Giving Back to The Hospital That Gave A Family So Much

Guest Blog By: Deb Montgomery, University of Maryland Children’s Hospital Parent

My daughter, Neriah, has had many varied health issues over the course of her childhood, including severe asthma, allergies, gastrointenstinal issues, and more. We have been blessed to have her under the care of several of the doctors in the Pediatric Specialty Clinic at the University of Maryland Childnre’s Hospital (UMCH). During the past several years, we’ve been through a multitude of appointments, testing, and hospitalizations.

As you can imagine, this has been really hard, and especially heartbreaking to see all that our little girl had to endure. Good care from doctors and nurses helped, but it was hard to keep positive and distract our sweet girl from all of the pain and discomfort. In some of the toughest medical tests and hospitalizations, we were introduced to the Child Life program.

Through that, she was given some toys and crafts to keep her busy, and distract her a bit from what was going on. It was such a help to have someone else “on our side”, trying to make the whole hospital ordeal a more positive experience for our little girl! When she got home from different times in the hospital, she would show her sisters some crafts that she made, or little presents she got to keep. She never told stories about the hard stuff, but she focused on those fun, positive memories! We really appreciate the positive memories that she has of the hospital, through the Child Life program.

It’s because of that, that we would like to help more children in the hospital to go home with some positive memories! We know how much it means to get some help at some of the hardest times. Our little girl loves to read, and we are having a book drive to raise money to buy Usborne books and more for the Child Life program to give to kids at UMCH. Usborne books are really engaging and interactive, and would really help to bring some joy to a child in the hospital. Usborne will match your donation at 50%, so we’ll be able to get even more books to the children! Click through the link below to donate to the fundraiser, to take part in giving some wonderful books to children in the hospital at UMCH!
Click here to support Provide books to children in the hospital at UMCH

Volunteering at a Medical Center

By: Andrea Rizkallah, Editorial Intern

AndreaVolunteering is a rewarding activity, which is why I love my position as editorial intern in the Corporate Communications department at the University of Maryland Medical Center. I thought that I had to be a medical student in order to volunteer at a medical center, but luckily I was wrong. I was able to get an administrative position that still makes a difference and offers me great experience.

The Corporate Communications department coordinates blood drives that help save lives, updates the website with valuable information for patients and families, keeps Medical Center employees updated on training events and interviews patients to communicate their stories. Even though we are not transplanting lungs or performing surgery, we are still deeply involved with the hospital. I have completed projects that really make me feel like I am part of the team, and these contributions make me feel accomplished and useful.

The volunteer program here at the University of Maryland is great because I am getting hands on experience. I get to learn how the hospital works and what goes into the everyday functions of a medical center.  Although my role is an administrative one, I feel that I am making a difference, and that is a lot to take away from a volunteer position.

Volunteers work in all areas including the Emergency department, Shock Trauma Center, Medical Records department, Dental Clinic, Psychiatry department, and many more.  There are some requirements to volunteering at the hospital:

  • You must be at least 13 years old and be able to commit to four hours a week.
  • To receive credit, recommendations or certificates, you must volunteer at least 75 hours of time.
  • All prospective volunteers must return the required paperwork to the volunteer office prior to interviews.

Learn more about how to have a rewarding volunteer experience.

Free Holiday Concerts at UMMC

Three different groups will be performing holiday music at the University of Maryland Medical Center the week of December 17, most members of which are University of Maryland doctors or medical students.

The concerts, which are from noon to 1 p.m. through Dec. 21, are on UMMC’s first floor, feature the following groups:

The Not2 Cool Jazz Trio kicked off the week on Dec. 17. The Trio is led by trumpet player Michael Grasso, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and emergency medicine, who plays the trumpet.

On Dec. 18-20, The UMMC Chamber Players return for the 25th year in a row. Founded and directed by cardiologist Elijah Saunders, MD, clinical professor of medicine, the Players feature musicians and vocalists who play and sing a variety of holiday favorites. The group’s music director is Candy Carson, an accomplished musician and wife of Benjamin Carson, MD, a Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon.

Wrapping things up is Otitis Musica, a group of medical students who have performed with the UMMC Chamber Players in the past.

The UM Chamber Players perform various Christmas songs in the hospital lobby near Au Bon Pain on Dec. 18-20th 2012 as an annual tradition.


Super Staff Beats Super Storm — Every Time

The forecasts and predictions around Hurricane Sandy had much of the eastern third of the country braced for disaster. Baltimore saw heavy rains, wind and flooding. But the University of Maryland Medical Center didn’t skip a beat, thanks to the dedication of staff members who planned ahead or braved the elements to get to work. Their inspiration: hundreds of patients and colleagues were depending on them.

 We heard about staff taking extraordinary steps to be available for patients and to one another. If you have a story of your own, or you know of something that somebody else has done, drop us a line at

 In the meantime, here are a few:

 From Karen E. Doyle, MBA, MS, RN, NEA-BC, vice president for nursing and operations at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center and for emergency nursing at UMMC:

“While I was making rounds yesterday [Oct. 29], I stopped and spoke to Darlene Currin, a housekeeping staff member in Shock Trauma working on 6 North.  I thanked her for being here, and told her that her work was really important.  She told me that she had just arrived (it was around 10:30 or 11:00 a.m.).  Darlene had walked all the way from East Baltimore to UMMC.  But, she knew she was needed and made the trek anyway.  Really unbelievable.  I was so inspired.”

 Currin (pictured above) said she doesn’t think she did anything that most of her colleagues wouldn’t do. “We all work here, we know it’s 24/7,” she said. On Monday morning, she was unable to get a taxi or sedan service (public transportation was shut down), so she decided to walk. It took her about 90 minutes.

 “I was soaked when I got here,” Currin said.

 From Monika Bauman, MS, RN, CEN, nurse manager for women’s and children’s ambulatory services:

“The hospital-based clinics officially closed on Tuesday due to the storm, but Ometriss Jeter, a scheduling and preauthorization coordinator who works in Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, reported for duty Tuesday morning at about 6 a.m.  She rounded in all of the outpatient registration areas offering her services and making sure they had adequate staffing for the day. Once she determined all was well, she reported to our clinic, even though it was closed, to be sure we were ready for operations as usual for tomorrow [Wednesday].”

 From Karen Cossentino, MS, RN, CCRN, senior clinical nurse II and charge nurse in the Cardiac Care Unit:

“I was in charge in the Cardiac Care Unit on Monday, Oct. 29, and it was an exceptionally busy day. So I would like to thank all the staff for working together. Two nurses deserve an extra thank you, but they asked that I not use their names. One of them had a vacation scheduled this week but offered to work for a nurse who is a new mother who would not have been able to get home after work on Monday to her 3-month-old baby.  Another nurse from Professional Development came to the unit and asked if we needed any help. I immediately took her up on her offer and she stayed most of the day and went from room to room and nurse to nurse and offered her assistance.”

From Rehana Qayyumi, MLS (ASCP), medical lab scientist, Microbiology Laboratory:

After making up my mind to stay [at work during the storm] on a very busy Monday, I did not have time to think about where I would stay after my shift. Then, our wonderful Microbiology Technical Specialist Donna Cashara, MLS(ASCP), asked me what I was  going to do.  I just told her, ‘Yes, I’m staying somewhere,’ while very busy with my assigned work.  Anyway, she personally walked two blocks away to the Marriott [as phone calls were not helpful] and reserved a room.  She was like an angel for me when I finally reached the room around 7 p.m. and took a shower and my medicines and bowed my head down for my unexpected landing in full luxury. Did I deserve it? Yes, I think all of us who decided to pay for comfortable accommodations to be ready for the next busy day deserved it.  We deserve all the best to provide the best services. TeamWORK works!”

Rehana Qayyumi and Donna Cashara

Rehana Qayyumi and Donna Cashara

Cashara said it was tough to get a room at an affordable rate that night at the downtown hotels, but the Marriott finally came through. She said many other seasoned lab staff know when storms are coming, they need to look out for each other. She and another staff person led a department-wide effort to make sure the hospital had enough lab staff and that those employees had either safe passage home or a place to sleep. The hospital provides dorm-like accommodations, but some staff prefer to split the cost of a nearby hotel room.

From Cassandra Bembry, MLS ASCP, outreach customer service supervisor for the Clinical Pathology Laboratory:

Jamillah Johnson, my front-end coordinator of the Clinical Pathology Laboratory (a.k.a. “Accessioning”) volunteered late Sunday night to pick up more than 80 percent of our day-shift staff for Monday who rely solely on public transportation.  She also took these employees home and picked up our evening shift crew.  Jamillah has consistently shown a great deal of care and concern for our staff that is unparalleled, in my opinion, and acts of this nature are routine for her.” 

 From J.V. Nable, MD, NREMT-P, clinical instructor and chief resident in the Department of  Emergency Medicine:

“The [physicians in the] UniversityofMaryland Emergency Medicine Residency met the challenges posed by Hurricane Sandy head-on. Despite the incredibly inclement weather, residents continued to provide vital services at emergency departments and other hospital units throughout the region, including: UMMC, the Shock Trauma Center, the Baltimore VA Medical Center, Mercy Medical Center, Bayview Medical Center, and Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC. Because some residents have lengthy commutes, those who live near the medical facilities invited them to their homes for dry and safe shelter during the storm. Many residents volunteered to rearrange their schedules, taking extra shifts to cover for those stranded by the storm. As part of the backbone of clinical services at UMMC, emergency medicine residents demonstrated unwavering dedication throughout this unprecedented event.”

From Shawn Hendricks, MSN, RN, nurse manager for 10 East (Acute Medicine Telemetry Unit) and 11 East (Medicine Telemetry Unit):
During Hurricane Sandy, the dedicated staff on 10 & 11 East showed up ready to work, with smiles and a determination to provide excellent care despite the weather outside. I gave personal thanks to patient care technicians Theresa Hicks and Danielle Brown for coming to assist with the patients on 11 East after completing their care on 10 East, until help arrived from Monique Thomas, a student nurse who had been off duty but came in to help. And, also, to Jocelyn Campbell, one of our unit secretaries, who came in even when she wasn’t scheduled, to help with secretarial duties and other tasks on 11 East. Finally, a big “Thank you” to all my staff who stayed late or came early to ensure the shifts were covered! These staff members showed loyalty, teamwork, and caring when it was needed the most!

UMMC Hosts First-Ever Sukkot Celebration on Wednesday, September 29

By Rabbi Ruth Smith
Staff Chaplain
Department of Pastoral Care Services

Building the Sukkah Booth
Building the Sukkah Booth at UMMC.

Patients and visitors at the University of Maryland Medical Center will notice that there is a new booth perched on the porch of Donna’s Café on the first floor of the South Hospital. Some of you may be wondering what this booth is and why it’s in the hospital. This special booth is known as a Sukkah, and it’s used by Jewish staff, students and patients to celebrate Sukkot — a Jewish harvest festival that lasts for eight days.

Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of a Sukkah booth is that it doesn’t have a real roof. This is to allow those who are inside of the booth to see the stars through whatever is overhead. The Sukkah that we are using at the Medical Center is currently on loan from Chabad of Baltimore. This group has been very helpful in providing a wide range of religious services for Jewish staff, students and patients staying at the Medical Center. In the past, Chabad of Baltimore has also aided the Department of Pastoral Care Services at UMMC by providing Shofar blowers during Rosh Hashanah and Megilla readers for Purim.

The Sukkah is available for use by staff, UMB students, patients and their families. It will be available during the day from 7:00 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Please help the Department of Pastoral Care Services spread the word that it is here and alert others about the Medical Center’s first-ever Sukkot celebration. The celebration is a “bring your own lunch” affair, with Pastoral Care Services providing a variety of kosher desserts. The celebration will take place on Wednesday, September 29, from 12:00 p.m. until 2:00 p.m., and we hope that anyone who has some time — regardless of religion or ethnicity — will join us in the Sukkah. To arrive at the Sukkah, use the Medical Center’s Greene Street entrance. Go up the steps and through the gate on Donna’s porch.

The Department of Pastoral Care Services is also raising money to buy our own Sukkah for the Medical Center. If you or someone you know would like to make a donation towards purchasing this Sukkah, please make a check out to the UMMS Foundation, and in the “memo” line write “Sukkah.” You can mail your check to Beth Ryan at the UMMS Foundation, located at 110 S. Paca Street, 9th floor, Baltimore, MD 21201.

We hope to see you at our Sukkot celebration on Wednesday, September 29.

For More Information:

For more information about Sukkot, please visit the Pastoral Care Services Web site at, and click on the “Services for Jewish Patients” link.

UMMC Patient Advocates Take Proactive Approach to Identifying and Meeting Patients’ Needs

By Odetta James-Harlee
Supervisor, Patient Advocacy

The Patient Advocacy Department, previously known as the Patient Representative Department, was formed in 1988 in response to state regulations requiring that all Maryland hospitals have a formal program for addressing patient complaints.  Since that time, the Joint Commission and CMS have implemented more standards requiring formal complaint mechanisms and have focused on greater attention to patient rights.  Even without mandates, a patient advocacy process is beneficial to improving public image, improving quality of care, improving service and reducing risk.

Under the previous system, two patient representatives responded to all patient concerns in the Medical Center’s inpatient units as well as outpatient clinics. The patient representative operated more on a reactive basis and was known as the Medical Center’s “firefighter” instead of one who could educate staff about preventing these “fires.”  In 2002, the Medical Center recognized the need for change and the Patient Advocacy Department was formed as a result of new customer service initiatives.  We were finally able to take a more proactive approach to identifying any patient or family need.

Patient Advocacy functions have evolved somewhat since the establishment of the department; however, primary objectives and responsibilities have always been to provide prompt response to patient concerns, investigate these concerns by channeling information about patient care issues to appropriate departments and services so that corrective action can be taken and changes in policies and procedure can be made when indicated, and trend and report this data to senior leadership.  The patient advocate has always been able to serve as that neutral link between the patient and the Medical Center.  With assistance from physicians, nursing, and department managers, we are able to resolve concerns that include lack of communication, rude behaviors, long wait times and missing belongings.

In 2006, two medical interpreter positions were added to the Patient Advocacy Department.  We currently have one Spanish interpreter who provides interpretation services to help providers communicate with their non-English and Limited English Speaking patients and are recruiting for the second open position.

Since the department has grown, in addition to working with patients to resolve concerns, we are able to assist patients and families with their requests for hotel accommodations, obtain consents from living related kidney donors for recognition on the Wall of Honor located in the Medical Center, serve on the UMMC Commitment to Excellence’s Patient Experience Team, the Shock Trauma Patient Education committee and Surgical Intensive Care Unit Supportive Care Initiative committee.  Advocates rotate coverage of the interpretation pager, carrying it 24 hours a day to ensure that our deaf and LEP patients receive the sign and language interpretation they need.

To contact a patient advocate, please call:

  • 410-328-8777 or 410-328-7536 for main hospital, outpatient clinic, and general concerns
  • 410-328-1531 for Shock Trauma concerns
  • 410-328-2131 for Adult/Pediatric Emergency Room concerns
  • 410-328-2337, id # 8255 for interpretation requests

UMMC Creates Kosher Pantry for Families of Jewish Patients

By Karen Warmkessel
Media Relations Manager

The UMMC kosher pantry includes a
Shabbat tray that contains everything
that one would need to celebrate the

The Medical Center has created a kosher pantry to better serve the families of Jewish patients who want to follow their religious traditions while remaining close to their loved ones in the hospital. The new pantry is available to all Jewish patients and their families.

The pantry has a refrigerator, sink, microwave and kitchen cabinets. The Baltimore chapter of Bikur Cholim (Society for Visiting the Sick) stocks the pantry with kosher food and other items that families need. There is even a pullout bed that will allow a family member to stay in the hospital on the Sabbath, which starts at sundown on Friday and ends at nightfall on Saturday. This is particularly important for Orthodox Jews, who observe travel restrictions during the Sabbath.

There is no charge for the food, and family members are able to access the locked pantry by using a keypad. Chaplains in the Department of Pastoral Care Services can provide families with the access code.

“What’s really unique about this new facility is that it is located in a conference room which can be used for meetings during the day, but then is available to our families when they need it the most – in the evenings and on weekends,” says Rabbi Ruth Smith, a board-certified chaplain and member of the Medical Center’s Pastoral Care Services staff.

“It’s very innovative to have such a mixed-use room, especially in a hospital where space is at a premium,” Smith adds. “Sharing even a small space because of a religious need is difficult for many hospitals to imagine, but the Medical Center recognizes the real value of this new resource.”

Tova Spiro, the Bikur Cholim representative to the Medical Center, says, “The Medical Center staff has been wonderful to work with. They met with us to understand what we needed and came back with several proposals that they thought might work. It was really impressive how committed they were to finding a way to create a special place that allows people to follow their time-honored traditions.”

The Medical Center provides kosher food for patients who request it, and kosher food is available in the cafeteria during the day. Patients who keep kosher also can arrange for small refrigerators donated by Bikur Cholim to be placed in their rooms. Bikur Cholim stocks the refrigerators with food, and this service is still available now that the kosher pantry is open.

The Medical Center staff expects that the greatest need for the pantry may come from families with sick children and relatives of patients who come long distances on short notice to receive organ transplants.

“I’m very pleased that this new kosher pantry is available to Jewish parents whose children are being treated at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children. We’re not only committed to taking excellent care of our patients, but also providing comfort and support to their families,” says Steven Czinn, MD, physician-in-chief of the Hospital for Children and professor and chairman of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“Now family members won’t have to go too far to get something to eat, especially on the Sabbath, and will have a private place to relax, eat and sleep for a few hours without having to leave the hospital,” Czinn says.