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SPRINGFIELD — In an effort to improve health equity and meet the growing needs of the Springfield community, Baystate Health announced a plan to build a comprehensive community health center in the heart of the city, made possible by the support of its longstanding partner, MassMutual.

MassMutual is donating approximately 10 acres of land valued at an estimated $5 million in the southeast corner of its Springfield campus, as well as providing financing and other support for the project. In addition, the MassMutual Foundation is donating $5 million over five years to support the new, state-of-the-art health center that will be owned and operated by Baystate Health.

The expected total cost for the project is $45 million to $50 million.

The proposed 90,000-square-foot community health center, which will be accessible at the intersection of Wilbraham Road and Alden Street, will centralize services, creating a medical neighborhood caring for children, families, and adults and providing comprehensive primary care, integrated behavioral health, and ancillary services for the Greater Springfield area. The new center will have greater access by public transportation, ample free parking, and easy access from major thoroughfares.

Prior to conveyance to the Baystate Health Foundation, MassMutual will clear the site of the existing buildings, and the lot will be subdivided into its own parcel, separate from MassMutual’s headquarters. Construction is expected to begin sometime in 2025 and be completed in 2027.

“Thanks to the generous donations and substantial support provided by MassMutual and the MassMutual Foundation, Baystate Health’s vision to create a comprehensive, integrated community health and wellness center to serve the most vulnerable populations in Greater Springfield can advance towards realization,” Baystate Health President and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack said.

With the new community health center and wellness hub in place, Baystate Health will consolidate services from four of its existing Springfield health centers to the new building, where they will continue to provide services, plus more, for adult and pediatric patients at the new location. These centers will remain open and fully functional until their services can be transitioned to the new health center, and Baystate Health is committed to engaging the community and local leaders during the planning phase of the project.

The centers and their services that will be transitioned to the future Wilbraham Road location include Mason Square Neighborhood Health Center, Baystate High Street Health Center, Baystate High Street Pediatrics, and Wesson Women’s Clinic.

These existing community-based facilities are limited in size and scope with many infrastructure challenges that require significant upgrading and capital investment to  allow for growth and expansion of services. The new center will provide Baystate Health with a state-of-the-art, modern facility to provide robust care for patients as well as attract top providers.

“We intend to co-locate four of our existing Springfield community health centers into a larger, modern facility to create this unified healthcare delivery wellness hub,” Keroack said. “Several convergent factors have informed our vision. The positive outcomes we have demonstrated in our Medicaid accountable care organization, involving more than 50,000 of the region’s most underserved patients, have provided value to this population, improved health, and allowed us to begin to address health disparities and inequities. We could not do this without the generosity of MassMutual and the MassMutual Foundation.”

In addition to MassMutual’s support, the project will also benefit from some expected state and federal grants. The land that will be donated to Baystate Health represents roughly 10% of MassMutual’s approximately 100-acre Springfield campus. The company’s move toward digitization and bringing its employees together in its iconic main office building on State Street has left a portion of its property underutilized, including two vacant buildings. Rather than leave this space unused, the company wanted to find a better, more long-term meaningful use for the land, one that would serve the community MassMutual has called home since 1851.

“Throughout our long histories in Springfield, both MassMutual and Baystate have had an enduring commitment to each other’s success as we’ve worked toward our own respective, yet similar pursuits, helping people live better, more fulfilling lives,” said Roger Crandall, chairman, president, and CEO of MassMutual. “We are incredibly proud that a portion of our property will serve a more meaningful purpose and a greater good, expanding access to high-quality medical care to improve the health and well-being of our community for generations to come.”

Combined, the four existing community health centers planned for the move currently serve 125,000 patient visits annually. In the envisioned community health center campus on the land to be donated by MassMutual, Baystate Health expects patient visits to increase to 145,000 annually by 2028.

Daily News

Peter Banko

SPRINGFIELD — The Baystate Health board of trustees announced it has appointed Peter Banko as Baystate Health’s new president and CEO. He succeeds Dr. Mark Keroack, who previously announced his plans to retire after serving as the system’s leader for 10 years.

An executive experienced in leading multi-faceted health systems in markets throughout the country, Banko was chosen after an extensive national search by the board of trustees. Banko will officially join Baystate Health at the beginning of June.

Banko most recently served as president and CEO of Centura Health in Centennial, Colo., which was part of the national CommonSpirit Health system. The $3.8 billion hospital and health-services system comprised more than 20 owned and affiliated tertiary and rural hospitals, an extensive network of physician partners, and numerous community-based services and clinics across Colorado, Kansas, and Utah.

“Among a slate of high-qualified candidates, Peter stood out for both his commitment to our community-based healthcare mission and decades of experience leading complex health systems in diverse and competitive markets. He offers a proven track record of strengthening programs and services, growing revenue and market share, improving operations and operating discipline, and serving as a workforce champion,” said Harriet DeVerry, chair of the Baystate Health board of trustees. “We look forward to him joining the organization.”

Banko, a native of New Jersey, started his calling in healthcare as a junior volunteer and has served in CEO-level roles for several health systems for nearly two decades. He has an industry reputation of leading innovation, transformation, integration, and partnerships with hospitals, physician groups, and health plans. He earned his bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Notre Dame and his master of health administration degree from the Sloan Program in Health Services Administration at Cornell University.

“Baystate Health has a stellar reputation around the country, and I greatly appreciate the immense responsibility that comes with joining such a truly mission- and values-driven team,” Banko said. “I am beyond excited to embark on an exciting new era of healthy growth with my fellow 13,000 caregivers — in care for our patients, in community, in business, and in spirit. The possibilities for us together are endless in redefining health and healthcare in Western Massachusetts and beyond.”

In his role, Keroack was a leading voice during the COVID-19 pandemic for the region, offering public-health information and partnering with public-health officials to address the crisis. A native of Springfield, he joined Baystate Health in 2011 as chief physician executive and president of Baystate Medical Practices and was appointed to the CEO role in 2014. He has had a long career in both medicine and health administration, serving in leadership roles at UMass Memorial Medical Group and the University HealthSystem Consortium.

“We are immensely grateful for the contributions of Dr. Mark Keroack as an exceptional leader and clinician who has successfully led the organization for the last 10 years with a deep commitment to Baystate Health and to our community,” said Colleen Holmes, vice chair of the Baystate Health board of trustees. “We congratulate him on his upcoming retirement.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Dr. Seth Gemme has been named the new chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Baystate Health. Upon approval by the provost and dean, he will also chair the Department of Emergency Medicine at UMass Chan Medical School-Baystate. He most recently served as vice chair of Clinical Operations for the Baystate Health Department of Emergency Medicine.

Gemme earned his MD degree from the University of Buffalo prior to completing his residency training in emergency medicine at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, R.I. He joined the Department of Emergency Medicine at Baystate Health in 2017 and has held progressive leadership positions since that time, including associate chief and Education director, Emergency Department, Baystate Noble Hospital; chief, Emergency Department, Baystate Wing Hospital; system vice chair of Clinical Operations for Emergency Medicine, Baystate Health; and as board member of Baystate Medical Practices.

Gemme has earned several scholastic and teaching awards in his career to date, including the prestigious President’s Excellence Award in 2022 at Baystate Health. He has continued to serve for more than a decade as a member of the clinical policy committee of the American College of Emergency Physicians, contributing to the development of national consensus guidelines in emergency medicine. Most recently, he led the design and successful implementation of the ‘vertical model’ of care at Baystate Medical Center. This model of care utilizes oversized leather recliners for patients who can sit upright during their care while in the Emergency Department.

“Dr. Gemme is a team builder, and I am confident that he will leverage his leadership experience and informed perspective to advance the aligned visions of the Department of Emergency Medicine and Baystate Health,” said Dr. Andrew Artenstein, chief physician executive and chief academic officer for Baystate Health and president of Baystate Medical Practices.

Gemme will start in this new role in early January 2024. Dr. Niels Rathlev, who has held the position of chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, Baystate Health for the past 15 years, will be staying on as a faculty member.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Baystate Health announced a $70 million comprehensive fundraising effort. “Healthier Tomorrows: The Campaign for Baystate Health” is the largest fundraising goal in Baystate Health’s history and focuses on raising money for three critical areas: capital needs, program support, and endowment development.

“This campaign changes the face of healthcare in our region,” Baystate Health President and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack said. “Our vision is to improve the health of everyone in our community by recruiting top-tier medical providers, building cutting-edge spaces for them to practice in, enhancing our services to meet the changing needs of the people we serve, and ensuring Baystate Health is here to stay for the long haul.”

The $70 million goal aims to fund several initiatives, including a state-of-the-art surgical facility and a Center for Nursing Excellence at Baystate Medical Center, a renovated Family Medicine practice and teaching space at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, and support for the endowment, with the purpose of increasing fiscal resilience for the organization.

Community members and Baystate Health providers and staff gathered on Sept. 18 to celebrate the campaign’s launch. The event, originally planned to be held in the Bolduc Family Courtyard at Baystate Medical Center, was moved inside due to inclement weather. The courtyard was made possible by a recent gift from the Bolduc family and its Hope for Youth & Families Foundation.

Lead donors have already contributed generously toward the $70 million goal. In addition to funds for the Bolduc Family Courtyard, campaign support includes a grant from the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation in support of the new operating and interventional procedural rooms at Baystate Medical Center, two named endowed clinical chairs, program contributions toward the Family Medicine residency program and mobile health, and support of annual giving and events that reach system-wide.

“Baystate Health has been providing high-quality, compassionate healthcare to this community since the 1880s,” said Dr. Andrew Artenstein, chief physician executive and chief academic officer at Baystate Health and president of Baystate Medical Practices. “It is our sincere hope that our promise to advance care and enhance lives will continue for the next century and beyond. This campaign helps us secure our mission well into the future.”

Baystate Health’s last campaign concluded in 2012. The $23 million raised supported building the shell of the Hospital of the Future wing, including space for a new Emergency Department and the Davis Family Heart & Vascular Center. The new campaign will help complete much of the shell space as intended to accommodate new technology and meet the growing needs of the community.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Dr. Mark Keroack announced his plan to retire as Baystate Health CEO in July 2024 after 10 years of leadership of the region’s primary health system. The board of trustees will launch a national search for his successor.

“It has been and continues to be the privilege of a lifetime to serve as CEO of Baystate Health and partner with the amazing people who provide such outstanding care to our communities,” Keroack said. “While I look forward to spending the next chapter of my life with my family, I plan to be fully engaged in both day-to-day leadership and our strategic efforts to address the challenging dynamics in healthcare today in a way that prioritizes the health needs of our communities and continues our role as an employer of choice.”

Keroack joined Baystate Health in 2011 as chief physician executive and president of Baystate Medical Practices and was appointed to the CEO role in 2014. He has had a long career in both medicine and health administration, serving in leadership roles at UMass Memorial Medical Group and the University Health System Consortium. A specialist in infectious diseases, Keroack was a leading voice during the COVID-19 pandemic, offering public-health information and partnering with public-health officials to address the crisis.

“Baystate Health plays a unique role as a major employer, community asset, and safety net for our most vulnerable community members and their health needs. Mark leads with a focus on mission; even though the financial environment has been challenging, his decisions always prioritize local health needs,” said Harriet DeVerry, board chair. “While Mark’s strengths, vision and commitment to the community will not be easy to replace, the board recognizes this transition as an important opportunity to plan for the future needs of Baystate Health and the patients, families, and communities at the heart of our mission.”

The board has established a search committee and identified a search firm to help conduct a nationwide search for a new CEO. It is expected to take several months to a year to identify a candidate and finalize the next CEO. During this period, Keroack will continue in all aspects of the CEO role.

“I have great admiration for Dr. Keroack and the work he has done in serving the Pioneer Valley for more than a decade,” U.S. Rep. Richard Neal said. “His roots in the city of Springfield run deep, just as they do in the medical community. Growing up in a household where his mother was a nurse and his father a doctor, Dr. Keroack has always had a profound sense of service. His partnership during his time as president and CEO over the past nine years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been irreplaceable. He is a true advocate for the Greater Springfield community, and he is a true believer in facts, always following the science to achieve the best possible outcome for his patients. This, along with his measured approach and good-hearted nature, has earned him the respect of his colleagues in the medical community and those of us who have been fortunate enough to work with him over the course of his distinguished career.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) awarded $5.1 million to Baystate Health on behalf of the Alliance for Digital Equity in Western Massachusetts.

“Baystate Heath, along with the Alliance and MBI, share the purpose and primary goal of the Digital Equity Partnerships Program to ensure that low-income communities and households in the Western Massachusetts region, including those in Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire counties, have access to a wide range of digital equity support and services,” said Frank Robinson, vice president of Public Health at Baystate Health.

The mission of the Alliance is to assure digital equity for all people, including access to the skills, computer equipment, and reliable high-speed internet needed to operate in the digital world. The Alliance believes that digital equity is necessary for people to fully participate in modern society. It plays a vital role as part of overall personal and community equity because all major parts of life — including health, housing, food, education, employment, childcare, banking, transportation, and civic engagement — have gone online.

A network of collaborating organizations (NCOs), all of which are sub-award grant recipients to Baystate, the primary grant recipient, will implement digital-equity solutions. NCOs include the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts, Tech Foundry, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, Holyoke Community College, Way Finders, the Springfield Housing Authority, the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, Community Action Pioneer Valley, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Viability, the New North Citizens Council, the Center for New Americans, Stavros, the Greenfield Housing Authority, Common Capital, and Western New England University. These organizations will establish and administer projects in one or more of the following four program areas:

• Digital Literacy Initiative: $2,299,235 for NCOs to establish digital-literacy training programs to ensure that target populations have the requisite skills to use devices, online resources, and digital tools;

• Connectivity Initiative for Economic Hardship: $689,313 for broadband connectivity to vulnerable populations through the provision of Wi-Fi cellular hot spots, such as jetpacks, to individuals lacking stable housing and are unable to have a fixed broadband internet subscription;

• Public Space Internet Modernization Initiative: $813,221 for NCOs to make improvements to inadequate broadband infrastructure and digital use in public spaces and increase daily use and services; and

• Outreach and Enrollment: $1,347,693 for breaking down barriers to broadband adoption, which involves increasing the number of Western Mass. residents participating in the Digital Equity Partnership Initiative programs and the Federal Communication Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program.

NCOs will work with target populations to ensure that effective outreach, education, and adoption assistance is available in concert with other project initiatives to ensure their maximum impact. This outreach will involve in-person workshops, call-center phone banking, door-to-door outreach, online or printed communications, public-service announcements, and other media activities as deemed necessary.

Initiatives are intended to provide services and support for residents of the Commonwealth who cannot afford broadband service and/or internet-connected devices or lack the digital-literacy skills needed to utilize the internet.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Dr. Sarah Haessler, whose expertise in infectious diseases has been recognized at the local, state, national, and international levels, has been named chair of the Department of Medicine for Baystate Health.

Haessler, who has served as interim chair of the Department of Medicine at Baystate since 2022, was appointed chair after a highly competitive national search. She is the inaugural female chair of Baystate Health’s largest clinical/academic department. Her tenure begins immediately.

She received her medical degree from George Washington University School of Medicine and completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in infectious diseases at Dartmouth Hitchcock in New Hampshire. She is board-certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in internal medicine and infectious diseases.

Haessler joined Baystate Health in 2005 and since that time has held progressive leadership roles, including as the hospital epidemiologist for the health system, vice chair of the Department of Medicine, interim chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Care, and most recently interim chair of the Department of Medicine.

“Her strong work and expert insights have had a tremendous, salutary impact on national, state, and regional preparation and response to several biological threats, including pandemic influenza, Ebola, monkeypox, and COVID-19, serving in critical leadership roles in these events,” said Dr. Andrew Artenstein, chief physician executive and chief academic officer for Baystate Health and president of Baystate Medical Practices.

Active in the field of academics and research, Haessler has trained and served as advisor and mentor for dozens of residents and fellows in the specialty of infectious diseases. She is currently an associate professor of Medicine at UMass Chan Medical School – Baystate. Since 2002, as either principal or co-investigator, she has completed numerous research projects and is currently co-investigator in Reducing Antimicrobial Overuse Through Targeted Therapy for Patients with Community-acquired Pneumonia.

Haessler is the recipient of several honors and awards, including BusinessWest’s Healthcare Heroes Award, the Women in Medicine and Science Impact Award, and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America’s (SHEA) Speaker Recognition Award and the Women in Medicine and Science Impact Award. She has held several distinct leadership roles in SHEA, including board and committee chair positions.

She has published more than 45 scholarly works in medical literature, including book chapters and peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed publications, and has served on several national and state expert panels and scientific review groups. She has been invited to present at international, national, regional, and local symposiums and conferences on a variety of topics, such as the science of hand hygiene for preventing infections, challenging cases in infection prevention, addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s academic and clinical advancement, and many others.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Baystate Health and Rocky’s Ace Hardware are joining forces with Square One to help keep the community’s children safe and healthy. Specifically, they are coming together to respond to the need for electrical-outlet safety, based on the fact that each year, across the nation, more than 2,400 children suffer from severe shock and burns from exposed electrical outlets.

The partnership was prompted by UMass Chan Medical School – ­Baystate student Kendall Burdick, who had the idea to support Square One’s families by providing electrical-outlet safety plugs to all Square One households. From there, the team at Rocky’s Ace Hardware stepped in to donate thousands of outlet plugs to support the safety initiative.

Square One currently provides early-learning services to more than 500 infants, toddlers, and school-age children each day, and family support services to 1,500 families each year, as they work to overcome the significant challenges in their lives.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Ron Bryant, president of Baystate Noble Hospital and Baystate Franklin Medical Center – Northern Region, will extend his role to become president of Baystate Health Regional Hospitals, which also includes Baystate Wing Hospital in Palmer.

His new role becomes effective on Oct. 9 upon the retirement of Molly Gray as president and chief administrative officer of the Baystate Health Eastern Region.

“At Baystate Health, our goal is to continue providing a top-tier patient experience while focusing on safety, quality, and value across our organization. Ron’s proven visionary leadership and business acumen will further our mission of improving the health of the people in our communities every day, with quality and compassion,” said Marion McGowan, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Baystate Health.

Bryant joined Baystate Health in 2015 as president of Baystate Noble Hospital. Previously, he was executive vice president and CEO for the Noble Hospital Health System. In 2018, he was promoted to president of both Baystate Noble Hospital and Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

He brings a wealth of leadership experience and a passion for positive change within the Western Mass. healthcare community. During his time as president of Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield and Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, he successfully developed the strategic and operational plans for the two hospitals, comprised of 200 combined beds and nearly 1,800 team members. He will now oversee three hospitals with nearly 300 combined beds and more than 2,300 Baystate team members.

Daily News

PALMER — Molly Gray, president and chief administrative officer of the Baystate Health Eastern Region, has announced her retirement, effective Oct. 9.

“Throughout her 30-plus years with Baystate Health, Gray has been a highly regarded and respected member of the senior leadership team. She has shown unwavering commitment to our mission of improving the health of the people in our communities every day with quality and compassion. Her contributions have made an incredible difference for our work team and our community,” said Marion McGowan, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Baystate Health.

Gray has served Baystate Health and the community for 34 years. She has held seven roles with progressive responsibility, culminating in her role as president and chief administrative officer for the Baystate Health Eastern Region, including Baystate Wing Hospital and Baystate Mary Lane Outpatient Center.

She joined Baystate Health in 1988 as a professional nurse and transitioned to a managerial role as a level IV nurse manager, a unit manager, and then Women and Infants’ manager. An advocate for children’s health issues, Gray assumed the role of director of Women’s Services and Baystate Children’s Hospital in 2003. In 2013, she was promoted to vice president of Baystate Health Children’s Hospital, Women’s Services, Behavioral Health, Observation and Emergency Services. In 2016, she assumed the role of vice president and chief Nursing officer for the Baystate Health Eastern Region and was promoted in 2019 to her current role.

Under her leadership, the team at Baystate Wing has been recognized for numerous achievements, including national recognition by the Lown Institute Hospitals Index for being one of the most socially responsible hospitals in America. Recently, Baystate Wing was also nominated for the National Kenneth B. Schwartz Compassionate Caregivers of the Year award.

Aiming to strengthen and grow essential key health care services in the Eastern Region, Gray and her team worked to consolidate and relocate services. As a result, Baystate Health Wing Hospital, complete with Baystate Health and Wellness Center Palmer, has positioned itself as a centerpiece of healthcare in the Eastern Region.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD Kevin Conway, whose IT expertise spans both domestic and global markets, has been named Senior Vice President & Chief Information & Digital Officer (SVP/CIDO) of Baystate Health. 

His appointment becomes effective June 27.  

Conway, a strategic executive with more than 25 years of success in executive leadership, strategic planning, and consulting within large academic multi-facility healthcare IT systems, most recently served as client executive for Tegria Services Group, overseeing the clinical and digital transformation initiative for Northern Ireland. In his role, he was responsible for strategic direction and leadership of Epic Solutions deployment as part of the overall digital health strategy for acute, community, mental health, and social care services.  

Previously, Conway held the role of Chief Information Officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he managed all facets of IT operations of clinical and essential service departments at UPMC Presbyterian, UPMC Shadyside, and UPMC Mercy & UPMC Magee-Womens Hospitals. He also served as VP of IT Advisory Services, chief information officer, and director of IT at UPMC. 

Conway received his BA in Business Administration Health Management Systems from Robert Morris University. 

In his new role at Baystate Health, Conway will be a key senior executive responsible for the health system’s information and technology systems. His work will include system interoperability and optimization of IT systems, transformation of business processes, human-centered design, enhancements of patient-centered technologies, and focused work on cyber and information security. 

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD Baystate Health is announcing major changes to its hospital visitation (also referred to now as care partner) guidelines as the number of COVID-19 cases have begun to climb once again in the region. 

The changes went into effect Monday. 

The health and safety of patients, families and staff members is Baystate’s top priority. Care partner visitation guidelines balance preventing the spread of COVID-19 with the needs of our patients and their loved ones. A care partner may be a relative, partner, friend, or anyone the patient chooses to have at their side during care. The number of care partners welcomed will depend on the area of the hospital and patient circumstances. 

Red, yellow, green and gray tiers (also called zones) still remain in effect for visitation based on the CDC, DPH and state guidelines, but the policy details within the tiers change over time. All Baystate hospitals — Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield, Baystate Wing Hospital in Palmer and Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield — have now moved back into the yellow tier as cases climb. 


Hospital changes include: 


  • Inpatients (Non-COVID): One visitor/care partner at a time for patients who are not in the ICU, unless a designated exception applies. (previously, two care partners allowed)


  • Inpatient Obstetrics (Non-COVID): Two designated care partners in room during delivery and up to two hours immediately after delivery. One care partner may stay for duration of hospital stay and come and go throughout the day. One additional care partner may visit following the general visitation guidelines with both at the bedside at any given time during visitation hours. (previously one designated care partner plus two additional support people during labor; previously two additional visitors during postpartum period)


  • End of Life/Hospice (Non-Covid): Two visitors/care partners at a time; patient may also have a clergy present. (previously no restrictions on the number of people in the room)


There are no changes for non-COVID ICU patients where two visitors/care partners are allowed at a time. 


Children ages 5-18 must be accompanied by an adult. Children under 5 may only visit if a designated exception applies.  


Visiting hours remain from noon to 8 p.m. 


For Baystate Medical Practices: 


  • Life-changing diagnosis: One care partner is allowed for regular patients (previously 2)


  • Patients with disabilities: One care partner or support person is allowed (previously both were allowed)


There are no changes to one visitor/support person allowed and two parents/guardians at a time for patients who are children. (Previously 1 parent/guardian) 


All visitors must adhere to Baystate Health infection control practices that are in effect throughout the health system: wearing facemasks at all times whether in the patient’s room or other areas of the hospital, and frequent handwashing. Visitors with a fever, cough, or other COVID-19 symptoms, will not be able to visit. 


Baystate Health regularly evaluates its visitation policy in accordance with the governor, CDC, and DPH who are monitoring the constant evolution in our region which guides our updates. Visitation is at the discretion of Baystate Health. Baystate Health will continue to review the county data and CDC/DPH/State guidelines weekly to determine which tier each county will be in. To stay up to date and see exceptions for each tier, including obstetrics, go to baystatehealth.org/patients/visiting.   

Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest, in partnership with Living Local, has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Go HERE to view all episodes

Episode 112: May 16, 2022

George talks with Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health

 BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien talks with Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health, about the fifth COVID surge, what he and his team are seeing, and what they are projecting. The numbers are rising, he said, but this surge won’t be like those that preceded it, and for many reasons. It’s all must listening, so join us on BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest in partnership with Living Local and sponsored by PeoplesBank.

Sponsored by:

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Daily News

SPRINGFIELD Baystate Health has awarded $1 million in Better Together Grants to five community initiatives with partner organizations as part of its Community Benefits Program.  

 “Baystate Health is proud to invest our Determination of Need (DoN) Community Health Initiative (CHI) funding in the communities served by our four hospitals. It is an honor to partner with these very deserving local non-profit organizations over the next three years,” said Annamarie Golden, director, Community Relations for Baystate Health 

 This year’s recipients, who submitted requests for proposals in January 2022 include: Quaboag Valley Community Development Corporation in partnership with the Town of Ware, The Care Center in partnership with Greenfield Technical Community College, Westfield State University in partnership with Springfield Technical Community College, Montague Catholic Social Ministries in partnership with The Brick House Community Resource Center, and the Western Mass. Training Consortium in partnership with the Bridge Program community organizations  — The Recover Project, The Salasin Project and The Wildflower Alliance.  

 “Baystate’s Community Benefits Program, in partnership with our hospital Community Benefits Advisory Councils (CBACs) and Grant Review Teams, is making investments through Better Together grants that will have lasting and meaningful impacts on health outcomes, health equity, and social determinants of health throughout the Pioneer Valley,” said Golden. 

 Funding for the Better Together grants is made possible through the Mass. Department of Public Health’s (MDPH) Determination of Need (DoN) requirements related to the replacement of Baystate Medical Center’s Operating Rooms approved in November 2020. Although this project was unique to the hospital, Baystate Health’s goal is to equitably distribute the Community Health Initiative funds for grant making to all four Baystate Health hospitals. This was an intentional step toward health equity, recognizing that Baystate’s community hospitals historically have lower likelihood of accessing DoN CHI funds. The aim of the Better Together grant opportunity is to develop approaches that by targeting the social determinants of health, will improve people’s overall well-being and make our communities healthier places to live in, while complementing the health care system’s current offerings. In addition to funding the grantees, Baystate Health has also contracted with the Public Health Institute of Western Mass. to provide technical assistance and evaluation support to the grantee cohort over the next three years. 


Better Together Grant Recipients: 


Baystate Franklin Medical Center: $300,000 total budget (over three years); Social Determinant of Focus: Social Environment 

Montague Catholic Social Ministries & The Brick House Community Resource Center, Director of Policy, Advocacy and Development: $150,000 – 2 years


 Baystate Medical Center: $500,000 total budget (over three years); Social Determinant of Focus: Education 

The Care Center & Greenfield Technical Community College, Cabot Street College: $250,000 – 3 years

  • Westfield State University & Springfield Technical Community College, Pathways for New Healthcare Professionals: Promoting the Development of a Diverse, Entrepreneurial, and Innovative Nursing Workforce: $250,000 – 3 years


 Baystate Wing Hospital: $200,000 total budget (over three years); Social Determinant of Focus: Education 

Quaboag Valley Community Development Corporation & The Town of Ware, Engaging Youth in Education to Employment: $200,000 – 3 years


  For more information about Baystate Health’s Community Benefits Program, visit baystatehealth.org/communitybenefits. 

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health, announced that Jane Albert, senior vice president and chief consumer officer, will retire on July 1, following 20 years of service with Baystate.

“In all of her work for the health system, she has demonstrated a steadfast focus on our communities, transformative and nurturing leadership skills, and a deep understanding of data-driven learning and improvement,” Keroack wrote in a letter to the Baystate community. “She has been a trusted partner to me and enjoys the respect of all across Baystate Health and the communities we serve as a source of timely and trusted communications that promote our vision of advancing care and enhancing lives.”

Albert joined Baystate Health in 2002 as manager of Medical Practices Marketing and developed the first marketing plan to integrate legacy physician groups into the organization known today as Baystate Medical Practices (BMP). She then expanded her scope as manager of Corporate Marketing for the whole health system. She went on to deepen her focus on the external environment in subsequent roles in Public Affairs, Strategic Communications, and Community Relations.

“Her underappreciated background in accounting led her to focus on metrics in these and subsequent roles, helping the organization adopt and embrace the value of social media and other digital technologies as vehicles to gauge the impact and reach of our communications efforts,” Keroack wrote.

Albert then returned to BMP to stand up its first Office of Physician Referral Services, with a focus on improving access to care. She was recruited back to the system level with a promotion to vice president of Philanthropy and executive director of Baystate Health Foundation (BHF). During four years at the foundation, she developed a comprehensive strategic plan that led to a more balanced portfolio of events, major gifts, and planned giving, all tracked by a dashboard of performance metrics. Her work led to significant growth in overall giving and greater diversification of BHF’s philanthropic activities.

She was promoted again in 2017 to senior vice president of Marketing, Communications and External Relations, a role which included the areas of BHF and Government & Community Relations. She brought in experienced leaders for all three areas and oversaw dramatic growth across all her areas of responsibility. Key activities included the “Advancing Care. Enhancing Lives” brand campaign, the growth of more broad and sophisticated governmental advocacy efforts, and continued growth in philanthropy.

The results of all this work, Keroack noted, included a new appreciation by the public of Baystate Health, national and international awards for marketing and communications, dramatic increases in government funding, and record charitable donations of all types to BHF.

“But it was during the COVID-19 pandemic that Jane’s leadership truly shone through,” he added. “The work of our marketing and public-relations teams positioned Baystate Health as a thought leader in a time of great public concern, with thousands of stories featured in local, statewide, and national media.”

During this turbulent period, Albert’s scope was enlarged yet again to her current role. She collaborated with other members of the President’s Cabinet to develop the health system’s 2025 Consumer Strategy with a focus on access to care, a new digital platform, and the importance of recognizing the unique needs of individual patients and families.

“The new structure includes the areas of patient experience and patient relations, with a view to coordinating our efforts across the system in order to take the hassles out and put the kindness in for every encounter with the system,” Keroack wrote. “Throughout her 20 years with Baystate Health and across her multiple and varied roles, Jane has shown an unwavering commitment to our mission of improving the health of our communities every day. She has helped us see that this mission entails recognizing and respecting the uniqueness of every individual, listening to diverse voices in the community, and elevating the experience of patient care to a level on par with our other goals of safety and quality. I will miss the energy and passion with which she advanced these worthy goals, and I will honor her time with us by pursuing the road map she has left for us with vigor.”

Healthcare Heroes

Emerging Leader

Hospital Epidemiologist, Baystate Medical Center; Vice Chair for Clinical Affairs, Department of Medicine, Baystate Health

Dr. Sarah Haessler

Dr. Sarah Haessler

She ‘Stands on a Wall Between the Community and Infectious Diseases’

Dr. Sarah Haessler has already been honored as a Healthcare Hero. Actually, a ‘Healthcare Superhero,’ to be more precise.

That was the unofficial title bestowed upon 76 fully vaccinated healthcare workers from across New England who attended the Super Bowl last February as guests of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. The group flew down on the Patriots’ team plane and got to see Tom Brady win his seventh Super Bowl — and promote vaccination while they were at it.

Haessler, hospital epidemiologist at Baystate Medical Center and vice chair for Clinical Affairs in the Department of Medicine at Baystate Health, was one of three from this region to be so honored; she was joined by Baystate colleague Stephen Boyle Sr., senior director of Hospitality; and Cherie Rodriguez, a respiratory therapist at Mercy Medical Center.

Haessler has many memories from that day, with only some of them involving the action on the field.

“It was the quintessential American experience,” she recalled, noting that healthcare workers from across the country were recognized at the game. “It was big. Everything about it was big. The music was loud, there were fireworks for everything, there were military flyovers, the jumbo screens had the president on them … America doesn’t do anything small. This was very big and very American.”

“Her role is to stand watch on the wall between our patients, our team members, our community, and the infectious agents that threaten their health. And she has successfully done this for more than a decade, not only in the face of a global pandemic the likes of which we have not experienced for more than 100 years, but every day of the year. Because in healthcare, those threats never cease.”

Haessler said pairs of tickets to the game were made available to various hospitals, and she was chosen by officials at Baystate to attend; she’s not sure how or why.

Matters are a little more clear when it comes to her being chosen as the winner in the intensely competitive Emerging Leader category for BusinessWest’s Healthcare Heroes awards. She has been chosen in large part for her many efforts to prepare those at Baystate for what was coming in early 2020 and for her ongoing work throughout the pandemic to plan, educate, and help carry out all the operations of a hospital during extraordinary circumstances. But there is certainly more to the story. Indeed, COVID-19 wasn’t her first experience with a highly infectious disease, and she acknowledged, with some resignation born from experience in her voice, that it won’t be her last.

Meanwhile, she has taken on more leadership roles over the years, serving as interim chief medical officer at Baystate Noble Hospital and currently sitting on the board of the Society of Healthcare Epidemiologists of America.

Her work in her chosen field, and her status as an emerging leader in Western Mass. and beyond, is best summed up by Dr. Andrew Artenstein, chief physician executive and chief academic officer, incident commander, COVID-19 Response, at Baystate Health, who nominated her for this honor.

“Her role is to stand watch on the wall between our patients, our team members, our community, and the infectious agents that threaten their health,” he wrote. “And she has successfully done this for more than a decade, not only in the face of a global pandemic the likes of which we have not experienced for more than 100 years, but every day of the year. Because in healthcare, those threats never cease.”

In a candid interview, Haessler talked about that harsh reality, her work at Baystate, her chosen career in epidemiology, and the many kinds of rewards that come with it.


At the Top of Her Game

When asked how she chose epidemiology as a specialty, Haessler started by saying that, during her residency at Dartmouth, she was interested — make that fascinated — by all aspects of medicine. It soon became clear to her that she needed to pick something broad that would cross all other specialties.

“When I sat down to pick one, I ultimately decided that the specialty where the cases that kept me up late or got me up early in the morning to learn more and read more and try to figure out what was wrong with this person — these puzzles — were the cases that were most interesting to me, and the most satisfying and challenging. And that was infectious disease,” she told BusinessWest.

Dr. Sarah Haessler was one of many ‘Healthcare Superheroes’

Dr. Sarah Haessler was one of many ‘Healthcare Superheroes’ in attendance at last February’s Super Bowl in Tampa.

“I’ve never looked back — I’ve always loved it,” she went on, adding that, in this field, she does get to interact with specialists of all kinds. “It’s been an interesting career — I’ve never been bored. And the other thing about it is that it just keeps moving. I’m a high-energy person — I keep moving — so it suits me very well.”

Things were certainly moving in the latter days of 2019, said Haessler, noting that the information coming to her from hospital epidemiologists in China, and later the state of Washington, made it clear that something ominous was on the horizon.

“We saw the pandemic potential for it because it was so swift and had created a huge influx of patients in those hospitals in Wuhan,” she recalled. “It essentially overwhelmed those hospitals immediately, and the fact that China’s approach was to put the area in lockdown … that is the kind of organism, like SARS, that causes a pandemic.”

She said Baystate was ready, in large part because it had gone through this before with other infectious diseases and had learned many valuable lessons. And she was at the forefront of these efforts.

“We had been through H1N1, and then we had been through the Ebola epidemic,” she explained. “And this really created an impetus, and a framework, across the United States for preparedness for the world’s most contagious diseases.”

Because of Ebola, Baystate had created a Special Pathogens Unit to manage extremely contagious patients, said Haessler, who manages this unit and the team that operates it. And as part of that team’s work, it created protocols and procedures for how it would manage patients, took steps to ensure that there would be adequate supplies of PPE, put in place scenarios for how patients would be cared for and where, determined if, when, and under what circumstances elective surgeries would be halted, and much more.

In short, as Artenstein noted in his nomination, Haessler was the point person for preparing the medical center for what everyone could see was coming.

“Her work provided great comfort to all, knowing that we had such an expert in such a key role,” he wrote. “Her team’s magnificent work in collaboration with employee health services led to the earliest possible recognition of infectious contacts and allowed us to limit the risks for patients and staff during a time of great uncertainty and fear.”

While the past tense is being used for most of these comments, the work battling COVID is obviously ongoing, said Haessler, adding that the Delta variant brings a new and very dangerous thread to this story.

When asked about what the past 18 months has been like, personally and professionally, she said, in essence, that it’s been the culmination of all her training and hard work.

“It’s been one of biggest events that I’ve had to participate in, and while it’s been challenging, it’s also been very gratifying, because Baystate has been an incredible organization, rising to the occasion in this. I’m so proud of Baystate; I’ve never been more proud to work at this organization and to be part of the leadership team.

“The responsiveness, the focus on what was important and what remains important, has been incredible,” she went on. “It’s been a laser focus on the safety of the healthcare workers, and protecting our patients and our healthcare workers from getting and passing this disease, getting the resources we needed to enable safe management of these patients, and staying really, really focused on what’s important here has been a phenomenal experience and an opportunity for tremendous personal and professional growth.”


Passing Thoughts

Returning to Raymond James Stadium and Super Bowl LV, Haessler said she had the opportunity to meet with healthcare workers from across the country who had been, at that time, battling with COVID for roughly a year.

“It was an opportunity to meet with other people, commiserate, and just be among kindred spirits — people had been through so much,” she said, adding that, seven months later, the fight continues, and in some ways, it has escalated.

In the future, there will be other fights against infectious diseases, she said, adding that the best hospitals and healthcare systems can do is try to be prepared, because, as Artenstein noted, these threats never cease.

That, in a nutshell, is what her career has been all about. Her ability to exceed in that role and many others has made her a Healthcare Hero — and a ‘superhero’ — as well as an emerging leader in Western Mass. and her chosen field.


George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Despite having just 5.5% of the state’s hospital inpatient beds, Baystate Health’s four hospitals housed 18% of all inpatient COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts on Wednesday — and system President and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack is calling on the community to do its part, through vaccination and other measures, to help slow a recent surge in cases in Western Mass., mostly driven by the Delta variant.

“Baystate Health has really been hit unusually hard by the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. We went from four cases on the first of July to, last weekend, having over 100 cases,” Keroack said at a virtual news conference on Thursday. “The last couple of days, things have gotten down into the 90s, and we hope that’s a good trend, but we’re really not sure.”

Most of those cases are at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, and 13 are critical-care cases. About 75% of all hospitalized COVID patients in the Baystate system are unvaccinated individuals; vaccinated cases are typically older people or those with chronic conditions. In any case, he said, COVID cases among the vaccinated are typically milder and lead to shorter hospitalizations.

Part of the local surge, Keroack said, can be attributed to Hampden County’s 52% full-vaccination rate, lowest among the Commonwealth’s 14 counties; the statewide figure is 67%.

For that reason, he has been reaching out to boards of health, civic leaders, business owners, and event organizers to encourage employees and clients to get vaccinated, as well as encouraging masking and social distancing, to reduce the number of cases and the burden on hospitals.

“We are appealing to the community to help us,” Keroack said, noting that Baystate’s hospital beds, especially at Baystate Medical Center, are at or near capacity, and COVID patients often have to wait for beds to open up. “Everybody in the community has a role to try to mitigate the effects of this crisis and to help us be there for everybody who needs us, for COVID or non-COVID care.”

Another problem has been a “reduction in discharge efficiency” because many nursing homes have been closed to new admissions or struggling with staffing, he said. In addition, Baystate has its own workforce issues; of the system’s roughly 12,000 jobs, about 1,400 are currently vacant.

“We filled some with contract workers, but those are hard to find with the intense competition,” he added, noting that the system has adjusted salaries and benefits and offered hiring or retention bonuses as well.

Baystate Health is also implementing a vaccine mandate for all employees, from frontline care providers to back-office workers. Currently, vaccination rates in the system top 85%, but just over 1,600 have yet to be vaccinated. Some have been granted medical or religious exemptions, Keroack noted.

He argued that the best way to blunt the effects of the pandemic is to reduce the spread, and sees vaccination as the best way to do that, as well as taking precautions when gathering, especially indoors.

“It really is unfortunate to see some of the preventable pain and suffering, not to mention expense, that happens when people who have decided to put off the vaccine end up getting sick,” he said. “So we are asking the community to help us reduce the burden of this disease in the communuity and try to get Hampden County closer to where the rest of the state is.”

Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest, in partnership with Living Local, has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Episode 62: May 3, 2021

 George O’Brien talks with Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health

Dr. Mark Keroack

BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien talks with Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health. The two discuss a wide range of topics, including the current pace of vaccinations, strategies for improving those numbers, the challenges facing the country as it strives to reach herd immunity, and expectations for when the region, the state, and the nation might be able to reach something approximating ‘normal.’ Keroack provides keen insight into all these matters, and his takes certainly provide food for thought. It’s must listening, so join us on BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest in partnership with Living Local.


Also Available On

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Boston Children’s Hospital and Baystate Health have formed a collaboration that will improve patient access to highly specialized pediatric care and strengthen the coordination of care between Boston Children’s and Baystate Children’s Hospital in Springfield.

The collaboration will provide patients throughout Western Mass. with improved access to pediatric specialty care at Baystate Children’s Hospital, and it will streamline care planning among providers at Boston Children’s and Baystate Children’s. The collaboration anticipates that the two hospitals will jointly develop pathways to ensure that children and adolescents get the right care in the right setting. In some instances, Boston Children’s clinicians will be available to provide care at Baystate Children’s.

“As the leading children’s hospital in Western Massachusetts, Baystate Children’s has long partnered with the community to advance the health and well-being of all children from prevention to critical care,” said Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health. “We are delighted to build upon our exceptional care for families through a collaboration with the much-respected Boston Children’s Hospital, which will provide additional clinical expertise when needed for our young patients.”

Dr. Charlotte Boney, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Baystate Children’s Hospital, added that “this collaboration acknowledges and strengthens the close working relationship with Boston Children’s Hospital that we have enjoyed for many years. This collaboration will facilitate our continued ability to keep specialty care local so that children and families have access to a broad range of high-quality, affordable services right here in Western Massachusetts. We look forward to exploring other opportunities that will strengthen our collaboration to serve our mutual missions of patient care, medical education, and community service.”

The two hospitals already work collaboratively in cardiology, neurology, and dermatology, and by enhancing medical education, remote consults, information technology, and other initiatives, the two institutions will be better able to coordinate care for their patients.

“At Boston Children’s, we are committed to providing comprehensive pediatric care — close to home whenever possible — to patients and families throughout Massachusetts,” said Sandra Fenwick, CEO of Boston Children’s Hospital. “This collaboration will strengthen the ability of two great institutions to improve access to the highest-quality care for the patients and families we look forward to serving together.”

Economic Outlook



Editor’s Note: One of the sectors most impacted by the pandemic — and one facing a great number of questions moving forward — is healthcare. We put some questions to Baystate Health President and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack, who has become a very visible leader during this crisis and was recently named one of BusinessWest’s Healthcare Heroes for 2020.


BusinessWest: Dr. Keroack, already we’re seeing a great deal of optimism and expectation accompanying the arrival of vaccines in this nation and this region. What are your thoughts on the impact these vaccines will have on the broader economic picture in this region and when that impact will be seen?


Dr. Keroack: The vaccines represent a major scientific breakthrough, and they are the beginning of the end of the pandemic. Economies depend on consumer confidence, and, therefore, I have always seen recovery from the pandemic and recovery of the economy as one and the same. Removing the pandemic will boost confidence and enable the economy to recover. What is less clear is which businesses will have survived the terrible stress test of 2020 to even be able to recover.


BusinessWest: ‘Normal’ is a word we hear a lot these days, as in ‘when things return to normal.’ With the vaccines now here, is there any more clarity on when ‘normal’ — as in pre-COVID — may return?


Dr. Mark Keroack

Dr. Mark Keroack

“The light at the end of the tunnel is real, but it is still months away, and we are now in a perilous situation with more virus circulating in the community than we had last spring.”

Dr. Keroack: I believe that when a majority of people — more than 70% — receive the vaccine and are immune, case numbers will fall precipitously because the virus will not be able to find new hosts easily. That will enable governmental leaders to lift the restrictions we all have been struggling with these past several months. I suspect that will happen in late spring or early summer.


BusinessWest: Dr. Keroack, this has been a trying year for the healthcare system and hospitals in general. Can you in any way anticipate what 2021 will be like — both in terms of providing services and from a business (bottom-line) perspective?


Dr. Keroack: I think we should expect consumer attitudes to be changed in the wake of the pandemic. For several months, people have been getting used to different ways of getting their needs fulfilled, whether it is virtual visits, remote working, takeout dining, or online retail. I think this will put greater pressure on traditional bricks-and-mortar enterprises, including Baystate, to revisit their business models.


BusinessWest: In many ways, you have been the face of the pandemic in this region, often sending out strong statements on the need to socially distance, wear masks, and take the steps necessary to stem the spread of the virus. What is your message to the community now, 10 months after the start of the pandemic, and with what many are calling a light at the end of the tunnel in sight?


Dr. Keroack: The light at the end of the tunnel is real, but it is still months away, and we are now in a perilous situation with more virus circulating in the community than we had last spring. Many people, especially older people, are doing what they need to do to protect themselves, but many more are minimizing or still denying the risks of infection. It is now more important than ever to follow the guidance on masking, social distancing, and handwashing. Furthermore, we need to restrict our visits to indoor spaces that are not our homes, particularly if masks are not being worn.


BusinessWest: The governor recently rolled back, if that’s the proper phraseology, many of the restrictions on certain types of businesses. Do you believe further restrictions will be needed before the current situation improves?


Dr. Keroack: I think it is likely that the latest restrictions will not be enough to slow down the spread of the virus. We are seeing that some mayors are issuing regulations that go beyond what the governor recently proposed, and I suspect he too will have to roll back things still further before we are through the current crisis.


BusinessWest: Continuing with that thought, many businesses have closed over the past several months, and many more are barely hanging on amid the restrictions placed on them. It’s often been said that elected leaders have to choose between saving the economy and saving lives. Is there any way, in your opinion, to effectively do both?


Dr. Keroack: There are examples of countries that have done both. They are characterized by high rates of rule following, easy access to testing, and financial support for people who are sick and cannot work. Many Asian countries had great success opening their economies while also driving down infection rates. Other countries, like the U.S., were more likely to object to or doubt the effectiveness of the guidelines, and we saw a lot of people deciding to exempt themselves, sometimes with disastrous consequences. We also are not consistent in terms of sick leave, so many were tempted to go to work while sick. For all these differences, it is fair to say that now nearly every country is sliding backward to higher virus levels, because even the most compliant groups get fatigued by these restrictions.


BusinessWest: As a business leader and manager of one of the region’s largest employers, can you talk about the ways this pandemic has changed business and how it’s conducted, and which of these changes may be permanent?


Dr. Keroack: I mentioned earlier the importance of flexibility and meeting the customer where they are. We have recommitted to improved customer service and easier access to care. We are still learning in healthcare to be more like more customer-friendly sectors. I also expect that the strains on the economy will cause healthcare to be examined again for being too high in cost. Baystate Health is the lowest-cost large health system in the state, and yet we still need to drive down costs further. We also need to remember that embedded in the pandemic was the George Floyd killing, which led to a reckoning with systemic racism in our country. Baystate Health as an organization has made eliminating racism and enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in our health system a top priority. Finally, I think we need to re-examine and improve how we do preventive public health in our state, and I hope Baystate Health can play a role there.


BusinessWest: They say adversity makes those who endure it stronger. How will this region become stronger because of this lengthy and difficult battle against COVID-19?


Dr. Keroack: If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we are all connected to each other. Infections historically have attacked those in lower socioeconomic groups more severely. When those infections spread easily, we all suffer when we have not dealt fully with advancing economic opportunity across all our communities. If we come out of this with a greater sense of community and togetherness, we will have gained something valuable from what was otherwise a terrible ordeal.


BusinessWest: Personally and professionally, what has it been like for you to lead a company like Baystate though this crisis? What have you learned about yourself, as a leader, if anything?


Dr. Keroack: There have been many stressful days, given the unknowns and dangers of this virus. I worry a lot about protecting our employees and see the stresses they have been going through. I am blessed with a wonderful team that has strong experience in infectious-disease management and epidemic containment. I also am gratified by the can-do attitude from so many on the front lines. They show tremendous commitment, compassion, and innovation. I think the major lessons I learned as a leader is to make sure people understand the reasons behind what we are trying to do and then to trust them to find the solutions. I have not been disappointed in that trust.


Healthcare Heroes

His Efforts to Coordinate the Region’s Pandemic Response Saved Lives

Mark Keroack

Mark Keroack

Dr. Mark Keroack doesn’t feel like a Healthcare Hero. But he’ll gratefully accept the honor on behalf of everyone who does deserve the award.

In his estimation, that’s a lot of people.

“Whenever some new challenge comes up, it’s been our tradition to step up and play a leadership role in Western Mass.,” said the president and CEO of Baystate Health. “I wish I could convert my award into an ‘unsung heroes award.’ So many things happened behind the scenes to enable us to step up.”

And so many people stepped up. Like Dr. Sarah Haessler, an epidemiologist who has long had a keen interest in emerging infections. “She got us to construct an ebola-treatment unit in 2014, and she put together a small team of people interested in unusual infections,” Keroack said. “That team reassembled this year, in early January, when they started issuing alerts looking out for anyone traveling from China.”

Or Dr. Lauren Westafer, an emergency medicine physician who helped determine, early on, that not rushing to place patients on ventilators actually decreased COVID-19’s mortality rate. “We were far ahead of the curve on that,” Keroack said.

Or Baystate Medical Center President Nancy Shendell-Falik, a former nurse who understands patient flow, he said, noting that Baystate, on an average day, has about 720 patients, but was able to open up hundreds more beds by postponing elective surgeries and finding other creative ways to open up space and redeploy staff.

Or Dr. Andrew Artenstein, the system’s chief physician executive — and, like Haessler, an infectious-disease expert — who led Baystate’s Incident Command Center. In addition to his day-to-day role coordinating the system’s pandemic response, he drew national attention after penning an account of a rendezvous at a small mid-Atlantic airport, where he and his team brought a $3 million check to purchase a large shipment of face masks and N95 respirators — and were temporarily accosted by the FBI.

“We realized we were on our own,” Keroack said of those early days, noting that the health system also received PPE donations from the construction trades and local manufacturers, who had shifted to making such equipment. It was a lesson to the region that local players could produce what they needed and not have to depend on a fractured global supply chain.

“I wish I could convert my award into an ‘unsung heroes award.’ So many things happened behind the scenes to enable us to step up.”

But he mostly applied the ‘hero’ designation to every frontline provider who continued to push past their health and safety anxieties and do their jobs. “They were able to do the right thing in spite of their fears, and are heroes in my book.”

That book includes story after story of collaborations Baystate forged in support of prompt community outreach, testing, education, and information, all with the goal of limiting the spread of COVID-19 and helping make Massachusetts — one of the hardest-hit states in the pandemic’s early days — an eventual model of how to control it.

On the local level, Keroack participated in Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno’s weekly COVID-19 press briefings, leading the mayor to note that “Dr. Mark Keroack’s leadership and medical insight has truly been a great benefit for our city of Springfield as we have worked together to defeat and mitigate the spread of this virus.” Baystate also tested the homeless population and expanded testing to key neighborhoods in the city at the request of the state and local officials.

Keroack also convened calls with Westfield Mayor Don Humason regarding clusters of positive cases in Westfield’s Russian community and possible spread beyond its borders. Meanwhile, he conducted weekly calls with the Western Mass. legislative delegation and other area hospital CEOs, while crafting a plan with state officials on how Baystate would provide surge beds for the region.

“I set up an independent command center, and every day at 7:30, we’d call a group of people who included hospital presidents, heads of medical groups, people from infection control, supply chain, finance, communications … 15 people got on the Zoom meeting every day,” he said, adding that information from those sessions would be distributed as a bulletin at 11 a.m. “It was the most widely read thing at Baystate. Everyone knew every day where we were.”

Mark Keroack (right) and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal take part in an outdoor roundtable on COVID-19 issues in the spring.

Keroack also served as the only Massachusetts hospital CEO appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker to the state’s Reopening Advisory Board. “The Reopening Massachusetts plan needed to balance restarting commerce while avoiding a surge of virus cases,” said Mike Kennealy, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development. “Dr. Keroack’s medical expertise and healthcare-sector experience, and his perspective as a resident of Western Massachusetts, helped to ensure those dual objectives were addressed.”

For his part, Keroack praises the state’s phased approach, which has understandably been frustrating to business owners.

“We’re using data to move from one phase to another, and we’ve had good coordination between authorities and scientists, as opposed to some states, where they butted heads with each other,” he added. “In Massachusetts, there hasn’t been any daylight between what science is telling us and what local and state officials are saying.”

If there was an unseen ‘hero’ amid all the named ones, Keroack suggested it may have been a public that understood its role, and today still largely adheres to guidelines around social distancing, mask wearing, and other protocols.

“I’m proud of how we worked together and came together as a community,” he told BusinessWest. “Parts of the country were at loggerheads, fighting with each other about masks, getting their hackles up about personal liberties. I look at that craziness and think, thank God we didn’t have to go through that.”

On the other hand, the community’s responsibility was clear. “We had the advantage of knowing what happened in Italy and New York, so we didn’t have to twist people’s arms to take this seriously. The public understood the issue around shutting down.”

At the same time, he’s proud of Baystate’s role in working with local boards of health and the Department of Public Health around contact tracing. “In six months, from the announcement of the first case, we have gone from having to beg to get a person tested to being a regional testing center that does 1,000 tests a day,” he said, with the total tests approaching 100,000 toward the end of September.

About a third of those tests, he added, have not even been Baystate patients, but patients from other hospitals and folks living at nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and homeless shelters. “We got outside the walls of our own system into the community and really played a role in public health.”

While the pandemic is far from over, Keroack already recognizes some of the changes that might emerge from it, from an expanded role for telehealth to a better understanding of where society’s safety nets have proven inadequate.

“This has kind of exposed some of the shortcomings of our healthcare system and of our social support system, like the number of people in this country who don’t have paid sick time, and go to work even when they’re sick,” he said.

Some of the long-term impacts of COVID-19 are still emerging, he added, but Baystate — and the team of heroes with whom he insists on sharing his honor — will continue to, as he said, step up and play a leadership role.

“Every time a pandemic hits society, people who live through it are changed forever. That’s true of every pandemic throughout history,” Keroack said. “We’ll look at the world differently in terms of healthcare as a right, or childcare and sick leave — we’ll look at these issues very differently than we would have just a few years ago. At least, I hope we will.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Baystate Health and Kindred Healthcare, LLC announced plans to form a joint venture that will build and operate a $43 million, state-of-the-art behavioral-health hospital in Western Mass.

The 120-bed facility will address the shortage of behavioral-health beds in the region, increasing patient access to Baystate Health’s specialty inpatient behavioral healthcare for adults (including geriatrics), adolescents, and children by more than 50%. Kindred will manage day-to-day operations of the hospital, and Baystate Health psychiatrists and advanced practitioners will provide care under the medical leadership of Dr. Barry Sarvet, chair of Psychiatry at Baystate Health.

The hospital will be designed specifically for behavioral-health services to foster a better healing environment for patients. The hospital will feature distinct units to meet patients’ varying treatment needs and is expected to employ more than 200 direct caregivers and ancillary staff.

“In building a state-of-the-art behavioral-health facility to serve the area’s most vulnerable patients, we recognize that such a major undertaking could not be achieved without a quality partner,” said Dr. Mark Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health. “Kindred’s strength in building and operating specialty hospitals, coupled with Baystate’s behavioral-health clinical expertise, is the perfect fit. We are looking forward to creating an unparalleled community resource dedicated to the needs of all behavioral-health patients.”

Baystate had planned last year to partner with US HealthVest, LLC on a $30 million behavioral-health hospital, but ended that relationship in November following news reports alleging substandard care at other HealthVest facilities, and began searching for a new partner.

“Our partnership with Baystate creates a unique opportunity to expand access to high-quality behavioral-health services in Western Massachusetts,” said Rob Marsh, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Kindred Behavioral Health (KBH). “Kindred is a leader in treating medically complex and rehab-intensive patients, leveraging partnerships and innovation to enhance care. Through KBH, we are building upon our existing clinical and operational capabilities to address the unmet need for behavioral-health services.”

Baystate Health remains interested in a centrally located Holyoke location and is in discussions with the city of Holyoke regarding the potential acquisition and development of a property on Lower Westfield Road.

It is anticipated that, from the time the site is secured, it will be at least two years before the new hospital is operational, pending regulatory and other approvals. Until the new hospital is completed, Baystate will continue to operate its inpatient behavioral-health units at its community hospitals — Baystate Franklin Medical Center, Baystate Noble Hospital, and Baystate Wing Hospital. Upon completion of the new facility, those units will be closed.

Emergency-care services will continue to be provided at all Baystate Health hospitals, and the treatment of medically complex patients will continue at Baystate Medical Center in its Adult Psychiatric Treatment Unit.

COVID-19 Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a striking note from Dr. Andrew Artenstein, chief physician executive and chief academic officer at Baystate Health, about the extreme measures being taken to secure personal protective equipment (PPE) — a story involving secret airport handoffs and questioning by the FBI.

“Our supply-chain group has worked around the clock to secure gowns, gloves, face masks, goggles, face shields, and N95 respirators. These employees have adapted to a new normal, exploring every lead, no matter how unusual,” Artenstein wrote. “Deals, some bizarre and convoluted, and many involving large sums of money, have dissolved at the last minute when we were outbid or outmuscled, sometimes by the federal government. Then we got lucky, but getting the supplies was not easy.”

He then told about securing a large shipment of three-ply face masks and N95 respirators, the latter from China. After agreeing to pay more than five times the amount it normally would pay for a similar shipment, Baystate send three members of the supply-chain team and a fit tester to a small airport near an industrial warehouse in the mid-Atlantic region. Artenstein arrived as well, to make the final call on whether to execute the deal. Two semi-trailer trucks, marked as food-service vehicles, met the team at the warehouse, and drivers were instructed to take two different routes back to Massachusetts to reduce the chance of being intercepted.

That didn’t stop two FBI agents from showing up as well. “The agents checked my credentials, and I tried to convince them that the shipment of PPE was bound for hospitals,” Artenstein wrote. “After receiving my assurances and hearing about our health system’s urgent needs, the agents let the boxes of equipment be released and loaded into the trucks. But I was soon shocked to learn that the Department of Homeland Security was still considering redirecting our PPE. Only some quick calls leading to intervention by our congressional representative prevented its seizure. I remained nervous and worried on the long drive back, feelings that did not abate until midnight, when I received the call that the PPE shipment was secured at our warehouse.”

Artenstein’s entire note can be read by clicking here.

“When encountering the severe constraints that attend this pandemic, we must leave no stone unturned to give our healthcare teams and our patients a fighting chance,” he concluded. “This is the unfortunate reality we face in the time of COVID-19.”

HCN News & Notes

SPRINGFIELD — Baystate Health is taking preemptive measures to protect the health and safety of its patients, the community, and its healthcare workers by initiating a new visitor policy for all of its hospitals.

Under the new policy, only one visitor per patient is allowed at a time, and people experiencing symptoms of fever and/or cough should not visit.

The new policy is in effect at all Baystate Health hospitals, including Baystate Medical Center and Baystate Children’s Hospital in Springfield, Baystate Wing Hospital in Palmer, Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, and Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield.

Additionally, for Baystate Children’s Hospital, no visitors under the age of 12 are allowed.

Baystate Health’s visitation policy during this time is designed to reduce patient and employee exposure to illness. Visitation is at the discretion of Baystate Health.

HCN News & Notes

PALMER — Baystate Health’s Senior Class will hold a free seminar on Thursday, March 26 titled “Abdominal Pain, Gallbladder, or Hernia.” The event will take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Snow Conference Room at Baystate Wing Hospital, 40 Wright St., Palmer.

Baystate Wing Hospital Surgeon Dr. Zeling Chau will lead the discussion, which will focus on causes and symptoms of abdominal pain.

“Just about everyone at one time or another will get a bellyache,” Chau said. “Most symptoms of abdominal pain will resolve fairly quickly, often without any treatment at all. However, in some cases, chronic or severe abdominal-pain symptoms can be an indicator of a more serious underlying health problem that requires medical attention.”

Susan Fontaine, senior coordinator of Loyalty Programs at Baystate Health, added that “many people suffer from various types of abdominal pains they think are diet- or stress-related when, in fact, it could be a hernia or gallbladder problem that is easily treated. Dr. Chau will explain the early warning signs you should know to prevent a simple hernia or gallbladder issue from becoming a more critical health risk. And there will be plenty of time for questions and answers.”

Baystate Health Senior Class is a free loyalty program dedicated to health and wellness, offered exclusively for men and women ages 55 and over.

The “Abdominal Pain, Gallbladder, or Hernia” seminar is offered at no cost, and a light dinner will be served. Registration is required by calling (413) 794-5200 or visiting abdominalpain.eventbrite.com.

For more information on Baystate’s Loyalty Programs, including Baystate Health Every Woman and Senior Class, visit baystatehealth.org/loyalty.

HCN News & Notes

SPRINGFIELD — Baystate Health’s Cardiac Surgery program received national recognition by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) for achieving a high level of clinical excellence on behalf of its patients.

Baystate has received the coveted 3 STAR ranking from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the highest possible ranking bestowed by the organization, placing its award-winning Cardiac Surgery program among the top 10% in the categories of coronary artery bypass surgery, aortic valve replacement surgery, and mitral valve repair surgery. The new rankings place Baystate in the top 1% to 2% of more than 1,000 cardiac surgical programs in the U.S.

“Achieving such a distinction in one cardiac surgical procedure is certainly a significant accomplishment, but achieving this degree of excellence in three separate procedures is truly remarkable,” said Dr. Thomas Schwann, associate director of the Heart & Vascular Program and chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Surgery for Baystate Health. “These results are a testimony to the skill, dedication, and compassion of our entire Baystate cardiovascular team. Their expertise continues to build on the long tradition of innovation, clinical excellence, and compassionate, patient-centered care that have been the hallmark of our program for over 40 years.”

HCN News & Notes

PALMER — Baystate Health’s Senior Class will hold a free seminar on Monday, March 30 titled “Hearing Loss and Balance Care.” The event will be held from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Snow Conference Room at Baystate Wing Hospital, 40 Wright St., Palmer.

“Hearing loss by itself doesn’t cause balance problems, but hearing loss can occur together with balance-impairment symptoms and can indicate problems with the inner ear and vestibular system,” said Susan Fontaine, senior coordinator of Loyalty Programs at Baystate Health. “It’s important to also know that a balance disorder may occur in different situations and may have various causes.”

The program will be offered by audiologist Deborah Stroetzel and Lori Manseau, physical therapist and manager of Baystate Rehabilitation Care at Baystate Wing Hospital. Together, they will discuss hearing loss, from diagnosis to treatment, and vestibular problems such as vertigo and inner-ear issues that affect balance, and how both are treated.

Baystate Health Senior Class is a free loyalty program dedicated to health and wellness, offered exclusively for men and women ages 55 and over.

The “Hearing Loss and Balance Care” seminar with Stroetzel and Manseau is offered at no cost, and refreshments will be served. Registration is required by calling (413) 794-5200 or visiting hearingloss-andbalance.eventbrite.com.

For more information about Baystate’s loyalty programs, including Baystate Health Every Woman and Senior Class, visit baystatehealth.org/loyalty.


Doctors in Residence

Dr. Lauren Wagener

Dr. Lauren Wagener says she discovered roller derby before she enrolled in medical school, and continued to play while earning that degree.

She told BusinessWest she started playing in a league, taking shifts as both a ‘jammer’ and a ‘blocker,’ terms most Baby Boomers might remember — that’s might — from when they watched the sport on TV back in the ’70s.

Things are different now, said Wagener, noting that today’s game features less violence and fewer of the pro-wrestling-like antics that Boomers might remember.

“Roller derby has revamped into more of a fully realized team sport with rules and regulations and safety — we’re not allowed to trip, no punching, no hitting,” said Wagener, who did some extensive research on the scene well before she moved here and identified two leagues she might play in locally.

But she has a few problems.

The first is a completely torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee, an injury suffered while playing the sport; she is scheduled to have surgery soon. The second is that she just started her residency at Baystate Medical Center.

“No one likes working on the computer, on the notes; it’s the patient care everyone enjoys. This is what internal medicine offers, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

And while residents don’t have the crazy schedules they did until a decade or so ago, they still put in 80 hours a week over six days, the equivalent of two full-time jobs. That won’t leave much time for roller derby, although Wagener is determined to make some — after the knee is healed, of course.

In the meantime, she plans to take some of the lessons she’s learned from roller derby about teamwork into her daily duties at Baystate’s Mason Square Neighborhood Health Center and myriad other settings she finds herself in. And there are many such lessons, as she will explain later.

Wagener is one of 90 new residents and fellows to arrive at Baystate this summer to begin the next chapter in their healthcare education. Each one has a different and compelling story.

Dr. Zoha Kahn is from Pakistan. But she was already quite familiar with Baystate and Western Mass. before starting her residency a few weeks ago because her sister is a cardiology fellow at the hospital, and her brother-in-law is a pulmonary and critical-care fellow.

Kahn is an internal-medicine resident who hasn’t quite figured out what she wants to a specialize in, and plans to spent at least the next year narrowing her focus.

“Internal medicine is very broad — you deal with everything,” she explained. “This gives you the opportunity to look at the full spectrum of diseases before choosing what you want to do; I get to find out what I truly like.”

Dr. Zoha Kahn

Dr. Tiago Martins, meanwhile, is from Ludlow. While attending Ludlow High School, he took part in a job-shadowing program that brought him to Baystate Medical Center, an experience that inspired him to choose healthcare as a career. Later, he did rotations at Baystate while attending the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Maine and was actually on a trauma-surgery rotation at the hospital when he learned he had matched there.

Today, he’s essentially starting his professional career there with the stated goal of becoming a hospitalist, a specialist who, as that name implies, cares for individuals while they are hospitalized.

“It provides a different type of challenge,” he said of the hospitalist role. “You see patients not on a long scale, like a primary-care physician does, but you deal with more healthcare needs, and you also get to work with them more on a social level; I really enjoy it.”

For this issue and its focus on education, BusinessWest talked with these residents and some of their supervisors about these intense experiences and how they help these newly minted doctors prepare for the careers in front of them.

Learning Curves

Kahn told BusinessWest there is certainly no shortage of poverty in Pakistan. She cared for that population while attending medical school in that country, and she said she’s generally aware of the myriad challenges that those living in poverty — there and here — face as they struggle to survive day to day.

But none of this prepared her for what’s known as ‘poverty simulation,’ an experience that seemingly every participant describes with the same adjective — eye-opening.

Kahn is no exception. She played the role of a young, single mother in this exercise, and over the course of the fast-moving, four-hour simulation, she learned first-hand all that life can throw at you — and take from you — when you’re living at a certain income level.

Dr. Tiago Martins

“When you’re in that place, it is so difficult,” she recalled. “I was a single mother with two kids, and I was going to school. The first week, I couldn’t pay my rent, my kid was taken away … it was really crazy. You don’t know how to handle all your expenses along with taking care of kids; it’s really eye-opening and gives you a better perspective on how to deal with the kind of patients you’re going to see.”

The poverty simulation is part of the orientation process for all new residents at Baystate, she explained, and, as she said, it’s designed to help ease residents into the community they’re going to serve and give them perspective into one of the larger populations they will serve.

Kahn said she knew more than a little about Springfield from visits to see her sister and brother-in-law, both of whom also did their residencies at Baystate. This familiarity, not to mention a host of positive reviews, put the hospital at or near the top of her wish list when it came to the matching process for her internal-medicine residency.

“When I came for the interview, it felt right,” she said, adding that feel is all-important when one is considering where to spend their next three years on their career journey.

In addition to the array of options it presents, she said she chose internal medicine for the high level of patient interaction.

“You get these long-term relationships — you’re following that one patient for a while, and you build a relationship with that patient, which is very important to me,” she said. “No one likes working on the computer, on the notes; it’s the patient care everyone enjoys. This is what internal medicine offers, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

“Some rotations are harder than others, so we try to pick the schedules carefully so the rotations are balanced in terms of the intensity of the number of hours they do.”

Since starting her residency, Kahn has been working mostly on the ‘floors,’ or wards within the hospital. The cardiac ward is coming up soon on the schedule, and she expects to be working with her sister. She described life so far as “crazy,” in part because she’s learning a new system.

“The way medicine is practiced in Pakistan is different from the way it’s practiced here,” she explained. “It’s a steep learning curve, even with something like the electronic system of documentation.”

Kahn said she’s managing to navigate all this change thanks to a solid support system, a sentiment echoed by all the residents we spoke with.

“Everyone is super helpful,” she explained, adding that it certainly helps to have family in the area — and at the same hospital. “I feel more confident in my ability to deal with patients, and things have gotten better with time, but in the first few days it was really tough; what’s helped has been all the support.”

Support System

Dr. Reham Shaaban is a big part of that support system that Kahn mentioned.

She’s program director of Internal Medicine Residency at Baystate and an academic hospitalist there. She also did her own residency at Baystate.

Each year, she told BusinessWest, a class of 18 new residents arrives at the Baystate system. The doctors come from across the region and around the world, she noted, adding that the class of 2019 is quite typical.

“They all have different backgrounds, different experiences, and different expectations,” she explained. “And knowing that, we start with a blank slate and put together a six-week orientation period for them to get them familiar with all of our resources, all of the help, to get to know them a little better, and ease them into understanding our system and what’s expected of them.

“And introduce them to our community,” she went on, adding that there is quite a bit that goes into that part of the equation.

Part of it involves work at Baystate’s various neighborhood clinics, like the one in Mason Square, she said, adding that the six-week orientation also involves rotations in various wards at the hospital. There are also shadowing programs with nurses and other healthcare professionals, and so-called boot camps, simulation-lab cases conducted with supervisors and chief residents to focus on some of what Shaaban called the “bread-and-butter medicine aspects we see in internal medicine to help them hit the ground running.”

The poverty-simulation program is another big part.

“This is the third year we’ve been doing it, and it’s a very powerful experience for our residents to understand our community and have a different perspective going into medicine,” she explained. “And we do it purposefully before they start seeing their first patients.”

When they do start seeing patients, they do so with large amounts of supervision and support from senior residents, who are two years ahead of them in training, she went on, adding that guidance is provided in everything from patient diagnosis and treatment to use of the computer system.

And the schedule is carefully choregraphed, she went on.

“Some rotations are harder than others, so we try to pick the schedules carefully so the rotations are balanced in terms of the intensity of the number of hours they do,” she explained. “We try to put easier rotations between harder rotations to give them some breathing room.”

Describing the sum of all this, both Shaaban and Marie Housey, administrator of the internal-medicine program, said it extremely rewarding work — and it’s a lot like parenting.

“It’s the best job I ever had,” said Shaaban, who devotes much of June and July to the new residents before shifting back to the second-and third-year doctors. “It’s like being a parent and seeing your kids go through and learn new things and grow each day until you let them out to real life.”

Housey agreed. She said she starts corresponding with residents soon after match day and continues to do so on a weekly basis, dealing with subjects ranging from the location of housing to how and when they get paid.

“It’s like having a lot of children and nurturing them and watching and helping them grow,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s very, very rewarding.”

At Home with the Idea

Flashing back to the job-shadowing experience nearly a decade ago, Martins said he was able to shadow a wide variety of professionals, including Emergency Department staffers, radiologists, physician assistants, nurses, and a variety of doctors.

The experience, as noted earlier, put his career path into focus.

“From that point, I knew that I wanted to go into medicine,” he told BusinessWest. “And, ideally, I knew that I wanted to work at Baystate.”

And today he is, with a badge that declares that he is a doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.

Martins said he has a number of connections to Baystate, and collectively they make the hospital feel like home.

Listing more of them, he said his mother works there as a housekeeper; he now rides to work with her most days. Also, he became familiar with the hospitalist and that unique role while visiting — and translating for — grandparents and parents when they were in the hospital.

“Coming from a first-generation family, I always had to interpret for my parents and grandparents,” he explained. “And I found myself always connecting very well with the hospitalist team that took care of them, one of them being my current advisor; she took care of my grandfather when he was here with cancer four years ago.”

This explains the wide range of emotions when he received the e-mail on match day informing him that he would be doing his residency at Baystate.

“It’s hard to describe,” he said. “It was a happy, emotional type of experience, but at the same time it was kind of surreal; I was very excited.”

When he spoke to BusinessWest, Martins was on rotation at the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) at the hospital, but, like Wagener, he’s also doing work in the clinics as well, specifically the one on High Street, another facility that serves a generally low-income population.

“We see a wide variety of conditions, and we also deal with some complex social backgrounds that are not unique to Springfield but are very common here,” he explained. “In a sense, we’re helping them with the social determinants of healthcare; many of these patients can’t afford some of their medications and have to make decisions about what they can afford and can’t afford.”

The clinic setting contrasts sharply with the CICU, he said, adding that those working in the latter setting are far less focused on social concerns than the immediate medical necessities; going from one world to the other is part of the residency experience.

“There are high points of stress and low points of stress,” he said, referring initially to the CICU, but also the clinic setting as well.

Like Kahn, he said the poverty simulation brought home the challenges facing many of his patients in a very powerful way.

“Even though we all knew it was a game,” he recalled, adding that he played the father and head of a household in his simulation, “it became very real.”

Rolling with the Punches

Wagener told BusinessWest she had heart surgery as an infant and has vivid memories of some of the follow-up visits to the hospital.

She recalls having a temper tantrum upon being informed that she couldn’t keep an X-ray taken of her.

Overall, she said science and medicine are in her blood, and that’s why she took the healthcare fork along the career path. “I took an anatomy class in junior or senior year of high school, and that got me full into it,” she said, adding that further inspiration was provided by listening to the stories of some classmates diagnosed with cancer.

Dr. Lauren Wagener, seen here in her other uniform, will struggle to fit roller derby into her life — even after knee surgery.
Photo by Phantom Photographics

A native of the Pittsburgh area, she preferred to stay somewhat close to home for her residency, but she also read — and actually called up the quote on her phone to verify — that Baystate “has the happiest residents in the country.”

On match day, she got a text informing her that she would be one of them.

As noted, her residency is in what’s known as ‘med-peds,’ a combination of internal medicine and pediatrics, which means she has many career options to consider as her residency plays out over the next three years, both general and very specialized.

Early into her residency, she has spent considerable time at the clinic in Mason Square, where she’s taking care of patients and getting a first-hand look at the challenges facing a population that is, for the most part, living at or below the poverty line.

“At Mason Square, we have a very underserved population of patients,” she explained. “These are people not only with complicated medical issues, but also people who might struggle to get the resources that would help with their treatment. In the clinic, it’s not only learning the medicine, it’s also learning how to navigate the resources that we have for patients and helping them get what they need, not only medicine-wise, but with things in the home as well.”

Overall, it’s work that is in many ways different from medical school.

“It feels different when the decisions are yours and you’re not just recording for someone else,” she said, adding that she is new to such duties as ordering tests and prescribing medications. “There is a lot of responsibility that comes with that, and you want to do well by your patients.”

As for roller derby, she said it’s like medicine in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to teamwork.

“You have to have a good team and a strong sense of teamwork and collaboration,” she said, referring to both the roller-derby rink and a hospital or clinic. “Communication is the name of the game.

“You’ve got to put yourself out there,” she continued while expanding the analogy to her current work in residency. “In roller derby, one of the first things they teach us is falling and how to fall safely; they teach you how to fall so hopefully you can fall less in the future. If you make a mistake by falling, you know to get back up again and jump back into it — it’s in the same in this setting. And there’s a lot of encouragement as well; we pick each other up.”

Study in Determination

Wagener told BusinessWest she’s going to be very careful and patient when it comes to roller derby, and she wasn’t just talking about her knee.

“It’s a sport that can easily take over your life,” she said, while quickly noting that she’s already had her life taken over by something else — her med-peds residency.

It’s a three-year journey and a critical step in one’s career in healthcare. It’s a learning experience, but also a life-changing experience, as these residents, only a few weeks into the process, already know.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]