The Association of American Medical Colleges, representing medical schools and teaching hospitals and health systems, has awarded Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) its 2011 Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Service.
The award, one of the 134-year-old organization’s most prestigious honors, recognizes Mass General as a national leader for addressing local and global health, and for training future physicians to work in the community. The programs must extend beyond the traditional health delivery system. Mass General receives the award in the same year as the hospital celebrates its bicentennial.
“While MGH is well known for its outstanding clinical care and scientific inquiry, its legacy of caring for and about the underserved locally and globally is equally strong,” said Peter L. Slavin, M.D., president of Massachusetts General Hospital. “We are especially proud to be recognized for this commitment during our 200th anniversary.”
In 1810, Massachusetts General Hospital’s founding physicians wrote, “When in distress, every man becomes our neighbor.” For 200 years, MGH has been that neighbor, providing high-quality care to citizens from all over the world and from just around the corner and partnering with communities to improve health. MGH rewrote its mission statement in 2007 to reflect its longstanding commitment to neighboring communities.
The Mass General Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI) carries out this mission by partnering with communities to reduce substance abuse in Charlestown and Revere; to increase cancer screening in Boston and Chelsea; to improve access to care for vulnerable populations such as immigrants and refugees, seniors and homeless people; to tackle the obesity epidemic by making healthy food and physical activity easier choices to make: and to increase interest in science and health careers among Boston youth.
With the 2007 mission change, Slavin asked each of the hospital’s clinical department chiefs to develop a community-oriented initiative of significant scope and impact. The result is a portfolio of 44 innovative programs that add to the 36 already underway. The institutional commitment to community outreach is felt at all levels; Slavin chairs an advisory committee of hospital and community leaders to build accountability, and the Board of Trustees is actively engaged in the CCHI’s work.
MGH won this award by presenting the following work:
Local Community – With the support of CCHI, the Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition has helped decrease heroin overdose calls in the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown by more than 62 percent between 2003 and 2008, using narcotic-related illness data provided by Boston Emergency Medical Services. Also, when a new drug, suboxone, became available to treat opiate addictions, MGH Charlestown physicians lobbied Congress to increase the number of patients it could treat from this small community, and is now has one of the largest panels of patients on suboxone in the area.
Global Community – The MGH Center for Global Health is preparing the health care leaders and educators of tomorrow in close collaboration with in-country partners in South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Bangladesh; and efforts are under way to expand these models. Additionally Mass General and the Harvard Medical School joined their South African colleagues to build the Doris Duke Medical Research Institute, the first dedicated medical research institute to be built in an African university and the site for the HIV Pathogenesis Program to study the evolution of the virus and the immune responses effective in controlling HIV.
Educating Community Providers of the Future – Mass General has an array of programs to encourage medical students and residents to practice in the community. Nearly one third of all medical residents are trained in a community health center setting, and all residents have exposure to community settings. For medical students, Bridging the Gap pairs Harvard and Tufts Medical School students with immigrant/refugee families at MGH Chelsea for one year. Students support families and act as advocates, educators, mentors and friends, learning firsthand the cultural barriers that limit health care access.
To celebrate its entry into a third century of service, MGH offered a “gift” to the community: the Bicentennial Scholars program, which will support 26 high school students to prepare for, succeed in and graduate from college. MGH has committed $1 million to this effort and will match that amount through philanthropy. In addition to some tuition support, scholars participate in internships at MGH and will receive SAT preparation, mentoring, and tutoring to ensure they graduate. Thanks to this unprecedented program, as one Bicentennial Scholar says, “My dreams can become my goals, and my goals can become my achievements.”
CCHI carries out its work in Chelsea, Revere, and Charlestown, where MGH has maintained health care centers for more than 40 years, and in Boston among youth, homeless person, seniors and other vulnerable populations. CCHI has partnered with the communities it serves to assess needs and create more than 35 programs that:
- Reduce and prevent substance abuse
- Tackle the obesity epidemic by increasing access to healthy food and physical activity
- Improve access to care for vulnerable populations such as immigrants and refugees, seniors, and homeless people
- Prevent and detect cancers early
- Inspire interest in science and health careers among youth
The mission of the Center for Global Health is to leverage Mass General’s 200-year legacy of innovation in medical care and education to improve health among the most vulnerable people in our global community.
Celebrating the 200th anniversary of its founding in 1811, Massachusetts General Hospital (www.massgeneral.org) is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. MGH conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the United States, with an annual research budget of nearly $700 million and major research centers in AIDS, cardiovascular research, cancer, computational and integrative biology, cutaneous biology, human genetics, medical imaging, neurodegenerative disorders, regenerative medicine, reproductive biology, systems biology, transplantation biology and photomedicine.