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During these incredibly challenging times—not just for BIDMC, but for healthcare institutions across the world—we are doing everything we can to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. As we work around the clock, our commitment to treating our patients with compassion, dignity, and respect has only strengthened. During a time when families and loved ones cannot visit patients, this has taken on an even deeper meaning.
Over the course of 2020, despite so many obstacles, our faculty and staff were successful in collaborating, creating, and problem-solving as they never have before. Thanks to your support of the Healthcare Heroes Fund, we were able to purchase PPE, testing supplies, food, and other essential items—all of which were critical in supporting the needs of our patients and staff.
Please join me in taking a look back at some of our highlights from the past year. Many of these initiatives were fueled by your generosity—thank you so much for your commitment to BIDMC’s mission!
Through the generosity of people just like you, we raised more than $5 million to support our staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through donations to our Healthcare Heroes Fund, the medical center was able to purchase essential PPE including gowns, goggles, and masks, as well as plexiglass, disinfecting robots, and supplies and infrastructure to support our testing areas. In addition to raising these essential funds, our philanthropy team worked with partners across the medical center to find creative ways to acquire essential PPE during a time where global shortages and price surges made it difficult for many hospitals to purchase necessary equipment. The Healthcare Heroes Fund has also been a vital support to our staff, allowing us to purchase food, coats, and shoes; launch wellness initiatives to support exhausted staff; and provide grants to 1,800 employees who have experienced financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.
From the very first moment, BIDMC’s brilliant faculty and staff put their minds at work to come up with creative solutions to our most critical challenges. The generosity of our donors fueled many of the efforts that helped BIDMC lead during this challenging time. We were the first hospital in the state to offer large-scale onsite testing for COVID-19, allowing us to provide testing for the entire Beth Israel Lahey Health (BILH) system. This effort, led by Jeff Saffitz, MD, PhD, was a partnership between the Department of Pathology, Microbiology Labs, the Division of Infection Control, and courageous volunteers. In addition, our facilities team created a vaporized hydrogen peroxide chamber to disinfect N95 masks and other PPE—and we were the first medical center in Massachusetts to have this technology available onsite. Our computer scientists, researchers, and epidemiologists, led by Jennifer Stevens, MD, MS, created one of the nation’s foremost predictive modeling systems for COVID-19. And our acute care team implemented personalized critical care measures, leading to 20% lower mortality rates for our sickest patients as compared to the national average.
Led by Chief Academic Officer Gyongyi Szabo, MD, PhD, BIDMC’s faculty have launched more than one hundred studies and clinical trials to solve complex problems and develop and test promising diagnostics and therapeutics for COVID-19 and its complications. Among these are a study led by Kathryn Stephenson, MD, MPH, to test an antiviral drug’s safety and efficacy against COVID-19 and a trial by Michael Yaffe, MD, PhD, to evaluate another therapy that shows promise in critically ill patients with COVID-19. In addition, the efforts of researcher Ramy Arnaout, MD, PhD, to validate and manufacture swabs via 3D printing has significantly enhanced our testing capacity with 1 million swabs produced per day, which are being distributed to more than 100 hospitals across the country. Dan Barouch, MD, PhD, and his team developed a vaccine that is now being tested by Johnson & Johnson in a clinical trial. Our teams also conducted vital research that was indirectly related to COVID-19. In new studies from the Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Center for Outcomes Research in Cardiology at BIDMC, researchers analyzed data from the National Center for Health Statistics to find that that cardiovascular deaths unrelated to COVID-19 increased during the pandemic and came one step closer to understanding how genetic variation may lead some people with COVID becoming seriously ill, while others remain asymptomatic. This year our research team also launched an ambitious five-year strategic plan for the BIDMC research enterprise that will advance discovery as never before. Many of these initiatives have been supported by our Research & Innovation Fund—and your generosity!
While most construction activities stopped during the height of the pandemic, the City of Boston granted special approval for BIDMC to continue progressing on our New Inpatient Building because of the great impact it will have on our community. The building’s foundation was completed in July, readying the construction site for a very significant milestone: steel installation. Two large tower cranes, visible from across the city, have been installing the building’s steel structure—which will soar to 250 feet from ground level. Once it is complete in 2023, the building will be Boston’s most advanced and sophisticated medical facility, with a designated ICU floor named in honor of our healthcare heroes, an emergency command center, private patient rooms, and state-of-the-art infection control systems that will enable frontline teams to rapidly triage patients if we are ever confronted with another pandemic.
This pandemic has reminded us of what it means to be a hero—making countless selfless acts, day after day, in service to others. It is for this reason that we have decided to recognize the heroism of our frontline staff by naming the entire sixth floor of our New Inpatient Building in honor of our healthcare heroes. This floor, which will be dedicated intensive care unit (ICU) space, will significantly increase BIDMC’s capacity to treat our most high-risk, high-acuity patients. We will forever be grateful for our staff’s willingness to make immense sacrifices in in the name of compassionate patient care during the COVID-19 crisis. And the future Healthcare Heroes ICU at BIDMC will honor them in the most special way.
COVID-19 is not the only crisis we are facing. The pandemic has exacerbated and brought to light issues that have plagued our country for centuries—issues of racism and health disparities. Our system CEO, Kevin Tabb, MD, recently announced our system’s multi-year plan to address inequity, systemic racism, and institutional bias. I encourage you to learn more about our DEI Roadmap, which we are actively implementing. The medical center has hosted listening sessions, leadership trainings, and recently created a self-study program to provide staff with a foundation to learn anti-racism skills. These steps are only the beginning of our journey. Together with BILH, we are committing to taking active steps to ensure that BIDMC is a place where everyone feels welcome and valued.
Over the past year, we were humbled by the incredible outpouring of in-kind support from our community members. Local individuals and organizations donated nearly 500,000 units of PPE, including masks, gowns, face shields, sanitizing wipes, and gloves to protect our patients and staff. The generosity of our community did not stop there—with countless local businesses making clothing donations, including New Balance and Converse, who contributed thousands of pairs of shoes to protect our essential workers from contaminating their homes through their footwear. In addition, we are so grateful to those of you who contributed iPads, which have enabled patients to connect with their loved ones virtually—including during end-of-life situations.
Throughout the pandemic, we have remained focused on caring for our broader community with a particular emphasis on underserved populations, which are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Our testing sites at Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare–Chelsea and the Bowdoin Street Health Center in Dorchester are serving the most vulnerable members of our community and conducting contact tracing to help cub infections. In addition, through the generosity of those who supported the Healthcare Heroes Fund, we have hired a community health worker for our Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare—Chelsea clinic who is focused on enhancing awareness of testing and conducting contact tracing in that community. Bowdoin Street Health Center is working to address food insecurity with the recently created Food for Health Program, through which fresh, healthy food is being delivered to the doorsteps of more than 100 families in the area. In addition, BILH has partnered with Cambridge Health Alliance, Boston Medical Center, Signature Healthcare in Brockton, and others to facilitate patient transfers so that no hospital is overwhelmed with patients while others have beds available.
Throughout the pandemic, we have repeatedly been reminded of how fortunate we are to be unified as one system, Beth Israel Lahey Health (BILH). The ability to operate as one, and to share lessons learned, best practices, strategies, and processes has been invaluable. Being together as a system was a tremendous advantage in allowing us to acquire PPE, navigate supply chain challenges, and support our staff with system-wide resources. But being a system has helped us far beyond the management of COVID-19; it has allowed us to ensure smooth operation and seamless continuation of all the lifesaving patient care we provide—during exceptionally challenging circumstances. Together as BILH, we are more than the sum of our parts. We are stronger together.
An incredible team of physicians and staff from BIDMC, along with colleagues from across the city, were instrumental in the establishment of the City of Boston’s field hospital, Boston Hope, which caters to patients from all walks of life. Housed in the Seaport District’s Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, the 1,000-bed space welcomes patients with COVID-19 from across the region and allows them to recover once they are no longer in need of critical care.