help. Many of these patients end up in the Sleep Disorders Center's clinic and lab at BMC in search of relief.

Patients come to the sleep clinic and lab for a variety of reasons, but the most common are breathing issues, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome, in addition to parasomnia (disruptive sleep disorders such as night terrors or sleepwalking), hypersomnia (sleeping too much), and narcolepsy. They are referred to either the sleep lab or clinic by BMC or community health center providers; patients can start their sleep medicine journey in either the lab or the clinic, depending on their specific issues.

Providers work with patients in the clinic to determine the extent of the problem and develop treatment plans, which can include medication, psychological interventions, and referrals to other BMC services, such as bariatric surgery for sleep apnea. Some patients only come for one visit, while others come more often. Five clinicians – two fellows, a nurse practitioner, and two physicians – work in the adult neurology sleep clinic, while Pediatrics and Pulmonary run their own related clinics. The fellows are part of the sleep medicine fellowship training program at BMC, which trains two fellows a year and is not common among hospitals with sleep clinics or labs. Physicians also do inpatient sleep consults.

"Many patients who come to our sleep lab or clinic have additional difficulties in managing their treatment," says Sanford Auerbach, MD, a neurologist and Director of the Sleep Disorders Center. "One of the main things we do is help the referring providers by facilitating and taking responsibility for patients' treatment, as well as help patients take responsibility for their own treatment."

The sleep lab began in the early 1970s with sporadic studies done by Boston City Hospital researchers. In the 1980s, the hospital created an official program, which had one bed and did three to four studies per week. Today, the sleep lab has 12 beds and runs seven nights a week, serving approximately 60 patients a week. It is unique in that it sees patients of all ages and in that an RN works in the lab.

When patients come to the sleep lab, they are first asked to fill out questionnaires about their day, such as whether they have been feeling sick or if they took a nap, and their histories are reviewed. Patients are then hooked up with electrodes that monitor sleep stages, heart rate, breathing, and leg movements, among other measures. Technicians watch each patient on monitors in other rooms. Most patients are left alone to sleep for seven to eight hours, but those who are being evaluated for sleep apnea might be woken up so that they can use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which helps regulate breathing. In the morning, patients are given another questionnaire about how well they slept and then come in later for a follow-up appointment.

The sleep clinic and lab also serve BMC staff members and Boston University School of Medicine students. "We often see sleep problems in hospital workers and medical students," says Auerbach. "Both shift work and stress, common in these populations, can lead to sleep issues. We've treated many employees and expect to continue to do so."

If you are having sleep problems or would like to refer a patient, call the clinic at 638-7939 or speak to your primary care provider.

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Choosing Wisely Helps Providers Use Resources Efficiently

Every day, health care providers must make decisions about how to best diagnose and treat patients. This necessitates ordering tests, requesting imaging, using medical devices, and a range of other activities that, in theory, will help patients get well. But sometimes the conventional wisdom for diagnosis and treatment doesn't reflect the most up-to-date recommendations. To help guide physicians to make choices based on these recommendations, BMC has integrated five Choosing Wisely recommendations into eMERGE:

  • Don't place, or leave in place, urinary catheters for incontinence or convenience or monitoring of output for non-critically ill patients, unless there is an acceptable indication.
  • Don't order diagnostic tests at regular intervals (such as every day), but rather in response to specific clinical questions.
  • Avoid admission or preoperative chest x-rays for ambulatory patients with unremarkable history and physical exam.
  • Don't perform major abdominal surgery or thoracic surgery without a pathway or standard protocol for postoperative pain control and pneumonia prevention.
  • Don't transfuse more than the minimum number of red blood cell (RBC) units necessary to relieve symptoms of anemia or to return a patient to a safe hemoglobin range.

On November 16, these five recommendations launched in eMERGE. In specific situations related to these five recommendations, a pop-up will appear when providers try to, for example, order a chest x-ray for a patient with a broken leg or order a transfusion for someone with a low but still acceptable hemoglobin level. The pop-up shouldn't interrupt normal work flow, and will have the relevant recommendation, with a link to more information. In each pop-up, providers will have the option to discontinue their order or click on their reason for ordering the test or procedure.

"As doctors, we often order tests that don't actually impact the health of our patients," says Brian Jacobson, MD, MPH, a gastroenterologist at BMC and the project lead for Choosing Wisely. "We might order these tests out of habit or because patients ask for them, or for many other reasons, but no matter why we order them, a test that doesn't impact health may be an inefficient use of resources. Putting Choosing Wisely recommendations front and center in eMERGE helps doctors take a step back and look closely at the tests they're ordering, to determine if they are truly necessary."

Choosing Wisely is a campaign run by the American Board of Internal Medicine, in collaboration with medical specialists. The goal of the campaign is to help doctors and patients make more rational choices about health care delivery by providing recommendations about tests and procedures and helping doctors have conversations with patients about their medical choices.

The Choosing Wisely project group at BMC, which includes physicians from across hospital specialties and Quality and Patient Safety employees, began with a list of 300 recommendations from the ABIM. They narrowed the list down to 40 recommendations by eliminating recommendations that BMC is already following, recommendations that could have negative unintended consequences, and recommendations that would be difficult to implement in eMERGE. Those 40 recommendations were sent to content experts at BMC, who chose the 20 recommendations they felt were most important. From there, the project group picked the five inpatient recommendations they thought fit best with other hospital goals.

"We heard from a lot of providers that they ordered tests requested by someone else," says Jacobson. "These Choosing Wisely pop-ups help ensure that providers are only ordering tests and procedures when medically necessary, not just because someone else asked for it. We will also be conducting chart audits on requests from admitting services when necessary. This will help us fix issues at the individual level and not bother people who are regularly complying with national guidelines. We only launched a few weeks ago, but are already seeing reductions in the use of unnecessary blood tests and admission chest x-rays."

The launch of Choosing Wisely is part of a supplement BMC gets from the state and federal government's Delivery Systems Transformation Initiatives (DSTI) program, which helps offset low rates of Medicaid payments. The supplement is used to transform the delivery of health care and in order to receive it, hospitals must propose projects to make care more cost-effective. As part of the project, BMC plans to launch five more Choosing Wisely recommendation in eMERGE next year – these will most likely include Ambulatory recommendations – and continue to launch more over time.

"BMC is the largest safety net system to launch Choosing Wisely," says Jacobson. "Anything that helps providers make more efficient use of health care resources ultimately helps patients by ensuring that enough resources exist for all who need them.

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What do you do, Ashley McLellan?

Name: Ashley McLellan, CCLS
Titles: Child Life Specialist
Departments: Ambulatory Pediatrics
Time at BMC: 7 months

What brought you to BMC?
When I was in graduate school, I interned on the inpatient pediatric unit at BMC. After graduating, I worked for a few years at Bay State Medical Center in Springfield, but I jumped at the first opportunity to come back and work at BMC.

What do you do here?
In general, the role of Child Life at BMC is to help children and their families manage the stressors that are associated with hospitalization and illness. We work to help normalize a medical environment through play and humor – and lots and lots of bubbles. We also help prepare children for procedures and exams by offering them language they can make use of, by advocating for comfort positioning that honors and respects the continuity of their primary caregiver's role, and by offering them meaningful choices that help reinforce a feeling of independence and control over the situation. We also offer short and long-term coping strategies to help pediatric patients manage their pain more effectively or deal with chronic illness.

I work specifically in Ambulatory Pediatrics, supporting primary care, specialty groups, and the outpatient pediatrics procedure unit. I help support pediatric patients through their well child checks, and collaborate with doctors and nurses and other pediatric specialists to come up with individualized care plans for specific children. For example, the other day we had a young girl who needed an MRI and was incredibly anxious about the experience. Through a little time with the gastroenterologist and the mom, and by meeting the child the day of, we were able to help her think through and identify the things that were most scary about the procedure, give her information that prepared her for the exam, and talk her through it in a way that actually enabled her to get through the MRI without any sedation. It was great to see her not only successfully complete the exam, but also emerge with a sense of confidence, having accomplished something that was really scary to her.

Can you tell us about the Child Life Team's work during the holiday season? How can staff members help?
Our big program is the Adopt-a-Family holiday gift program. For the past few months, we have been taking referrals from pediatricians to support the families of BMC who may have trouble providing holiday gifts for their children this year. We've collected close to 500 referrals and are now matching them with corporate sponsors, as well as individual donors who are interested in supporting these families. Any staff members who are interested in adopting a family this year can contact me at [email protected] or Stephanie Sharp at [email protected] for more information. So far we've received an incredible amount of support and it looks like we'll be able to match all the families this year.

We also maintain an ongoing wish list for the department, which includes things like crayons, paint, and bubbles that we use on a regular basis throughout the year and are in constant need of for supporting patients. People can donate specific items from the list at any time.

What's something about working as part of the Child Life that people might not guess?
By now there is broad understanding of and support for the role of play in normalizing a child's experience and promoting healthy development. A lot of people recognize Child Life for the role we have in advocating for play.

What they might not realize, however, is the huge cost-saving potential of the Child Life team's work. For example, in the case of the girl who faced her fears about the MRI and didn't have to be sedated, the cost of sedation and the cost of the labor that would have been necessary to support her through it was avoided. Additionally, just soliciting and facilitating the cooperation of kids through immunizations or sutures or casting reduces the amount of physician time necessary to do that work. There's also a lot of good data out there that shows that motivated kids have shorter length of stay in the hospital after surgery. It's a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into reducing the overhead for the hospital in general.

What do you like most about working at BMC?
I'm so thankful for the amazing team I work with. I work alongside so many creative people who are so deeply committed to doing excellent work. In addition, the families and kids I get to meet on a daily basis are so hilarious and bring so much joy not just to my life and work, but to the whole Pediatrics team. I think in general Pediatrics is a pretty amazing place to work and I feel lucky to be a part of it.

What do you do for fun outside of work?
I love getting outside as much as possible, although Boston certainly poses some weather-related challenges. I love hiking and I'm a beekeeper. I keep a few beehives in my backyard. I also love cooking and sharing meals with friends.

Do you know a staff member who should be profiled? Send your suggestions to [email protected] .

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News of Note

Food for Thought Dinner to Support The Grow Clinic
On November 23, BMC held the annual Food for Thought dinner, which raised $1.2 million for The Grow Clinic and its partner programs, including the Preventive Food Pantry, Demonstration Kitchen and the Child Witness to Violence Program. The Grow Clinic, which is part of BMC's Pediatrics Department, provides comprehensive medical, nutritional, developmental and social services, and dietary assistance to children from the Greater Boston area who are referred to the clinic with failure to thrive. The dinner was hosted by Heather Unruh of WCVB, and included speeches from Governor Charlie Baker and Jackie Fonseca, the mother of a Grow Clinic patient.

Food Pantry Thanksgiving Drive
With the help of 21 volunteers, the Food Pantry distributed 865 Thanksgiving packages this year. Turkeys were donated by Thermo Fisher Scientific, Lovin' Spoonfuls, JAM'N 94.5 and BMC staff, from a drive organized by the ITS Information Security Team.

Red Sox Holiday Caravan Visits BMC
On December 11, Red Sox players Robbie Ross Jr., Noe Ramirez, and Deven Marrero visited pediatric patients at BMC to help spread holiday cheer.

Cancer Screening and Education Event
On November 14, Boston Medical Center's Cancer Care Center held its 20th Cancer Screening and Education Event in the Moakley Building. The event was the collaborative effort of 18 departments and offered screenings for breast, head and neck, and skin cancers, as well as risk assessments for lung and prostate cancers. The educational component of the event included information on smoking cessation, women's cancers, nutrition, and colon cancer screening. Representatives from several outside organizations and programs, including the American Cancer Society, the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, and the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program participated in the event. In addition to the screening and educational offerings, the event's nearly one hundred attendees enjoyed live music, light refreshments, and free blood pressure checks. Attendees were also offered the opportunity to experience acupuncture and the 'M' technique (a method of gentle, structured touch).

Caroline Apovian, MD, Named VP of the Obesity Society
Caroline Apovian, MD, Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management program, has been named Vice President of the Obesity Society. Apovian will hold this position for one year, then becoming President Elect for one year, and then President the following year. The Obesity Society (TOS) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) scientific and educational organization dedicated to expanding research, prevention, and treatment of obesity and reduction in stigma and discrimination affecting persons with obesity.

Collen LaBelle, RN, Appointed to Board of Registration in Nursing
Colleen LaBelle, BSN, RN-BC, CARN, Nurse Manager of the Office-Based Addiction Treatment (OBAT) program, has been appointed to the Board of Registration in Nursing by Governor Charlie Baker. The Board creates and enforces regulations and standards for nurses in Massachusetts.

David Henderson, MD, Joins Psychiatry Department
David Henderson, MD, has been appointed Chief of Psychiatry at Boston Medical Center and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine. Prior to BMC, he served as the director of the Chester M. Pierce, MD, Division of Global Society at Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as the director of the MGH Schizophrenia Clinical and Research Program and a staff psychiatrist at MGH. He also served as an associate professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

Henderson received his bachelor's degree from Tufts University, and is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He completed his residency at MGH and trained as chief resident and research fellow at the Freedom Trail Clinic at the Erich Lindemann Mental Health Center in Boston.

Eileen Costello, MD, Named Chief of Ambulatory Pediatrics
Eileen Costello, MD, has been named Chief of Ambulatory Pediatrics at Boston Medical Center. A Boston pediatrician for more than 25 years, Costello has been active in the neighborhood health center network. She specializes in the primary care of children with neuro-developmental disorders, including autism, as well as children with psychiatric disease.

An accomplished author, Costello is well known for her book, "Quirky Kids: Understanding and Helping Your Child Who Doesn't Fit In," which highlights her creative and innovative approaches to both clinical care and specifically to children with neuro-developmental challenges.

A Boston native and Harvard graduate, Costello received her medical degree from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and completed her pediatric training at Boston City Hospital where she served as Chief Resident from 1989-1990.

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Awards and Accolades

BMC Doctors Named to "Top Docs" List
Boston Magazine has named 60 BMC physicians as "tops" in their respective fields on their annual list of top Boston-area doctors.

BMC Wins Accountable Care Compass Award
Boston Medical Center was honored with the Accountable Care Compass Award from the Massachusetts Hospital Association. The award, which is in its inaugural year, recognizes provider excellence and innovation in the delivery of high-quality, safe and efficient care. BMC took first place in the Reducing Hospital-Acquired Conditions and Readmissions category, for the I-COUGH incentive spirometry protocol.

Children's HealthWatch Receives Community Leadership Award
Children's HealthWatch was honored with a Community Leadership Award from the Massachusetts Public Health Association for its work in getting legislature to increase the Massachusetts Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) passed. Children's HealthWatch leads the Healthy Families EITC Coalition, which worked with Governor Baker and the state legislature to pass the EITC. This tax credit helps the working poor rise out of poverty, thus lowering the income gap and improving health.

BMC Recognized for Ten Years of Schwartz Center Rounds
Boston Medical Center has been recognized by the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare for conducting the Schwartz Center Rounds program for more than ten years. The Schwartz Center Rounds provide a regularly scheduled time for health care providers to openly and honestly discuss the social and emotional issues they face in caring for patients and families.

Jo M. Wood Receives 2015 Jeannie A. Akridge Scholarship
Healthcare Purchasing News recently announced that Jo M. Wood, Central Processing Department Compliance & Education Supervisor at Boston Medical Center, is the Jeannie A. Akridge Scholarship winner for 2015. Jo will receive $1,000 for her expenses and tuition for the annual 2016 IAHCSMM conference this year in San Antonio. Jo wrote the winning essay on how her Central Processing Department makes a difference and how important they are in providing safe healthcare.

Amy Sobota, MD, MPH, Receives American Society of Hematology Award
Amy Sobota, MD, MPH, a physician in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at BMC, has been awarded a 2016 Scholar Award from the American Society of Hematology. The award financially supports fellows and junior faculty dedicated to careers in hematology research as they transition from training programs to careers as independent investigators.

SPARK Center Reaccredited by NAEYC
SPARK Center provides quality early childhood education programs that give children greater readiness for and success in school.