On April 18, 102 runners will take to the Boston Marathon course – one of the most challenging in the country - in support of the Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Division at Mass General for Children. For first time runner Holly Peek, the marathon is more than a personal life goal; it’s an opportunity to give back to the clinicians and patients who taught her career-changing lessons.
Peek, a child and adolescent psychiatry fellow, worked on the child psychiatry hospital consult service under the guidance of Annah Abrams, MD, chief of pediatric psycho-oncology and the pediatric hematology oncology unit, during the first half of 2016.
Peek worked with children dealing with a broad range of issues, learned tactile skills – such as how to create a structured routine for long-hospitalized children and how best to teach coping strategies – and under Abrams’ mentorship, learned how to holistically care for the entire family.
Peek witnessed how Abrams is a guiding light to families facing a cancer diagnosis. “Annah has an innate ability to connect with families and provide support and compassion they can desperately need,” says Peek. As a teacher, Abrams stresses the importance of assessing a family’s whole situation and determining how best to serve both child and parent. She pauses after each clinical case to discuss issues and decompress, which showed Peek that’s its ok to have personal emotions when caring for children.
Peek also discovered how invaluable services like child life programming and art and music therapies improve a patient’s quality of life, particularly when navigating a new hospital routine. Funds raised by the MGfC marathon team directly support these activities that help to distract patients and siblings from the daily rigors of treatment and care.
After completing her fellowship in June 2016, Peek looked for ways to continue her MGfC connection and use all that she learned from Abrams. She found that as part of the marathon patient partner program, through which Peek partnered with Emmy Alverez, a sassy 4-year-old undergoing chemotherapy who regularly dons glittery shoes and bows. Peek accompanies Emmy during long infusion visits, often playing with the Jasmine and Ariel dolls gifted for her birthday. “I have come to love Emmy and her family,” Peek says. “For all my patients, I’ve done my best to guide them through difficult treatments and healing processes. This was perhaps one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my medical training.”
This story is part of a series that MGH will publish in advance of the 2017 marathon featuring the Pediatric Oncology and Emergency Response Teams. In addition, individuals will run for the Miles for Mass General Program, which raises funds for hospital programs that are close to their hearts – including Botswana Oncology Global Outreach, Caring for a Cure, Cystic Fibrosis, Down Syndrome and the Lurie Center for Autism.